Year in Review
Top 5 Mixes & Compilations of 2014
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Really, this list should be a top six. From a format and delivery model aspect, Ryan Elliott would lead here for breaking ties to physical media and releasing Panorama Bar 6 as an expertly packaged, professional DJ mix that was purely digital. It's surprising it took this long for the move to be made and it's one we hope to see more often.
While the proceeding five entries on this list don't shake up tradition in terms of their business model, the music therein was a bit more our speed. When it comes down to it, the format's just the format. If it's good, we'll find a way to listen. And these are all well worth that.
5) Various Artists Hyperdub 10.4 — Hyperdub
This first entry should be looked at as a sort of "Lord of the Rings at the Oscar's" nod. This year, the prolific UK bass label Hyperdub has been championing 10 years of some of the most progressive electronic music around with a massive series of 4 double-disc collections that navigated the catalog's bass, R&B, ambient and house-techno-garage highlights respectively. While each was overflowing with standouts from past years and new music to satiate its loyal fan base, there's a reason 10.4 rounded it out. With cuts like Walton's "Need to Feel," Bambounou's remix of Jesse Lanza, Dorian Concept's remix of Martyn and, of course, a bit of unearthed Burial, this final installment won us out right—but it was the series as a whole that kept us listening and made a big impact this year.
4) Steve Haushildt + BNJMN Air Texture Vol 4 — Air Texture
If you stick with us through all of our Year in Review posts, you won't be able to avoid the impact ambient and beatless music has had on our year. "It helps us work," is what we've been telling everyone who's inquired, well, what gives? Rising one slot from last year's Top Mixes + Compilations round-up, Gotham's ambient imprint Air Texture was back this year with another impeccably curated collection of tones, drones and otherwise ethereal waves of sound. This time helmed by American synth enthusiast Steve Hauschildt and British experimentalist BNJMN, the release covers much ground as it moves from Haushildt's meditative take to the slightly more ominous selections that make up BNJMN's second half.
3) Optimo (Espacio) Dark Was The Night — Endless Flight
We love a DJ's seamless and singular take on the genre that's nearest and dearest to him and her. Just as compelling is the DJ—or DJ duo in this case—who takes listeners through the unexpected: punky indie rock, shuffling 2-step, throwback acid, low-end techno. The art here lies not only in the breadth of the track selection but the slight of hand that brings it all together. Glaswegians JD Twitch and JG Wilkes a.k.a. Optimo hit the mark on all fronts with their gritty run for Mule Musiq sister label Endless Flight. It's a blustery, cold stone and rain soaked trip right from their hometown that brings together the likes of Recondite, Kode9, Terrence Dixon and Deadboy but it'll leaving you feeling a whole lot warmer then Glasgow at the height of winter.
2) Prins Thomas 10 Years of Full Pupp — Full Pupp
Full Pupp frontman Prins Thomas had a hell of a year, dropping his third full length artist album, a cosmic trip of a mix for Rainbow Disco Club and this extensive two-disc mix looking back on 10 years at the helm of his always cheeky, always out-of-left-field, always enjoyable imprint. Compiled and mixed by Thomas himself, each is bright romp through the label's Norwegian kraut-rock-jazz-psychedelic-tropical-space-disco sound including 16 cuts of the 32 total which were debuted here for the first time. Just releasing the collection with so much fresh material would have landed the release a nod here, but the Prins took up the task of bringing it all together to deliver something more than just a retrospective: He handed us an exclusive look at the musical mood he's been fine-tuning with Full Pupp since 2004.
1) Various Artists Moon Rock Volume 1 & 2 — Throne of Blood
Hyperdub and Air Texture weren't alone in putting their take on ambient music out into the world in 2014. The Rapture's Throne of Blood imprint gave us its own spin on electronic music's most weightless with not one, but two compilations dedicated to all things gravity-defying, spacey, flowing and mellow. More than that, they crafted each collection with a distinct musical vibration that falls somewhere between sci-fi space oddity and new age revelation, and they did it with the help of an all-star cast of artists and producers including Simian Mobile Disco, Lexx, Juju & Jordash, Balearic Gabba Soundsystem, Cosmo Vitelli and Pixelife. Moreso than any other releases this year, this pair managed to define our love of ambient space music and provide endless repeat listens that won't be stopping with the start of the 2015 calendar.