Year in Review | Top Sets + Mixes + Comps 2016

Year in Review

Top DJ Sets + Mixes + Compilations of 2016

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Man. We're at this again. It feels like we were just toiling away at our mid-year round-up from August and September (which, embarrassingly, is our last post). It's been harder to keep up with sharing our love of music in 2016, but we're redoubling our efforts to make sure you get the exhaustive end-of-the-year coverage that we've so diligently published for the past eight years. 

Our Year in Review begins as it always does, with our top mixes of 2016. This time, we're combining DJ sets from across the Internet with official mixes and compilations for a quick hit Top 10 that adds up to about 20 hours of relentlessly enjoyable, moody and top-notch listening. 

There are some usual suspects here, including DJs (like perennial fave Gerd Janson) and outlets (no surprises to see an Essential Mix and a DJ-KiCKS make the list). But there are also some new discoveries, like Brighton producer Mount Bank, synth obsessives S U R V I V E and a compilation from the Serein label that we're especially pleased to add to our list this year.

DJ Sets of the Year

Gerd Janson x Krystal Klear "062" — Dekmantel Podcast

Kicking off our Year in Review 2016, we have a mix that, in our humble opinion, optimizes the art of crafting a night. Slow burning, flowing with deep cuts and helmed by Germany's selector extraordinaire, Gerd Janson, going back-to-back with Krystal Klear in Klear's hometown of Dublin, it's 200 minutes of feel-good selections courtesy of Amsterdam's Dekmantel. More than one of the records we've unabashedly trainspotted from this mix have made it into our permanent rotation—and at least one has made it into our Top Tracks of 2016.


Mano Le Tough "Essential Mix 10.29.16" — BBC Radio 1

A second Irishman crops up on our top sets of aught-sixteen, this one coming from esteemed DJ Mano Le Tough. His contribution to Pete Tong's Essential Mix series beat out a lot of other candidates who should be obvious choices for our inclusion here. And he did it doing what he does best, slinging one unfussy tech-house gem after another, including absolute stunners from Soulphiction, FaltyDL and Daniel Avery.


Mount Bank "AS0949" — Abstract Science

This entry hits home on a couple levels. Selfishly, we're chuffed to have snagged Brighton rising star Mount Bank to contribute to Abstract Science, the radio show and podcast we co-host here in Chicago. When he turned in a mix that's a picture-perfect compliment to the sounds and styles we showcase, we were over the moon. With cuts from Jacques Greene, The Range and Chicago's Starfoxxx, the mix has more than earned multiple repeat listens.


Leafar Legov "RA.514" — Resident Advisor

The Giegling label has done a lot to capture and hold our attention in 2016, and this immersive and meditative ride from Leafar Legov played a large part. An early entry in Resident Advisor's monthly podcast series, it often moves with a barely audible pulse, traversing ambient, jazz, downbeat and deep house textures with songs provided entirely from Legov's coffers of unreleased music.


S U R V I V E "FACT Mix 569" — FACT Magazine

It took an utterly captivating collection of music that was entirely new to us to edge Leafar Legov's RA mix out of the top slot for DJ set of 2016. So it's even more unexpected that it came from a quartet of synth obsessives from Texas instead of any bonafide DJs. Maybe that's what was so refreshing about S U R V I V E's contribution to the FACT mix series. Riding high of the acclaim of their soundtrack to Netflix's Stranger Things, they showcase their varied influences here. Going in heavy on moody and often haunting synth music new and old, this is an expertly sequenced mix from a handful of DJ novices and it rests completely on the music, which seemingly turns up some new previously unheard gem with each subsequent listen.


Mixes + Compilations of the Year

Gerd Janson Fabric 89 — Fabric

2016 has been shit for countless reasons. And even while it produced new music from the lion's share of our favorite artists—possibly the year's lone saving grace—clubland was not spared from the year's looming dark shadow. Thankfully, as we pen our praise for Gerd Janson's unsurprisingly excellent contribution to Fabric's long-running mix showcase—which we previewed earlier this fall—the London club mecca has won the battle against its persecutors. So here's to one of the scant few silver linings we've been able to enjoy this year—and here's to a proper commercial mix from Janson, easily one of our top five DJs ever. Full stop.


Prins Thomas Principe Del Norte Remixed — Smalltown Supersound

Right off the bat, we have to confess to some creative shuffling here. Prins Thomas, always a favorite of these digital pages, released a complex and delightful fourth LP this year. Principe Del Norte could have easily slid into our top LPs of 2016, but we're giving the record its due here so we can also pay tribute to the marathon collection of dynamite remixes that followed. The remix LP includes turns from The Orb, Ricardo Villalobos, Hieroglyphic Being and Thomas himself—with both new compositions and re-rubs of his original work. Pieced together the way they are, this collection becomes an album listen in and of itself, moving from ambient interpretations to nordic disco grooves to Villalobos' characteristic choppy tech-house punch, all with the telltale echoes of the sounds and textures that make the source material so wonderful in the first place.


Various Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains Vol 1 — Serein

It can be easy to get into the groove of populating these lists with usual suspects—over the years we've established some reliable trends in who and what we like to cover—so it says a lot when we uncover a new gem and it finds its way to our Year in Review. Enter Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains Vol 1, a collection of new ambient and classical-electronic works from Wales imprint Serein. Filled with timeless sounds that owe as much to Brian Eno as they do Kompakt's Pop Ambient series, it's a tasteful showcase that's expertly curated and designed, and unconcerned with being anything but what it is. And that makes for a bold debut from a series we hope to hear more from in the near future.


Various Pampa Vol. 1 — Pampa 

In electronic music, labels often have as distinctive a voice as the artists themselves. They are beacons for unique sounds and as listeners, we return to them precisely for this reliability. The latest target of our focus is the gloriously consistent Pampa Records, helmed by DJ Koze. Its debut label compilation is the definitive statement on the label's sound, traversing the deep, often subtle house, techno and downbeat dance music of artists like Roman Flugel, Axel Boman, Stimming, Isolee and Koze himself. It's a sprawling listen, full of gems that capture our favored dance floor vibe, and proof positive why this imprint, and the artists on it, continues to be our favored go-to for playful quirk as much as dependable quality.


Moodymann DJ-KiCKS — !K7

As far as the commercial mix series goes, none has won us over so completely as !K7's DJ-KiCKS. It's been informing and inspiring our love of this music since day one, quite literally back in 1998 and 1999 with early entries from Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation and Rockers Hi-Fi. Last year it outdid itself with its 50th release mixed by DJ Koze, snagging the No. 1 position on this very list. The series has carried that momentum right into 2016, climbing to the top of this list yet again with a show-stopping turn from Motor City enigma Moodymann. His first ever official DJ mix, it somehow captures the man, his style and the Detroit scene he's had such a heavy hand in influencing. And like DJ Koze before him, it's a listen that takes a few spins to truly sink in. Honestly, we weren't fans at first. But like an earwig, it's crept back again and again since it dropped in February and now we can assuredly say that it will go down as one of the best the DJ-KiCKS series has ever offered.



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