- Kelela & Asmara
Originally aired as part of Warp's NTS takeover, Kelela and Asmara's Warp mixtape feels like a jam session between friends. Asmara sculpts an undulating backing track out of music from Aphex Twin, Suzanne Kraft & Jonny Nash and Kareem Lotfy—artists that have helped define the recent era of ambient music. Kelela's airy, improvised vocals act are the perfect counterpart to Jaco Pastorius' genius bass solo and Iury Lech's emotional washes. They bring this floating, beatless music to an unforgettable climax.
- Lena Willikens & Vladimir Ivkovic
Live: Nuits Sonores 2019
Headlining festival sets don't always work outside the original setting—as with well-timed jokes, you kinda had to be there. But leave it to Lena Willikens and Vladimir Ivkovic to make their three-hour Nuits Sonores odyssey suit nearly any context. It's meditative, weird and, lest we forget the main room dance floor it soundtracked, banging. Filled with the pair's characteristic slower selections, this mix feels like swimming inside a crystal ball.
Unsound Podcast 56
CCL called this mix a "regurgitated memory" of their Honcho Campout set, reflecting on the "more twisted hours… before the light had come up." That predawn unpredictability is what's so exciting here. One highlight is their adept pulling back with Codek's "Closer" before diving into a Metalheadz Wax Doctor rush. With these unreal transitions, and touches like the experimental Polish music that bookends the mix (a nod to Unsound) CCL shows the careful craft that sets them apart.
- Truly Madly
Ghostcast, a mix series from Berlin's favourite record store on wheels, has only released a few recordings since launching two years ago, but each is a window into a world of deep-digging DJs with exquisite house and techno collections. Truly Madly is one of them. An underground favourite who's steadily gaining recognition outside the world of trainspotters and Discogs geeks, the Londoner's set traverses classic techno, electro and house, cloaked with the same spacey charm that colours his club sets.
- Boards Of Canada
Societas x Tape (NTS x Warp 30)
Boards Of Canada are two of the most reclusive artists in electronic music, which means we don't know much about what they listen to during long stays in the Scottish countryside. Their Societas x Tape mix, a two-hour set broadcast on NTS as part of Warp's 30th anniversary, gives us an idea. Obscure electronics by Filmmaker, '80s post-punk by Killing Joke and synth-pop from Severed Heads tell us a little bit more about these pioneers.
- Dee Diggs
FACT Mix 710
New York's Dee Diggs is on a quest to remind everyone that dance music is black music. Her FACT mix is her fiery mission statement, cutting through the history of black dance music, from Paris Is Burning and vintage acts like DJ Deeon and Karizma to NYC's new guard, including upstarts like Devoye and AceMo. This mix is classic, soulful and banging in all the right places, securing Diggs' own place in the canon she's charting.
- Eris Drew
Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1
On this year's funkiest mixtape, Eris Drew made some of dance music's most classic sounds her own. Raving Disco Breaks is composed of dance classics chopped into breaks on-the-fly by the American DJ, showcasing not only her impressive technical skills but also the emotional, spiritual and often nostalgic flair that makes her sets so electrifying. It's old-school technique with a new-school vibe.
- Francesco Del Garda
Robert Johnson Archive 0002
Francesco Del Garda played this set at Robert Johnson on the banks of the Rhine a few days after Christmas last year. He couldn't have asked for a better setting: sun rising, perfect soundsystem, six-hour time slot, festive crowd. This recording, an edition of the Frankfurt club's new mix series, gives us only an hour of it, but it shows Del Garda on fire, indulging the uplifting sound that distinguishes him from his contemporaries.
Truancy Volume 240
Batu describes his Truancy mix as the closing set for a "festival in 2030 called Bristol-Bass." Given his Timedance label and his own inventive productions, he's in a good position to imagine the future of UK dance music. The mix’s backbone wiggles and booms with modern bass music, while making adventurous jumps from Latin and Afro-Caribbean rhythms to ambient techno and experimental club.
Erika's Interdimensional Transmissions podcast from March really lives up to the Detroit label's name: it sounds like you're hearing an actual transmission from another dimension. IT does down-the-rabbithole techno better than anyone, and this recording of Erika at an LA showcase for sister label Eye Teeth shows the sound at its cosmic, funky, head-spinning best.
- DJ Persuasion
Dedicated To The Dedicated 94-95
Ask any junglist worth their salt: 1994 and '95 were the golden years. Disagree? Well, you might feel differently after listening to Dedicated To The Dedicated 94-95, the latest hour-long mix by '90s dance music fanatic DJ Persuasion, AKA Semtek. Every tune, most of them near-impossible to track down, writhes with rhythm and soul. The warm basslines and time-stretched vocals spark tingles of euphoria. When people say the '90s were better, this is the kind of thing they're thinking of.
LDN: Bass & Percs Special
Earlier this year, Sherelle's debut Boiler Room session—a whirlwind of footwork, jungle and grime—went viral. While it's easy for some high BPM DJs to tire out their audience, her set maintains an addictive high energy throughout, with explosive, playful transitions that sparked the dance music equivalent of a mosh pit. Wait for the gutsy rewind at 23:40 that shot her to instant (and deserved) fame.
