This Is Not
Morrissey, that most cheerily morose of pop artists, once famously called for the proverbial DJ to be hanged. "The music they constantly play," he explained, "says nothing to me about my life." Even house heads might admit he has a point: for all the happiness it brings us, club music is more about creating feelings (usually of pleasure) than about reflecting them. Enter DJ Metatron, AKA Traumprinz (and Prince Of Denmark), a producer who's become a cult favourite by doing just the opposite. This faceless artist at the core of Germany's Giegling crew makes club records that tap into emotions rarely heard on the dance floor: hope, vulnerability, loneliness.
Despite what Morrissey thinks, you may find that This Is Not
, a Metatron/Traumprinz mega-mix released this year through Giegling's website, says quite a bit about your life, if in its own oblique way. Take "Where Is Home
," an unreleased production near the beginning. With little more than a few chords, a simple beat and those three loaded words, the track releases a flood of poignant thoughts: homesickness, memory, the passage of time. Near the end, a tender diva (one of Traumprinz's unlikely hallmarks) consoles the listener, "It's too bad, too bad, too bad, baby." All the while, an ever-changing current of rhythms, from frantic breaks to deep house grooves, keeps you bouncing. This was dance music at its most delicate and powerful.
Top 10 official mixes
As the CD shuffles off into format history, the future of what we now call the official mix becomes ever more unclear. But that doesn't stop a few timeless series from continuing to carry the torch, nor does it prevent DJs from weaving together fantastic entries in those series. Eclectic listening sessions, peak-time club material, mega-mixes of a single artist's records—this classic dance music format gave us some of our best listening moments of 2015.
They say the longer you leave goulash simmering, the better it tastes. You could apply the same rule to Thomas Moen Hermansen and DJing—to catch the Norwegian in his element, he needs three hours at least
. Inspired by Paradise Garage's play-what-you-feel philosophy, his latest recorded mix clocked in closer to four, steering us through the annals of his vast and varied record collection. There aren't many DJs out there who could blend Bjørn Torske, Hieroglyphic Being and Ricardo Villalobos and make it taste so good.
Nina Kraviz's Trip became one of techno's defining labels in 2015, and this DJ-Kicks
is a great primer for the imprint and its aesthetic—ultra-deep techno with an emphasis on hypnosis. Perhaps more than anything else this year, the mix summed up Kraviz's appeal. She's a main stage DJ who plays music that sounds like it was it was made for the sweatiest, druggiest afterhours you could imagine.
The Trilogy Tapes
While one might question the practicality of a cassette full of unmixed club tracks, D.C.-based duo Beautiful Swimmers' mixtape for TTT felt like a gift from your coolest friend. Andrew Field-Pickering and Ari Goldman made it feel special by going for a vastly different mood on each side. Side A is for the clubbers; Side B is for the lovers. Highlights include a cheeky remix of Watt Noise, a soca Sade cover and Ben Tankard's piano fantasia, "Eden Celebration."
Home. House. Hardcore.
How does it feel to get smacked in the face by René Pawlowitz-produced DJ tools for 56 minutes straight? Pretty damn fabulous. For anyone who's not DJing on gigantic soundsystems every weekend, Home.House.Hardcore
is the best way into this side of Pawlowitz's discography. These cuts, credited to Head High and WK7, were made to get stuck into DJ bags and never leave. This compilation, unfussy but expertly paced, shows you why—not only how they sound, but what they do
If Dub Phizix is a breath of fresh air in the UK's drum & bass scene, then his Fabriclive
mix was a gale-force wind. George Ovens has always looked at the 170 BPM template a little differently, and different is exactly what this mix was, focused on layering rather than punishing bass drops. Fabriclive 84
was one of the series' best entries in recent memory, and one of the best moments in drum & bass all year.
Everyone who thinks the mix CD is a dying format is lucky to have an artist like Actress, who can't help but dismantle and recontextualise tired concepts. His DJ-Kicks
entry caught us off guard when it dropped in May, if only because it did such a great job of defying conventions. Mixes were abrupt, tracks often trampled over each other and Actress treated genres like a toddler uses a tray of finger paints. Throw in unlikely selections, a couple stellar new productions from Darren Cunningham himself and the will to experiment, and you've got an example why physical mixes endure.
Jack Adams doesn't just challenge convention—he blows it apart. Just when we thought bass music might have reached its creative limits, he came through with a mix
and an album
so fresh that it spawned its own sub-genre
. This year's Fabriclive
mix was another exhilarating high for Adams, splicing "weightless" tracks with proto-jungle, grime and golden-era hardcore. Adams is an electrifying force within contemporary club music, and this mix was further proof of why.
Function told us
that this was "the single most difficult music project" he's ever done. It didn't sound like it. In fact, the seventh Berghain mix, like its Panorama Bar
counterpart last year, pinpointed the club's vibe with ease—or what felt like it, anyway. Picking out exquisite selections from a newer guard of techno producers, including the likes of Abdulla Rashim, Blue Hour and Rrose, Berghain 07
was as fine a collection of modern techno as we heard all year.
Moments like the one immortalised on fabric 84
don't come along every day. Here's an artist at the top of his game putting his all into a performance at the 15th birthday party for one of the best clubs in the world. It's a perfect storm, and the end result is one of the best dance floor mixes to come out in years. What makes it even more remarkable is that all 20 tracks are Jonson's, highlighting just how singular an artist he is.
Stefan Kozalla's DJ-Kicks
reminded us that a great mix doesn't have to be mixed. For the series' 50th instalment, he went back to its origins (CDs by club DJs made for home listening) and returned with one of the year's most enchanting mixes—with barely a hint of beatmatching. The German selector highlighted his unique ear for charming melodies, quirky vocals and lush strings, connecting the dots between cLOUDDEAD, Daniel Lanois and Marcel Fengler. Even William Shatner made an appearance for the mix's most show-stopping moment. (Imagine anyone other than Koze getting away with this.)
What made Kozalla's DJ-Kicks
so good was the same things we love about his own music: wry humour and overt sentimentality, delivered with a solid beat. The mix had all of these in spades, employing the same charming naiveté and vibrant colour palette of Amygdala
, Kozalla's last (and career-defining) artist album. As usual for anything Kozalla touches—from remixes to DJ mixes—it was his unmistakable artistic voice that came through the loudest.
This poll is decided by the votes of RA staff members and contributors.