The following are some of our favorite mixes of the past year in no particular order. If a mix was given out for free, click through for audio, if it was commercially released, click through to buy it. If it was released in another dimension, invoke the dark lord Cthulu to tear a hole through the fabric of the universe and steal it from the Machine Elves. Crafty little bastards.
While 2010 may not have been a great year for hip-hop purists, the passing of Gang Starr’s Guru, if it had any positive affect, led to small chasms in DJ circles where the result was a noticeably stronger affinity for veteran underground hip-hop. I noticed artists like Tribe, Redman and Busta Rhymes starting to get more play towards the end of the year, and surely the tributes to Guru In 2010 were anything but few and far between. What made DJ Premier’s tribute mix stand out among others was not only his storied history with Gang Starr, but his classic cuts and scratches, song selection and a straight-up eerie story about going to see Guru in the hospital before his death, which is worth the listen alone. The mix also serves as sort of a diss to MC Solar with the early placement of “Betrayal” and the constant reiteration of this mix being a “salute” not a “tribute”, which Premier was explicitly barred from doing in Guru’s “farewell letter”, one that many believe was written by Solar. Between all of the bad blood and mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, Guru will always be remembered as one of the best MCs and storytellers in hip-hop history and this mix shows off every single side of his talent, from the street-savvy wit on “Execution of a Chump” to the worldly, thoughtful conscience on “Above The Clouds”. – Aaron Frank
Need to know what London sounded like in 2010? Give this a couple of spins and call me in the morning. In a year where UK Bass went in a million different directions, Oneman was able to keep it all it together, weaving the various threads into a unified whole. Quite possibly the best technical DJ in Bass music, Oneman somehow managed to blend Garage, Dubstep, Grime and Funky House so thoroughly here that initial listens will leave you scratching your head trying to figure out where one track ends and the next one starts. Future sounds in their purest form, the music here may not feature the biggest names but each selection cannily anticipated this year’s hottest trends from Bok Bok’s seasick synths to Joker’s neon melodies through Joy Orbison’s mutant euphoria. By the time it all ends with Brackles’ remix of “I Love London”, even the most skeptical of critics will be singing along. – Sach O
Our near-constant supply of good weather in Southern California might have been one of the reasons Caribou’s new tropical-tinged masterpiece Swim resonated with us so much, but his live performances and two free mixes also showed another dynamic side to Dan Snaith’s musical talent. Allez Allez and Tour CD 2010 showed us Snaith’s ability to pair his own musical stylings with rare vintage gems and selections from more modern artists like house guru Theo Parrish. Not unlike Flying Lotus and Four Tet, Snaith is also quite adept at remixing his own tracks to fit with in the confines of his more groove-heavy mixes, while loosely adhering to a more international and eclectic style that sets him apart from his peers. Evident in these mixes are some of the house and disco inspirations behind Swim, but what they really show are Snaith’s ability to mix a wide range of tracks with very little connection on the surface in to these loose, flowing sets that will have the listener ostensibly looking around every corner for something unexpected. – Aaron Frank
To put it bluntly, Fact OWNED the online mix game in 2010, bagging exclusive sets from pretty much anyone who mattered in Bass music and beyond. My personal favorite was definitely LHF’s contribution: 52 minutes of original, unreleased music by the crew that was more compulsively listenable than most albums released this year. Harkening back to the dark, jazzy, psychedelic yet street-oriented sounds of the mid 90s, Double Helix, Amen Ra, Low Density Matter and Solar Man re-imagined Jungle, Hip-Hop, Garage, Techno and Dubstep as cosmiche street music, aiming for the same avant-hard territory as Flying Lotus’ best material without the constraints of the high-art album format. With only a 1 official release to their name, this mix was ground zero for those who discovered LHF this year and by the sound of it, plenty of folks will be playing catch up in 2011. -Sach O
Back in May, it was unclear what the future would hold for Kutmah, a longtime LA-resident who was held in a New Mexico detention center for several weeks and later deported to his place of birth in the UK. After developing a supportive following through his weekly Sketchbook nights and befriending likeminded DJs at Low End Theory, it was obvious just from reading several local DJ’s Twitter feeds that a void had been left in the scene. Not long after settling in the UK though, Kutmah released “Throwing Stones” for the Stones Throw podcast, making it abundantly clear he hadn’t lost any of his West Coast roots. We can only hope his new audiences in the UK are as welcoming to his warped style as LA once was. – Aaron Frank
Q: What’s Autonomic?