Leif is part of a small group of DJs whose yearly sets at Freerotation festival in Wales always feel like a big deal. 2019 was no exception. In this recording, Leif redefines the peak-time set, starting slow and spindly before moving gracefully through many shades of cosy, rhythmic club music. There are tunes by Equiknoxx and Domu, Efdemin and Aphex Twin, all stitched together with extraordinary skill. As one SoundCloud commenter put it: "are you even human."
- Dr. Rubinstein
Phonica Mix Series 56
Dr. Rubinstein is like an acid historian, wading through decades of dance music history to find the best 303 lines ever put to wax. Yet she still finds time in her Phonica mix to highlight several up-and-coming talents (Jack Roland, Gian) alongside more familiar names (DMX Krew, Adapta). Sometimes dark, sometimes bright, Phonica Mix Series 56 was a deeply psychedelic trip, weaving excellent electro and techno between forgotten acid bombs. As always with Rubinstein, the mixing was world-class, each transition bringing us further into her unique sound world.
- Leon Vynehall
Last year, Leon Vynehall released Nothing Is Still, showing the world that his production chops extended way beyond the club. In 2019 he did something similar, but with DJing. His proof this time is a spellbinding DJ-Kicks mix, which blends genres, eras and moods together with sublime flow and dexterity. Dancehall, techno, pop, jungle, soul, a solo piano piece—what could've been a hot mess ends up as one of the classiest mix CDs in recent memory.
Dekmantel Podcast 253
re:ni's Dekmantel podcast does everything right. The tracklist left the sleuths at mixesdb mostly stumped. The mixing is inspired, moving swiftly through tempos and styles with quick sleights of hand and extended blends. More than anything, though, its re:ni's ineffable sense of groove—slinky, fluid, always in flux—that makes this one really pop off.
- Turtle Bugg
HNYPOT 330: African Art of Acid (Triple A Baybee) Mixx
Turtle Bugg's Honey Soundsystem mix makes a point so simple it often goes unsaid: black people invented acid house. And yet, as he puts it, "There was no Second Summer Of Love in Amerikkka, no Ibiza for Negroes to spend their holiday, no beginnings of a multi-million dollar industry that could change the lives of Lady Liberty's bastard children." The voices of Dave Chappelle, Malcolm X and Derrick May ring out over interlocking acid lines. The message is clear: black ingenuity thrives, no matter who is paying attention.
- Ben UFO
Hessle Audio - 9th September 2019
What makes this Hessle Audio show, one of many hosted by Ben UFO in 2019, so special? Well, it just is. On that early autumn night, armed with a stack of fresh wax, the UK DJ was on particularly impressive form, treating regulars and first-timer listeners to a beautifully woven tapestry of ambient, Afro techno, jungle and Joe. When it aired, it wasn't just nerds and ravers listening, either—Four Tet, Hunee, John Talabot and other dance music dons had all tuned in for their weekly dose of musical inspiration.
- Via App
Crack Mix 307
Via App taps into the elemental energy of Brooklyn's techno underground on this mix for Crack, a set as volatile as any of their recent productions. This bumpy ride through jarring turns and interruptions, with its snarling, punkish spirit, hit harder than most other mixes we heard this year.
Powder In Space
You play Powder In Space once. You think, "This is nice." You leave it for a while, then play it a second and third time. You notice things like the Roy Brooks vocal, or Daphne's bubbling vibraphone melody, that you didn't catch the first time. You also realize you've fallen in love with it. This is how Powder's mix gets under your skin: her unobtrusive approach, drawn from offbeat house with gorgeous textures, waits for you to come around to it.
- Shannen SP
Alongside Kode9, Shannen SP runs Hyperdub's Ø events at London's Corsica Studios, a wonderful monthly midweek showcase of experimental music and art. She's quickly become a DJ to watch, and this mix for Discwoman showcases her knack for linking together sharp, angular beats with loose percussive rhythms—a style she sums up as "witchy black energy."
FACT Mix 724
Cindy Li's FACT mix has a specific concept: "fast & light," inspired by hummingbirds. It also captures what makes her DJing so dynamic. The Toronto artist makes breakbeat, electro and techno float like feathers on the breeze, moving through quick-footed drum patterns and fluttering melodies with finesse. Her technique changes the feel of the music itself, which is among the highest compliments you can pay a DJ.
- Physical Therapy
Live: Honcho Campout 2019
The Way In may have had the freakiest sounds at this year's Honcho Campout. Hours before CCL brought the dance floor to tears with Beat Happening, Physical Therapy unfurled this masterclass in trippy eclecticism. Cuts of perfectly dreamy drum & bass, a slo-mo version of Cece Peniston's "Finally" layered over Stenny’s "Stress Test," Andrew Weatherall's remix of St Etienne, D'Angelo's "Devil's Pie"—the highlights in this one are simply too many to name. From a punter's perspective, hearing a DJ with such unique style going for it like this is basically as good as it gets.
