The Best Mixes of 2014

Aaron Frank and Son Raw listened to every mix posted on Soundcloud in 2014 to prove their allegiance to high quality electronic music. Salute them if you see them, but stand at least 30 yards away.
By    January 12, 2015




Son Raw’s Picks


1. Mumdance B2B Pinch

Paradoxically, this mix actually negates one of Mumdance’s key strengths as a DJ, which is his ability to connect vastly different scenes and sounds into a coherent whole. He’s put out plenty of mixes like that this year, but this one is unique in that it’s a purpose-built vehicle for a very specific sound he’s been working on with Pinch, one at the intersection of dark Techno and UK sound system traditions. It’s got tons of exclusives and serves as a key document for a sound that’s only just starting to gain steam.

2. Spooky – A Garage affair V1.

It feels like Spooky’s on radio 2-3 times a week and his shows are always special – he’s one of the rare DJs who remembers that it’s not just about spinning records, it’s about setting a vibe. He’s also one of the few DJs out there who’s equally adept at spinning instrumentals and catering to emcees (check out his Deja set with 40 guys ‘pon mic for more on that).

I picked this Garage set because it just sounds brilliant, and in a genre where it seems like 99% of DJs pick from the same pool of tunes, I’d never heard most of his selection.

3. Slimzos X Boxed 4 hour special 6/19/14 on NTS 

Frankly, I could have just named 5 Boxed shows and called it a day – they dominated 2014. Slackk is constantly breaking new tunes and Oil Gang has one of the most focused selections in music right now, drawing exclusively from London producers. Throw in Logos and Mitch expanding the parameters, and some legendary guests (including co-host Slimzee) and you’ve got an all-star session here.

4. Grandmixxer ft The Square on Rinse FM 27/10/2014

 There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding The Square. Novelist pretty much killed everything he touched in 2014, particularly as far as radio goes, but his group’s EP wasn’t exactly overflowing with hardcore lengman bars and his blog-anointed success pissed a few people off. Those people should probably listen to this set because everyone involved KILLS it. Proof that Grime is best heard live.

  1. Tie: Mak10 and Kahn & Neek Grime takeovers on Rinse FM 26/9/2014 

2 really good hour long sets, one by an absolute legend who deserves the kind of comeback tour Slimzee’s getting, one by a pair of Bristol DJs with a dark, stripped down sound.



Aaron Frank’s Picks 


1. Daniel Avery – BBC Essential Mix (See also: FACT Mix 454 / Rinse.FM Show feat. Red Axes & Not Waving (4/28/14))

There’s something elegant about the way in which Daniel Avery manages to blend industrial music with house and techno. Upon entering his world through last year’s debut Drone Logic, one is confronted with the cold complexities of our modern era via Avery’s vision of a dystopian parallel universe full of abandoned factories, underground bunkers and constant surveillance by an unseen eye. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, the video for the album’s title track is a proper introduction, mirroring the unsettlingly invasive tone of Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin. 

But prior to recording Drone Logic with the supervision of Phantasy Sound labelhead Erol Alkan, Avery staked his claim as a DJ at London’s Fabric nightclub, and this year he was back to flexing his mix muscles with a glorious BBC Essential Mix, a contribution to the FACT mix series and a consistently great monthly program on Rinse.FM. On his BBC Essential Mix, he offers a warmer welcome into his world, starting with an ambient selection from The House In The Woods aka Pye Corner Audio and following with a cut from the newly released collection of experimental tracks from longtime BBC composer Daphne Oram.

This warm introduction stretches on for what feels like a lifetime until Avery’s brilliant remix of Factory Floor’s “How You Say” slowly creeps in and pulls you under. An hour and a half later, you’re finally let up for air after being transformed by the producer’s family of current influences, ranging from Simian Mobile Disco and Roman Flugel to Joy Orbison to labelmate Ghost Culture, whose debut stands to make a similarly big splash to that of Drone Logic upon its release next month. With his Essential Mix, not only does Avery earn his credentials as a truly rare tastemaker, his smooth and elaborately maintained mixing makes him one of the most progressive and exciting DJs in the world.

2. Caribou – BBC Essential Mix (See also: Rough Trade Mix)

Upon the release of his highly praised fourth album as Caribou, Dan Snaith delivered two marvelous mixes that will certainly live on in years to come. On his last album, released under the alias Daphni, Snaith showed off his penchant for straightforward dance music, while maintaining hints of jazz and the various styles of world music that influenced his main endeavor as Caribou. In his production work, and as a DJ, Snaith remains one of very few able to cleanly break the barrier between modern and classic, a skill on full display throughout his BBC Essential Mix.