A: Half-time Drum & Bass.
Q: Isn’t that basically instrumental Hip-Hop?
A: Not exactly. Think Trip-Hop but not as cheesy and with better drums.
Q: Where should I start?
A: dBridge and Instra:Mental’s fantastic Fabriclive mix, dummy.
Q: What if I’m a cheap bastard?
A: Try their FACT mix.
Upon its release last February, the Autonomic sound was a curious anomaly: “SLOW D&B you say? Pish-Tosh!” Well no one’s laughing now except perhaps dBridge and Instra:Mental whose game changing gambit to cut D&B’s speed in half has proven to be the single most important development to happen to the genre in half a decade. Long abandoned by the tastemakers as a dead zone frequented by testosterone heavy speed-addicts, Drum & Bass’ 2010 revival was a pleasantly unexpected turn of events and Fabriclive.50 was the album that set it all off. A cold, atmospheric journey into London’s foggy streets and beyond, the mix served as a mission statement for a sound people didn’t know they needed to hear but rapidly fell in love with. Soon after, just about every junglist of note was going on about “speed limits”, “getting back to drum programming” and various other new ideas, nearly all of which gave the morbid genre a shot in the arm. Far more than influential however, the mix is compulsively listenable for music lovers of all stripes, perfect for chill nights on the porch or long drives through the city. Welcome back creativity, Drum & Bass missed you. – Sach O
Clearly not content with just releasing one of the best albums of 2010 in “There Is Love In You”, Four Tet also solidified his spot as one of the world’s hardest working and most forward-thinking DJs this year through a relentless touring schedule and several mixes for FACT, BTS Radio and the BBC. Just before the release of his new album, Four Tet released the “Much Love To Plastic People” mix in an attempt to garner attention towards the potential closing of the famed UK nightclub that once stood as his testing ground for new songs. Plastic People stayed open, and no doubt the mix and the celebratory follow-up “Return To Plastic People”, which came months later as a mix for FACT, drew more people to the club out of curiosity. The ever-progressive Four Tet actually set sort of a blueprint for DJs in 2010 with these two mixes, as many that followed attempted to mimic his minimal aesthetic and even used some of the same songs, including Mount Kimbie’s “Blind Night Errand” and Joy Orbison’s “Love Cry” remix, both excellent songs overplayed by DJs that lack Four Tet’s scientifically rhythmic style and sense of timing. – Aaron Frank
Such is the power of Kode 9 as a DJ that THREE of his mixes were considered for this list. First there was his amazing oldschool Jungle blend for Fact magazine which soundtracked my jogging for a solid month. Later, he delivered a profoundly haunting Burial mix for Mary-Anne Hobbs’ final radio show, offering closure to one of the original showcases that launched the Dubstep sound into the mainstream. Ultimately however, we chose to go with his official release for !K7’s DJ Kicks series: a broad look at the post-Dubstep Diaspora as seen through the eyes of electronic music’s sharpest minds. Like Oneman’s Rinse mix, Kode 9 is absolutely fearless in his selection, which ranges from the darker reaches of Funky to murderous Dubstep to South-African Kwaito House and weird British takes on Chicago Juke. Somehow, he makes it all come together though and ultimately proves his point: fuck genre purism, in 2010 all the good stuff is happening on the margins anyways. – Sach O
At the beginning of the year, I would’ve confidently told you I didn’t expect any indie-rock artists to be successfully breaking in to the electronic fold. But with drummer Jamie XX going on a year-long dubstep bender and releasing excellent underground mixes for Boiler Room and Colette, I’ll certainly be apt to keep my eyes peeled for such things in the future. Considering their youth and the fact that his main outfit, the XX, so confidently straddle the line between rock and electronic, I guess it’s less of a surprise than say Jim Eno from Spoon breaking out as a Grime DJ though. Initially coming across my radar last year through his Jack Penate remix and a stripped down rework of his own group’s “Basic Space”, Jamie’s airy, emotional style echoes that of the XX’s debut, but trades the sometimes sappy vocals for a stronger emphasis on rhythm and bass. His first single “Far Nearer” and an upcoming remix project of Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here LP have both helped bring his name to the surface in recent weeks and one wonders how his popularity in the dubstep arena will affect The XX, who are no strangers to personnel changes. – Aaron Frank