- Josey Rebelle
"The thread that runs through the music I play, and my whole life, comes from my parent's generation," Josey Rebelle told us in 2017's Real Scenes: London film. Her parents are part of the Windrush generation, which arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in the 1950s and went on to make an inestimable impact on British life and culture. Rebelle's heritage pours out the speakers every time she's behind the decks. She's a quintessential London DJ: informed by the city's record shop and soundsystem culture, she's comfortable weaving together soul, techno, house, disco, R&B and jungle. Her first Essential Mix was dark and funky, with deep US music from Jamal Moss and Aybee featuring alongside London favourites Steven Julien and Cooly G.
- Ariel Zetina
Truancy Volume 249
"Power to them sexy transsexuals out there, transforming the world," a woman intones in the opening moments of Ariel Zetina’s Truancy mix. It's one of many vivid vocal samples that contribute to the smartbar resident's sense of narrative. Beneath them, trippy acid house and soulful techno—much of it produced by other queer and trans artists—paint different moods. Sometimes it's raw and sexy, other times meditative and strange, but always charged with attitude and passion.
- Jackie House
HNYPOT 300: Half A Bar Will Do It
Jackie House's "Half A Bar Will Do It" mix came out 11 months ago, in that post-New Year's, deep-winter stretch of time when dance music in the Northern Hemisphere briefly goes into hibernation. It matches that mood perfectly, easing, over the course of three hours, through soothing, low-energy grooves of all kinds, from Kompakt deep cuts to ambient jungle pitched way, way down. Jackie's photo—swaddled in blankets, bathed in warm lamplight—shows the best way to take this one in.
Live: Dekmantel Festival 2019
It's one thing to play a bunch of psychedelic dub and obscure post-punk on the radio. It's something else entirely to mix it at a festival and hold the dance floor. That's what Nosedrip did on the Red Light Radio stage at Dekmantel this summer. Luckily, we now have the recording to pogo to. In the STROOM head's hands, a rare Belgian cut like Siglo XX's "Individuality" becomes a statement of purpose: "I don't wanna be like the others / I am an originality / In search for individuality."
- Sybil Jason
Blowing Up The Workshop 103
Sybil Jason's Blowing Up The Workshop mix is only 40 minutes long and it ends abruptly after a particularly satisfying transition. Showcasing her range, this quick, intense and blindsiding mix ranges from weirdo downtempo to synth-pop to techno, as Jason jumps between eras like a skilled time traveler. She had a bigger year than ever in 2019, and it's DJing skills like this that got her there.
- Spekki Webu
Nous'klaer Radio #20
Though trance has been bubbling up again in dance music for a few years now, in 2019 it took centre-stage. While some turned to Eurodance for inspiration, Spekki Webu sought out the throb of the genre's earlier psychedelic forms. This precise set for Nous'klaer Audio is a masterclass in otherworldly DJing, journeying into hallucinogenic, hypnagogic soundscapes before it melts into the ether.
As a bonus, here are ten of our favourite RA mixes from the past 12 months.
Peggy Gou headlined Lift LDN, our collaboration with Nike in March, but she didn’t steal the show. FAUZIA, one of three DJs in support, blended hardcore, footwork and the odd club classic into a set fizzing with rave energy. Her Keith Flint tribute, delivered only weeks after his death, was very touching, too.
- Titonton Duvante
Titonton Duvante has been making—and playing—excellent music since the early '90s, but we were lucky enough to catch him in the midst of an international resurgence. His RA Podcast was a masterclass in reduced house and techno, capturing the best of a timeless sound he's made his own.
Strawberry Fields in pictures
Bush doofs—raves or festivals in the scorching outdoors—are a very Australian tradition. We take a close look at one of the country's favourites.
The Art Of Production: Abby Echiverri
The Brooklyn-based artist breaks down her singular career at the nexus of audio engineering, music technology and techno production.
RA Sessions: Karenn
The much-loved UK techno duo perform a live hardware set.
Label Of The Month: SVBKVLT
Andrew Ryce profiles the Shanghai label leading the inspiring club music movement in China.
The year in review
2010-19: Mixes Of The Decade
20 mixes that defined the past decade.
2010-19: Reissues Of The Decade
Demand for old music boomed in the 2010s. Here we list our top 20 reissues of the past ten years.
2010-19: Tracks Of The Decade
100 tunes that defined the 2010s.
2010-19: Reflections Of A Black Woman In Dance Music
Ash Lauryn on women in dance music, then and now.
2010-19: Albums Of The Decade
RA staff look back on the definitive albums of the 2010s.
In this golden age of online mixes, have we arrived at the optimal format for the DJ? Free to make, free to release, free to consume, no rules or suggestions about what to play, just you and your ideas and a blank digital canvas. You can play other people's music or your own. You can carefully sculpt an artistic statement (Leon Vynehall's DJ-Kicks), or take a recording of a festival set, chop out your favorite bit and serve it up (Physical Therapy for Honcho). You don't even actually have to DJ—if you want, you can have a friend play records while you sing over them, as Kelela does on one of this year's best. It goes without saying there are far too many mixes for any annual list to be comprehensive. But each of the 40 mixes we've chosen below shows an artist totally unrestrained, bringing something close to their A-game.