It takes talent and patience to be able to blend the likes of Pearson Sound and Joy Orbison with James Brown and Marvin Gaye, but Snaith somehow pulls it off, going into full on party mode for two hours on his Essential Mix, then pulling back the tempo just a bit for a more intimate listen on his hour-long Rough Trade mix. Both make for exceptional listens, but if you’re looking for something high energy to push you through the last mile of your run, you can’t go wrong with Caribou’s Essential Mix, where every 30 minute segment bears a triumphant buildup, each capping off with massive tracks like “Revolution 909”, “This Will Be Our Year,” and a new Daphni cut entitled “Tin.”

3. Joy Orbison – BBC Essential Mix (See also: Beats In Space Radio #756)

Given how many imitators have entered the field over the last few years, you’d be hard pressed to find a DJ better representing the entirety of modern house than Joy Orbison. The London-based producer has stayed teasing fans since his debut in 2009, adding no more than two to three singles to his name each year. But although the quantity of his output has diminished, the quality of each newly released track, particularly his collaborations with Boddika, seems to surge exponentially. Luckily, we were finally allowed a view into the influences behind the elusive producer in the form of two excellent mixes this year.

At the outset of his Essential Mix, Orbison announces the formation of his new label, Hingefinger, which comes as especially promising news to fans. And after a smooth introductory selection from Tom Ellard’s 1982 album 80’s Cheesecake and a possible preview of a new original track, he’s off to clubland, starting with a shimmering edit of Bobby McFerrin’s “Thinkin Bout Your Body,” which eventually leads the way to his inescapable new collaboration with Boddika. As with Caribou’s Essential Mix, the selections here are quite diverse, spanning four decades across various dead and gone sub-genres. What sets this mix apart from the numerous experimental and deep house sets released this year, however, is its truly organic and singular nature, found in its selections, pacing and blends. Not a single track feels out of place here, and with every new selection, we get a taste of Orbison’s slick and cleverly evolving DJ style.

4. OG Ron C & Chopstars – H.A.W. (Houston Appreciation Weekend) Mixtape

While not a DJ mix in the classic sense, OG Ron C and Chopstars’ “mixtape” for OVO’s Houston Appreciation Weekend, which included an OVO pop-up shop, a celebrity basketball game and several concerts, flows with no gaps and provides one of the most memorable listening experiences of the year. If you’re not a Drake fan, you might just want to skip this entry altogether, but for casual fans like myself, this mix serves as an entirely new lens through which to view the commercially successful artist so commonly targeted by hip-hop’s gatekeepers.

Although this isn’t OG Ron C’s first stamp of approval for Drake, this is by far their strongest endeavor to date. Drake hasn’t released an album in over a year, but through guest appearances on hit singles from Lil Wayne, YG and ILoveMakonnen, he maintained relevance in 2014. And through this melee of “chopped not slopped” collaborations, recent singles and screwed up classics, we catch a glimpse of the dark underbelly of the OVO world, filled with groupies, lean, unfulfilled desires and hazy late-night flights under the influence of Xanax. The Soundcloud comments speak for themselves. Not even halfway through, one reads, “Ok I’ve had 10 orgasms at this point.”

5. Suicideyear – FACT Mix 462 (See also: Dazed Digital Mix)

2014 was undisputedly a breakout year for Louisiana producer Suicideyear. Apart from releasing his debut album Remembrance on Oneohtrix Point Never’s Software imprint, the Baton Rouge-based producer became the go-to collaborator for up-and-comers Rome Fortune and Yung Lean, unveiled a creepy new video in which he kidnaps and kills his doppelganger and dropped off two impressive mixes for FACT and Dazed Digital.

Both mixes show off his array of modern and classic influences, including Aphex Twin, Evian Christ and Rustie, but on his FACT mix in particular, Suicideyear offers a brilliant snapshot of the current wave of experimental hip-hop taking root throughout cyberspace. Blending soothing tracks like Jacques Greene’s superb edit of The Weeknd’s “What You Need” alongside unreleased edits, trap bangers from Chief Keef and Travi$ Scott and rare cuts from new artists like Depressed Teenager and Different Sleep, one acquires a vivid sense of where hip-hop production just might be headed in the future.


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