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Best of 2013: 10 Best Mixes

DJ mixes have become a part of the average electronic music fan’s daily consumption. A near endless stream of freely available podcasts, live radio broadcasts or recorded club sets filters out on a daily basis, subject to critique, dissection, furious track IDing and repeated play. An unfortunate by-product of this is the sheer downscale in quantity and quality of officially released mixes; though a few established series still deliver, this year has seen the cassette come into its own as a format for mixes, with some of our favourites of the year coming on tape. Given how many mixes each one of us at Juno Plus has listened to over the course of the last twelve months, we felt some recognition for the favourites outside our own podcast series was deserved. The following list features three personal favourites from the core Juno Plus writing team of editor Tony Poland, deputy editor Scott Wilson and staff writer James Manning, though there was one mix we could all agree on.

10. Trushmix #39 – DJ Sotofett then Ron Morelli (listen here)

“Hi mister, sorry no track list on this mix. It’s time to dig, and if you’re lucky you’ll find some gold. Good luck!” was the response to Anonymous’ comments on Trushmix 39: DJ Sotofett then Ron Morelli that read “hey, guyz! do yo have a tracklist?” For podcasts of obscure house and other organic vibrations made from machines it doesn’t get better than the Trush Mix series, curated by quacking ‘Trushers’ DJ Fettburger and L.A Morillo.

Clocking in at more than two-and-a-half hours, Sotofett and Morelli’s contribution was the perfect mix for a night in (before heading out?) with friends which means no hogging the iPod, laptop, CDJs, turntables, whatever. My Eureka! moment came when hearing Sotofett’s inclusion (track ID?) of an edit to New Musik’s “Warp” (Ilo Edit?) which I first heard played to drastic effect in its original British synth-pop form on Cut Copy’s So Cosmic mix from 2008. This is a mix that’ll be sifted through for years to come. (JM)

9. FACT mix 390 – Powell (listen here)

I’ve seen Diagonal Records boss Powell DJing three times this year in very different surrounds, and he’s never failed to impress me. Whether it was the intimate Diagonal Records party at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington, opening for Chris & Cosey and Mika Vainio in the cavernous Heaven situated underneath Charing Cross station or the sweaty basement of Krakow’s Club Pauza as part of Unsound’s closing party, Powell’s selections have been the most consistently thrilling I’ve seen this year. His mixing style is something that can only be described as gleefully reckless, veering through no wave, jungle and techno in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching someone trying to control a runaway truck and somehow getting away with it.

His FACT mix is a fairly accurate document of how he performs, and as such it’s probably my favourite “conventional” mix this year. Any mix that starts with EVOL’s suitably titled “Proper Headshrinker 4” makes its intentions pretty clear from the off, and the way Tim Taylor + Dan Zamani’s “Acid Over Manhattan” dives slowly into “Klangwerk” is the kind of transition that will convince you that beat matching is a complete waste of time. In fact, this mix is full of such moments that just make total sense – Container into Belgian new beat, The KVB into Sonic Youth, Rapeman into Death Comet Crew being just a few. Powell might just be my favourite new DJ, and this mix pretty much sums up why. (SW)

8. Nr. 60: Pépé Bradock (listen here)

Back in February, the site scored a real coup in snaring a rare mix from the celebrated Frenchman known as Pépé Bradock. Though a selection of house-based favourites from Bradock would undoubtedly have gone down well, the ‘grand riddler’ chose to eschew this approach in favour of a wonderfully uplifting 85 minutes taking in soul and jazz from names such as Al Green, Patrice Rushen, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.

