Year in Review | Top DJ Sets of 2014

Year in Review

Top 5 DJ Sets of 2014

by Joshua P. Ferguson

In some ways, narrowing down the best DJ sets we heard this year can be the hardest list to put together. It's certain we've surveyed more sets than we have new albums and, it being the main conduit for electronic music, it might be a more important summation of the winning sounds of the year. But surveyed, listened, narrowed we did and here are the sets we came back to again and again this year.

5) James Healy (Air Texture) Boiler Room Upfront 002

Perfectly summed up on the Boiler Room site as "a vividly realized deep dive into the world of experimental electronic, ambient and New Age," this mix from artist, producer and DJ James Healy picks up right our feature on the best ambient music of 2014 leaves off. Spanning decades of sounds and textures with selections dating as far back as 1985 and others yet to be released, it's a singular statement on what he calls the softer side of electronic music. As the brains behind the Air Texture label, whose focus is precisely ambient sounds that fly in the face of the cliche that this music be relegated to a listening station at Pier 1, we can think of no better man for the job. The listening here proves it.

4) Tycho Black Sunrise live from Burning Man

Despite it's spike in popularity and the invasion of the EDM set on its sacred sands, Burning Man still stands apart as a home for distinctive expression. This set from Ghostly guy Tycho is a powerful case in point. Dropping the needle at a pre-dawn 5:40am to soundtrack the sun's rise and the scene as the Embrace sculpture is set ablaze (the marquee event of Burning Man every year), Tycho crafted a set high on diversity and on uplifting vibes. Ranging from the twilight grooves of Boards of Canada, Washed Out and his own work to the free-flowing house of Dauwd and Psychemagick, it's the type of set we wish we were hearing more of.

3) Jose Padilla Return to Cafe Del Mar 2014

The godfather of the Balearic chill-out sound, Jose Padilla honed his signature style at legendary beachside outpost Cafe Del Mar during the '70s and '80s. Synonymous with the white isle of Ibiza that Padilla calls home, his mix of ambient, downtempo, Spanish folk and handpicked oddities went on to influence the mellower side of electronic music for years to come, most notably in outposts like ESL and their ilk. This live recording marks Padilla's return to the Cafe after a 15 year hiatus, and re-establishes his way with airy house, jazzy grooves and beatless soundscapes with selections from diverse artists like John Beltran, Todd Terje and Japan's KZA.

2) Robag Wruhme Live @ 10 Days Off Belgium

Climbing our charts in 2014 with slow burn of a mix that moves from Aphex Twin ambient to his scrunchy reworkings for the likes of Burial and DJ Koze, Robag Wruhme mesmerized us yet again this year with his impeccable DJ flow, this time with his contribution to Belgium's 10 Days Off festival. Restrained, spacey and minimal in a way only he can do it, the German stand-out rules the nether region between the dance floor and your morning soundtrack with a meditative approach to house and techno that's perfectly inline with our own tastes.

1) John Talabot & Jamie xx Live on Beats in Space

With an epic set that spanned two and a half hours and saw the Spanish Balearic maestro and one of the UK's leading tastemakers spinning a B2B set of two records apiece for the duration, John Talabot and Jamie xx turned in what was easily our favorite DJ set this year. Recorded live for Tim Sweeney's weekly Beats in Space broadcast, the sonic field trip mixed Talabot's penchant for ethereal house with Jamie xx's bassy UK dance selections. Between the two, they didn't mind taking detours as they delved into boogie, afro-leaning house and a handful of this year's choicest cuts, including David August's "Epikur" and Dark Sky's "IYP." 


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