Addison Groove’s Fact mix kicks off with an oldschool electro number and ends with high speed Chicago Footwork music. In between, he finds time for evil UK house, his own post-Dubstep production and various other sounds that shouldn’t mix right but somehow do. The secret is in the selection: by digging deep into booty shaking traditions but emphasizing weirdness rather than corny camp, Headhunter’s evil alter-ego made an excellent case for sounds that would otherwise be ignored as simple dance floor fodder and not much else. 2010 was the year Juke broke through and along with Planet Mu’s Mike Paradinas, Addison’s Groove was a major reason Chicago’s newest style caught on beyond the city’s limits. – Sach O
Though technically this was released in 2009, we’d be remiss not to include Gaslamp Killer’s collection of classic Flying Lotus singles and unreleased b-sides. Between the release of Cosmogramma and the formation of Infinity, a new live group with Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Atwood Ferguson, the year was one of discernable progression in style for Flying Lotus, who stated in the description of this mix “can’t believe i’ve been making tracks for over 10 years now”. While evident that Lotus has embarked on a new phase of his career, his hip-hop-infused, beat-heavy style of years past will surely never be forgotten. “A Decade of Flying Lotus” serves as the perfect primer for that phase and who better than friend and frequent collaborator Gaslamp Killer to have mix all the best songs from that period together in to a nice package. – Aaron Frank
Jeff unofficially dubbed 2010 “The Year of the Night Slug.” I’m assuming he did this because it sounds funny out loud (try it) but when it came to Bass music, it was also very true: no other label had their fingers closer to the pulse of the London Underground and within the span of a year, Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990’s neon-lit enterprise went from best-kept-secret to scene defining nexus. Consisting solely of Night Slugs releases, L-Vis’ mix for Resident Advisor serves as the perfect primer to the label’s sound: a dark, sexy, sweaty interpretation of American R&B, English House and Grime and that mysterious X-factor that somehow transforms those ingredients into more than the sum of their parts. 2010’s coolest kids in town, Night Slugs anything-goes attitude and daring dance floor experiments defined a year that did-away with rulebooks and embraced cross-pollination and eclecticism. – Sach O
We mentioned our appreciation for Teebs’ Cosmopolyphonic mix late last year, but he came across even more critics’ radars in 2010 with his phenomenal debut Ardour and mixes for XLR8R and BTS Radio. What really stood out to me was his three-part “Teebs and Friends” series, which includes guest sets from fellow up-and-comers Shlohmo and Yuk. Each installment is close to two hours, but when your sound is as organic and therapeutic as Teebs’, the time goes by almost too fast and before you know it, the visions of hazy meadows his music conjures have turned back in to the nightmare that is your office cubicle. Aside from that, one really gets a better sense of his roots and influences from these mixes than anywhere else.- Aaron Frank
Consisting entirely of his own production, Shackleton’s entry in Fabric’s long-running mix series is a career spanning odyssey that would have probably made this site’s top albums list had it not dropped so late in the year. Recreating his legendary first live set at the Fabric London nightclub where the combined force of his evil sub-bass and the club’s legendary sound-system sent ravers into a frenzy, Fabric 55 is proof-positive that anyone who’s into the dark side of music needs to hear Sam Shackleton perform live. Mixing classics with new material and unreleased transitions all performed live on a hardware set up, this mix stands as the definitive Shackleton document, presenting all of his highlights in a listener friendly mix and serving as the perfect introduction to newcomers and a rewarding refresher course for long-time fans. – Sach O
Even though completion is still underway on his debut album, newcomer Young Montana managed to create quite a buzz this year through a flurry of leaked singles and mixes for Mary Anne Hobbs and BTS Radio. Eschewing the current darker dubstep-inspired trend of his peers in the UK for a more upbeat, experimental hip-hop feel, Young Montana’s BTS contribution exhibits a knack for tight mixing and a unique taste that includes everything from the hip-hop classic “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” to one of my modern electronic favorites “Drive U Crazy” from Toronto DJ/producer Egyptrixx. Also included is a memorable take on one of my favorite tracks of 2010, Shlohmo’s “Tomato Smash”, which gets mashed up perfectly with the vocals from Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It”, as well as several enticing originals near the end. – Aaron Frank