Mixed perfectly with just the right amount of EQ and FX trickery, Bradock’s selection was accompanied by some typically obtuse verbal improvisations of the tracks which offered some further insight into this unconventional producer. It’s one of those online mixes that in a previous time might have been issued as an official release and lauded by all, such is it’s timeless qualities. It also brought back some vivid personal memories for the inclusion of the wholly distinct sounding “Hana” by Japanese group Asa-Chang & Junray. (TP)

7. RA388 – FIS (listen here)

For me, New Zealander Olly Peryman was one of those artists this year who just like that appeared out of leftfield, inaugurating the Void Coms label with his Homologous EP. Thankfully his back catalogue wasn’t too extensive to revisit in order to get myself up to speed, discovering two EPs on Samurai Horo and an album on Exit. With producers like Felix K building a bridge offering techno curmudgeons the chance to explore the nether-regions of drum and bass, Fis, in hindsight, was one producer I was destined to meet. And like Prince Of Denmark’s mix for Little White Earbuds, Fis’ addition to the RA podcast series was also solely comprised of his material, featuring music I knew, some I would later recognise from the recently released Preparations EP, with other extracts I’ve yet to attach to a release likely to appear on his mooted 2014 album for Tri Angle Records. (JM)

6. Maxmillion Dunbar – Woo Daps (RVNG INTL) (listen here)

Maxmillion Dunbar’s Woo Daps isn’t the only entry on this list to be solely artist orientated, but it is one that straddles the line quite neatly between commercial release and free mixtape. Offered through RVNG Intl on a “pay what you like” basis, the exclusive material contained within – which contains off cuts from Dunbar’s House of Woo LP, live versions, and remixes and interpretations from the likes of TTAM RENAT, Protect-U and Aaron Coyes – is easily worth paying for, distilling the light, joyous mood of House of Woo and putting it into a series of tracks that segue together imperceptibly. My only (admittedly very personal) criticism of House of Woo is that its blissfully psychedelic mood was interrupted by the transition between tracks, and Woo Daps is the perfect way of getting around that.

Given the number of albums released this year that were comprised of material that could work as a seamless club set – Laurel Halo’s Chance of Rain, Stellar OM Source’s Joy One Mile and Logos’ Cold Mission to name a few – Woo Daps offers an intriguing alternative somewhere in between the traditional commercial mix and the artist album. The video games industry offers downloadable content to expand its releases, and in a sense that’s what Woo Daps does, offering a fresh way of engaging with something that might have taken a back seat since its release. If other labels followed suit in 2014, it would be no bad thing. (SW)

5. FACT Mix 364: Jon K (Listen here)

In his former capacity as resident at now dormant Manchester club night Eyes Down, Jon K was responsible for facilitating my first live exposure to Moodymann back in 2006. For this reason alone, the current Hoya:Hoya resident holds a special place in my heart, though his contribution to the long running FΛCT mix series at the start of the year has certainly nudged its way into my affections too. Few other mixes in recent memory effectively demonstrate the full range of the selector’s musical knowledge as superbly as this 76 minute mix which left me furiously researching Discogs to try and source some of the music. Not only is it varied, but Jon K mixes the tracks in a manner that is rarely seen among current DJs, whose fixation with beat matching is wholly one dimensional. The passage of eight tracks from Barrington Levy to Cherrystones via everything from Count Bass D to Shed via Stereolab and a Downwards curio demonstrates this perfectly. (TP)

4. LWE Podcast 152 – Prince Of Denmark (listen here)

Before this mix for Little White Earbuds, Prince Of Denmark was only really a name known for the debut Soulfood 12” (so loved none are currently available for Discogs purchase) and the To The Fifty Engineers EP on Giegling’s now completed Staub series (and to the obsessive Giegling completist for his few other productions as Traumprinz). It was the first time the reclusive German’s music had been heard as a complete package and it made total sense, transcending Prince Of Denmark from a mysterious two-EP artist to a revered producer of bona fide deep techno. LWE Podcast 152 was spun solely from Prince Of Denmark material and it provided a perfect introduction to his music – and as we later found out, was an unofficial precursor to this year’s best techno album for me in The Body. (JM)

3. Filter Dread – Space Loops (No Corner)

It’s difficult to know how to categorise Filter Dread’s Space Loops cassette on No Corner. Album, EP, mixtape, or work in progress? FACT chose to call it an album for their list which feels equally as correct as calling it a mix, but in a world where Pitchfork can put Rustie’s Essential Mix in their top albums of 2012 it’s clear that the boundaries are becoming ever foggier. In the end this cassette release from one of the UK’s most promising of the new wave of grime producers felt like a mixtape in the same way as 100% Galcher, taking what was presumably all original material and segueing it in an occasionally bewildering manner.

