Year in Review | Top DJ Mixes of 2011
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Doing this same post last year, we made a comment about how for certain DJ types out there, the mix may hold more significance than an artist full length. We felt it was true then and we haven't change our views this year. The five mixes below, representing our favorite listens of 2011, all fared as well in the heavy rotation as the albums we charted in our Top Electronic Albums post. Here they are in all their hand-crafted, expertly-mixed glory.
5) Visionquest Fabric 61 (Fabric London)
For a group of artists as prolific as Visionquest was this year, no format served them better than the mix. Sure, they all produce on their own and more than one of the tracks from their fledgling label sent dance floors into a frenzy in 201, but the best way to distill Visionquest's year into a single entity is to put a spin on theirs, the 61st installment of Fabric's mix series. Deep, dark and steeped in the quartet's Detroit roots, it also playfully exudes their eccentric personalities and ability to think outside the box—just as the releases on their label and their live sets do.
4) Four Tet Fabriclive 59 (Fabric London)
Snatching up two out of five of our top DJ mixes of the year, clearly the storied London club had a good year across its Fabric and Fabriclive mixes. Flipping to the more progressively, leftfield-oriented side of the coin, Four Tet delivered a monster of a mix across the 26 tracks of his Fabriclive mix—many of which are kept short and sweet at under two minutes. Ebbing and flowing through apocalyptic 2-step, distant broken beats, minimally shuffling soundscapes and any other burgeoning electronic genre you're tempted to put a 'post' in front of, Four Tet defies all notions of what's current. Instead, he gives a glimpse into the future of this music, as only visionary tastemaker can.
3) Robag Wruhme Wuppdeckmischmampflow (Kompakt)
As he did on his artist album this year, the nature-loving, salt and pepper-haired microhouse savant Robag Wruhme perfectly captured his aesthetic on this beautiful mix. Dubbed 'home-listening techno' in Pitchfork's review, this timeless collection of 14 tracks is clearly dance music for twilights, dawns, nature walks and snowy days (like today actually). The tracks aren't all new, but it doesn't matter. They're not even all techno, strictly speaking; the beefed-up, Burial-like chug of Moderat's "Rusty Nails" sits snuggly next to tracks by Chateau Flight, Ricardo Villalobos and WhoMadeWho. Songs flow in and out, disappearing for minutes at a time, only to resurface tracks later. This is a mix by a master collagist, and one that you don't find everyday. With Wruhme at the controls, the mix takes on new forms: here it is not only linear, but circular. And that is the brilliant bottom line.
2) Wolf + Lamb vs Soul Clap DJ-KiCKS (!K7)
Another crew of visionary selectors who don't take themselves too seriously, the Boston-meets-New-York-dueling-duo's duo of Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb came close to having our mix of the year with this defiantly slo-mo batch of boogie, upbeat R&B and midtempo house. During Detroit's Movement festival this year, a friend asked, if I were to live my life at one tempo what would it be? I said 110bpm. My answer was largely fueled by having this mix on repeat. Sexy, pitched down and ripe for dancing, this contribution to the masterful DJ-KiCKS series helped usher in a new era of deep house and it's obvious how much fun this pair of twosomes had while doing it.
1) Dixon Live at Robert Johnson (Live at Robert Johnson)
The grand finale of this live mix series ends on a soaringly high note. Only Innervision's head honcho can make a mix this potent and begin it with 20 minutes of ambient dreamscapes. It's worth the wait. When that first beat drops and rolls into 40 minutes of the deepest house around, it proves why Dixon is one of the only artists on the scene who can be prolific without doing any of his own original productions. The man gives honor to the artform here. While the rest of the world catches on to deejaying and thinks an iTunes folder and autosync means they can get a club night, Dixon proves that only years of experience playing the best clubs of the world leads to a finished product this stunning and impeccable.