Releasing two of my favorite mixes this year was St. Louis-based producer Phaseone, whose droning, psychedelic blend of electronic and hip-hop led to a steady bit of praise towards the end of 2010. After putting out “Realest Shit I Ever Wrote” in March, which contained easily the best and possibly the only Curren$y remix I’ve ever heard alongside a well-received rework of Nite Jewel’s “Want You Back”, Phaseone managed to top himself just months later with the “December 2010 Mix” and a double-sided single for the Way Slow series. The “December 2010 Mix” marks his evolutionary progress since last year’s popular “White Collar Crime”, another Phaseone mix that relied mostly on original material and remixes. While he recently stated “Fuck beatmatching” in a Tweet that favored Kode9 and Burial’s contribution to Mary Anne Hobbs as “mix of the year”, Phaseone’s mixing skills are on par with any veteran DJ, though his astral-inspired, laid-back production style is what’s really to be marveled at here. – Aaron Frank
Though Gaslamp Killer was already mentioned once for his mixing on “A Decade of Flying Lotus”, the LA producer/DJ certainly put his own stamp on 2010, not only with the stellar Death Gate EP and production on Gonjasufi’s “A Sufi and A Killer”, but also with major performances at European music festivals and tours in Japan and Australia. Word of Gaslamp’s epically rowdy sets must have finally gotten out to the rest of the world. And while in years past he held a place in our hearts for his mixes and performances at Low End Theory, Gaslamp Killer was again confirmed as one of our favorite DJs through this landmark volume in the Low End Theory podcast with fellow Brainfeeder labelmate Lorn, whose dark, absorbed sound on the second half is the perfect compliment to Gaslamp’s unpredictable style. While the number of gigs you can book in a single year is no way to judge the quality of creative expression, in Gaslamp’s case it certainly speaks to his recent creative whirlwind and current international popularity as a DJ. – Aaron Frank
An early leak for his latest LP “Only Mountain” set Take off on a rocky start to 2010. But after supplementing the release with “The Getaway Mix” and a contribution to the Low End Theory Podcast, and showing off his exemplary DJ skills to captive audiences in the US and Japan, the year finally proved to pan out successfully for the LA-based producer. Having seen him several times this year, I can confirm that his mixes are only getting better, and the Low End Theory mix in particular exhibits a similarly chaotic but lush, colorful style that exists in his original productions and live sets. If Low End DJs were people from your high school, Teebs would be the carefree stoner, Gaslamp the angry metalhead and Take, the hyper nerd wreaking havoc in the computer lab. Already at work this winter on a new album, my fingers are crossed his next release elevates him to Bill Gates status. – Aaron Frank
Leaving Records label-head Matthewdavid also contributed a fantastic mix to the XLR8R series this year, making his own hazy strain of ambient electronic music stand out amongst the throng of current LA producers. The word “experimental” doesn’t really do Matthewdavid’s mix justice though, when you consider that aside from the Screw version of “25 Lighters On My Dresser”, the rest of the mix sounds like a lost artifact buried in the woods circa 1987 or the soundtrack for the latest Harmony Korine movie. Not long after this mix piqued my interest, Matthewdavid and fellow experimental arbiter Sun Araw’s collaborative project “LIVEPHREAXX” saw a limited, tape only release, which we can only hope makes it way to the internet soon. – Aaron Frank
Starting the year off with a blazing 15-minute mix for Mary Anne Hobbs, San Francisco-based Shlohmo capitalized on the positive reception with mixes for Low End Theory and Klipmode. With his debut Camping EP also falling victim to an early leak, the LA-born producer/DJ, also a member of the Wedidit Collective, began building anticipation for his Brainfeeder debut by mixing his own spaced-out instrumentals like “Tomato Smash” and “Hotboxing The Cockpit” in with artists like James Blake and dialogue from classic comedies like Half-Baked. Shlohmo’s style currently falls somewhere between Teebs and Flying Lotus, but from his mixes and recently released 09 Beat CD, we can only assume that he’s ready to make his own mark on electronic music in the coming year. – Aaron Frank
12 Honorable Mentions:
Son Raw – All Your Bass series
Aether – Passion of the Weiss Mix
Redlight – FACT 147
Kingdom – FACT 171
Pinch – FACT 164
Altered Natives – FACT 125 (Ed note: notice a trend here?)
D1 – FACT 202
Baths – FACT 183
Terror Danjah – Resident Advisor Mix
Master Blazter – Blazt Off (Mixed By DJ Kutmah)
Dibia$e – Return of the Sludge BTS Mix
House Shoes – We Run Things (HVW8 Podcast Vol. 21)