Local Action boss Tom Lea described it on Twitter as “like Shackleton soundtracking Alien”, and I don’t think I could come up with a better description; it was a foray into the textures, building blocks and dread-filled signifiers of grime and jungle, with a digital sheen partially obscured by the limitations of the tape medium itself. It so wilfully flits and cross fades from one mood to the other that it’s the kind of thing I’ve found it almost impossible to get bored of. Much of the recent movements in instrumental grime seem to have become increasingly experimental, but none have been quite as absorbing as Space Loops, and makes Filter Dread someone to keep a close eye on next year. (SW)

2. Helena Hauff – Obscure Object (Krokodilo Tapes)

Launching with what’s become a highly prized cassette recording of “pocket money synth punk” from Karl O’Connor under the Family Sex name, Blackest Ever Black’s Krokodilo Tapes label scored one of our favourite official mixes this year in Obscure Object by Helena Hauff. The Golden Pudel resident saw her rise innumerably off the back of her promising debut EP on Werkdiscs and the Black Sites 12” she issued on PAN in collaboration with fellow Golden Pudel resident f#x. This led to backbench-style muffles of discontent in certain quarters, possibly those not especially familiar with her talent as a DJ first and foremost.

This C90 tape issued just in advance of her Werkdiscs debut getting announced is the perfect riposte to internet naysayers, and encapsulated the free-spirited nature of the Hamburg club where Hauff holds down a residency. The Object side was a briskly mixed selection of alien sounding West Coast electro and acid-heavy box jams akin to the set Hauff played at a BleeD party earlier this year with Frak and Dungeon Acid; the Obscure side a suitably named selection of esoteric and occasionally unnerving sounds. Special mention goes to Hauff’s Black Sites cohort f#x for his DJ set at Pudel preceding Ital’s performance in October which was briefly uploaded to Soundcloud and did an equally good job of portraying the club’s open-minded policy. (TP)

1. Blowing Up The Workshop 12: Galcher Lustwerk – 100% Galcher (listen here)

When discussing our end of year lists, it was suggested very seriously whether 100% Galcher should feature in our list of the best albums. Ultimately this mix of original material by White Material’s Galcher Lustwerk – commissioned by Matthew Kent’s Blowing Up The Workshop site – could be released on CD and sell out as quickly as any White Material 12”, but if Lustwerk chose to release an album next year of something arguably more refined than this mixtape, would we have jumped the gun by contradicting our own internal logic and classifying it as an album? At this point it’s impossible to tell, but despite being rough around the edges, as far as mixes go – be it free or commercial, or in the form of a DJ set or mix of original material – there was nothing better than 100% Galcher, spreading itself virally through Twitter and through simple word of mouth recommendation.

It’s difficult to put a finger on why this mix has struck such a chord with everyone who has heard it, but perhaps it’s because the music just feels like such a blank slate. On playing 100% Galcher to a friend in the small hours of a house party a few months ago, I tried to explain just who Galcher Lustwerk was in the best way I could to someone whose knowledge of house music was limited at best. In the end it was him that put it more succinctly than I could. “It reminds me of Burial”, he said. Stylistically, there is obviously nothing to compare the two artists, but in the way that Burial presented a starkly individual musical statement that took UK garage as its starting point for an exploration of what it feels to feel isolated from, or equally, in love with, the urban landscape, it feels as if Lustwerk is using the structure of house music to do something equally as personal, and more to the point, open to interpretation. Speaking to The Quietus earlier this year, Lustwerk talked about his lyrics, stating: “I just like setting the tone, setting the stage, the vibe, and letting my imagination fill in the spaces.” Approach his music like this, as a starting point rather than a concrete emotional statement, and it seems to have more in common with Untrue than the music initially suggests. Ultimately though, 100% Galcher is just an hour of great music to warm the soul, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you should do so now. That’s all the recommendation it needs. (SW)