Year in Review | Top DJ Mixes + Compilations

Year in Review | Top DJ Mixes + Compilations

by Joshua P. Ferguson

The compilation may seem like a cheap, throwaway release relegated to obscurity in the "V" bins of your local Best Buy, but it takes on a whole new level of importance in the DJ/electronic world, mostly because of the DJ mix. Some of the titles listed below were as great a listen as any artist album. In fact, I suspect for many DJs, the mix actually has greater traction on the iPod headphones than most full length does. In the Dialogue Inc. world, our No. 1 pick for 2010 certainly did. So, without further ado, our best DJ mixes and compilations of the year:

5) Various Ninja Tune XX - Ninja Tune
Since 1990 when DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More—a.k.a. Coldcut—founded Ninja Tune, the label has been at the forefront of dance music, especially the hip-hop, grime, bass music and sound-system cultures bubbling in the U.K. underground. This year—and this expansive release—marks 20 years under its belt. The massive collection pools together six CDs, six 7"s, a full-color biography of the label and loads of extras. Best part about it? Most of the material is new or unreleased. There are new gems from tongue-in-cheek beathead Mr. Scruff, the rap-happy Roots Manuva, Daedelus, Cinematic Orchestra, newbie Eskmo and even Coldcut themselves. With this release, Christmas came early for those who like their music on the bleeding edge. Read our praise for the label and this release here: Dialogue Inc | Ninja Tune XX

4) Plastikman Arkives - M_nus Records
Elastic, spare, haunting, deeply melodic and often ambient, Richie Hawtin's output as Plastikman presented a stark contrast to the rolling, thunderous drums-and-bass bombast of most techno coming out between '93 and '03, the years focused on for this thorough retrospective. Comprised of 11 CDs, six LPs or, for the completist, a combination of the two, each comes with oodles of extras and takes listeners deep into a golden era of the genre, when Hawtin was rewriting the rules of the music, and how people partied to it. You can catch my full review here—Dialogue Inc | Arkives Review—but this one is best when you're hitting play. 

3) DJ Hell Body Language Vol 9 - Get Physical Music
DJ Hell's contribution to Get Physical's Body Language mix CD series places him among some of the best house and techno minds currently—an elite club that includes Detroit techno mastermind Matthew Dear; the king of Germany’s deep house scene, Dixon; and the frontrunner of the fidget movement, Jesse Rose. And you can tell he’s comfortable here.  He tempers the steady stomping of techno drums and deep house synths with flirty come-ons, avant-garde classical covers of Kraftwerk and even the glittery ballad “Forbidden Colours” by former Japan frontman David Sylvian. Never before  has a DJ been so adept at impressing his personality on a mix. This could have only come from Mr. International DJ Gigolo himself. Read our full review here: Dialogue Inc | Body Language 9 Review

2) Friendly Fires Suck My Deck - BUGGEDOut!
"Listening to the mix for the first time today, I felt I had to continually remind myself it was a trio of rockers that compiled its contents and not a seasoned DJ—the selection and mix is that impeccable. I know these guys are heavily influenced by dance music and Aeroplane's remix of their cut "Paris" was one of last year's biggest anthems, but they've still outdone themselves. Spanning indie dance, nudisco, euphoric house, booty throwbacks and even "Din Da Da" by George Kranz, it's as epic a mix as I've heard in some time." Such was my praise in my review back in September and today this mix from three British indie kids still represents one of the freshest takes on house, techno and indie dance that I've heard all year.

 1) Apparat DJ-KiCKS - !K7 Records
Let's just say if we were into star ratings, Apparat's contribution to DJ-KiCKS would get the maximum amount: 5 stars, two thumbs up, a standing ovation, whichever unit of valuation suits your fancy best. Poised at the intersection of techno, dubstep, post-rock and generally leftfield dance music, it's the most forward thinking mix to grace our ears this year. It's techno, but it's more than that. It has echoing indie-rock guitar riffs, a gallop that sits seamlessly alongside the more avant forays into dubstep (Burial, Martyn and the like—both featured on the mix) and drum breakdowns that have more in common with some post-jazz, post-rock world than with the clubs. As far as dance music goes, it doesn't get more intellectual than this (before it spills over into a birds nest of clicks and hisses, that is). With a keen ear for emerging sounds, Apparat paints a bright future of organic techno beats, rolling pads, celestial melodies and minimal soundscapes. 


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