The Best Mixes of 2019
Halftime tools, polyrhythms and shapeshifting structures dominated mixes this year. Here are our favourites, along with some softer picks
When Warp celebrated 30 years in the summer, their WXAXRXP takeover of NTS was a stroke of genius. With content from their entire roster, including heavyweights like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher and Brian Eno, the broadcast was a treasure trove for fans of the label and their experimental ethos. The set that stood out was a luminescent ambient mix from Asmara and Kelela, which found the influential LA DJ tee up the alternative R&B superstar to augment a selection of soothing classics with her hushed, mesmeric voice.
Fact Mix 724
Toronto’s Ciel is a stalwart of our ‘10 mixes you need to hear’ features, and there are few artists who can match her, particularly when it comes to studio mixes. Over the past couple of years we’ve shouted about radio shows, trance showcases and her own Crack Mix, and this set for Fact feels like another step up. Inspired by the hummingbird, her deep and trippy take on propulsive club music is shaken up with faster transitions and a skittish energy. The result is an instant classic.
With his Ghost Phone project, Sean Kelly (of The Kelly Twins and Happy Skull) aims to recontextualise R&B and encourage more DJs to use those sounds in a party context. The two releases under the Ghost Phone label feature tunes by anonymous but heavyweight UK producers, which you’ll hear in mixes and sets all over. This mix by Kelly demonstrates just the kind thing he had in mind, blending tracks from the label with more left-field R&B for a smoother dancefloor-focused experience.
BBC Essential Mix
In the last 10 years the number and quality of online radio stations and mix series has exploded, but there’s still a romance to the BBC Essential Mix. As ever there was no shortage of standouts this year, and special mention goes to Luke Slater, Moxie and Jayda G from 2019, but this set from back in February by long-time Rinse resident Josey Rebelle oozes class and confidence. Consistently named one of the best DJs around, Rebelle still somehow feels underrated. Listen to her impeccably blend house, techno, breaks and more for this mix to understand why no accolades ever feel sufficient.
RA Podcast 687
Autechre are one of those groups that command astonishing levels of fandom. That they (like many of their Warp label-mates) do so with such weird, experimental music, is one of music’s happy curiosities, and in recent years they have stepped up their rate of release to astonishing levels without sacrificing quality.
This was surely the reason they felt comfortable enough to use their Resident Advisor podcast to indulge their love of old-school hip-hop beats. Refreshingly low-key and deep digging but familiar, we returned to this mix again and again this year.
Along with Sherrelle & co’s Six Figure Gang, London duo Sicaria Sound are playing a defining role in the resurgence of bass-led music among young clubbers, particularly in the UK capital. This mix for the increasingly impressive Hyponik series demonstrates precisely why scene icons liek Mala expect them to carry the torch for dubstep and 140.
Truancy Volume 240
Once again, the passing of a year has seen Timedance honcho Batu increase his standing among club circles. The label continues to represent the cutting edge of UK dance music, and this year his own reputation as a DJ was cemented among the very best. This set for Truants shows why: playfully messing with tempo and texture while juggling hard-hitting bangers with straight-up strangeness. With year-defining sets at Dekmantel, Freerotation, Nachtdigital and more in 2019, you could make a compelling case for the Bristol-based DJ being the very best in the game right now.
This year we said goodbye to Sanpo Disco, which has been a consistent source for blissed-out Balaeric sets from some of the finest artists around. There were some stunners in its final year, but this from Yu Su and Scott Gailey’s You’re Me project was the set that really nailed the aesthetic for us. Both had inspiring years individually too, Yu Su’s Watermelon Woman in particular has been a constant on our stereo. With just the right amount of melodic hooks among the drifting ether, this set was the perfect place in which to look for quiet serenity.
zzonked out stargazing
Another artist coming off the back of an outstanding year, Roza Terenzi has continued to spread her fresh, cosmic take on electro and breaks across the globe in 2019. With tracks on Dekmantel and a new label in Bizarro Records she’s taking the kinds of steps that ensure a lasting presence in the club landscape. This mix for the low-key but heavily respected Kansas label C Minus is a succinct encapsulation of her talents: driving but breezy with an intangible Melbourne edge, this mix never fails to satisfy.
Unsound Podcast 56
Despite there being no particular order to these mixes, if we did have to pick just one to plug this year then CCL’s Unsound mix would take the accolades. Halftime drum’n’bass and slower textural cuts make up the lion’s share, and when flashes of brightness peek out from a largely moody set, the sense of satisfaction is huge. We’re beginning to expect this kind of mind-blowing energy from CCL every single time.