The Best Mixes of 2020
In the year that we traded in front left DJ experiences for at-home enjoyment and livestream listening sessions, mixes really did hit a little different.
We wanted to celebrate 10 of our (unranked) favourites from across various platforms and streaming outlets. From Anz to Sherelle, Conducta to Nicolás Jaar via Darwin, Bambounou and more, plug into our mixes of the 2020 below.
Like many, Manchester’s Anz found herself succumbing to the odd bout of pandemic-induced procrastination this year. She left the recording of her utterly transportative Discwoman mix to the night before it was due – because she couldn’t figure out what to put together. The interview that accompanied the mix saw Anz muse about her feelings, but even without that insight you’d get an idea: this is, in many ways, a mood ring in mix form, shifting in hues and shades almost innately as it charts a tale of turbulence and change, ups and downs, highs and lows. Plus, it roars into life with an Altern 8 tune… need we say more?
Fresh Kicks 139, DJ Mag
Be it through mixes or his own releases, Jaymie Silk demonstrates a penchant for colourful, innovative and club-focused music that feels infectious and inviting. For DJ Mag‘s Fresh Kicks series, the Paris-based artist ventures through region-indebted styles like Jersey club, gqom and a distinctly UK strain of techno without ever feeling forced or try-hard. In a year where travel was in short supply, that old chestnut about mixes being journeys took on renewed meaning.
It’s no secret that UKG has been enjoying a purple patch of late, and we can think of no better figurehead than Conducta. Looming out of every magazine cover with a massive pair of shades and an A4-sized grin, he’s a constant reminder that dance music doesn’t always have to be so nauseatingly serious. And while 2020 saw a number of disgruntled old men from garage’s old guard aiming shots at the new gen, Conducta and his label were proof that you can’t take down a crew having this much fun. His spring mix for RA was a perfect demonstration of his infectious appeal: joyous, upbeat and packed full of dubs from fresh young producers who don’t owe a thing to the ‘good old days’.
RTRN II JUNGLE Pirate Radio Mix, Chase and Status
Sherelle accomplished what felt like the impossible this year: thriving. The London-based DJ and Hooversound co-founder made the wildly ambitious look like a walk in the park. She kept her head down, her beanie on (for the most part) and her work ethic sky-high as she continued on her meteoric rise. While she flexed a signature fusion of adrenaline-fuelled BPMs, expert mixing and killer tunes from moments long past or bang-up-to-speed across various mixes, it’s her contribution to Chase & Status’ RTRN II JUNGLE series that compelled us the most. Like anything Sherelle does, it proves that soul-enhancing music doesn’t have to come gentle. It can hit like a punch to the chest, while still soothing the senses.
Berlin hero and SPE:C label boss Darwin has never been afraid to represent the murkier end of electronic music. Dubstep, grime, breaks, drum & bass – anything with swung rhythms, paranoia-inducing pads and blown-out subs is welcome in her vast and eclectic record bag. It was about time, then, that breakbeat techno powerhouse Ilian Tape tapped her up for an entry to their increasingly vital mix series. True to form, her set covers an immense amount of ground in 90 minutes, moving from 140 halfstep through uptempo electro and techno right up to jungle, before crashing out the other side into 90 BPM downtempo.
Elysia Crampton Chuquimia
Tierra Triste Mix 2020, Radical Sounds Latin America
In a year when many craved reflection, there was a real need for mixes that quietly captivated. One of the very best was Elysia Crampton Chuquimia’s mix for Radical Sounds Latin America, a lovingly curated set composed of music from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and North America. The stress was on music from indigenous cultures, presenting a wealth of sound from displaced and frequently underrepresented worlds. When it’s impossible to travel far from home, music brings the world to you.
MUTEK Montréal Connect Chapelle XIV
Out of the numerous and varied livestreams we tuned in to over the summer, Montreal’s Mutek Festival’s definitely looked the best – perhaps not a surprise for a festival that has always paid as much attention to the visual side of electronic music as it has to the musical. Our pick of the lot was Parisian producer Bambounou, whose set was built entirely from new unreleased productions. Over 60 minutes, he introduces us to a sonic world populated by steely drums, polyrhythmic bleeps and liquid metal synths – presumably the fruits of a year spent locked down at home in the studio. Here’s hoping that the lot see the light of day in 2021.
Twitch livestream, 16 April 2020
Releasing two studio albums in the space of four months, Nicolás Jaar kept busy in 2020. And like so many moments in Jaar’s illustrious career, some of the real magic happened in the space in-between. This two hour stream, brought directly to fans via Twitch, is an enchanting mosaic of minimalist classical compositions, fidgety ambience and outward-reaching pop along with unheard pieces by Jaar himself. For an artist whose work can be inscrutable at the best of times, this felt like viewing source code.
Fact Mix 782
The productions of Martyn Bootyspoon, the alias for Montreal producer and DJ Jason Voltaire, are characterised by their hyperactive slant on club music. Freewheeling through saucy vocal samples and crunchy 808s, he’s part of a new league of artists moving (loosely-termed) techno music away from the predictable and po-faced. This blistering mix for Fact serves as a pin-drop on that new school – productions from DJ SWISHA, Anz and Kush Jones burst with energy before the mix closes out with a surprisingly poignant airing of Forever by Detroit producer John FM.