The Crack Magazine Annual Report wouldn’t be complete without our yearly roundup of the best mixes of the year.
You’ll find contemporary dance music represented in many forms here, some of the increasing tempos that seeped their way onto dancefloors across the world, as well as some of the more serene selections keeping feet on the ground.
In no particular order, here are 10 mixes we felt made a lasting mark on 2018 – and which we had on repeat in the office.
Live from Boiler Room Dekmantel
Following this summer’s Dekmantel Festival, talk of Danny Daze’s set was a key takeaway. The king of Miami Bass hosts a technical masterclass, laying down Florida breaks and electro bangers in a mesmeric display of dexterity. From the outset he plays on three decks, layering, looping and teasing out his convoluted creation. Once in the groove he pops and shimmies, accentuating moments of drama in the blends and drawing from his past as a turntablist. Vocoder in hand, he wills his enraptured audience to a frenzy. A master at work.
After finishing a Masters degree in social work, Laksa seems to have been in a reflective mood. A contemplative feel can be found in this loose, collage-like excursion that moves through various styles and tempos. Blooms of ambient sound merge with gurgling 140 bass and airy jungle, bound by snippets of speech. References and links include US anthropologist David Graeber from his on the phenomenon of bullshit jobs piece for Strike Magazine. Laksa’s mix works as a kind of audio essay exploring Graeber’s ideas about our collective psyche and the desire to do something worthwhile. The tracklist, too, displays an impressively wide scope of deeper cuts from respected labels and artists in modern dance music.
Sim Hutchins & Friends
Clubeighteen2thirty on New New World Radio
Where to begin with this one? This pick is arguably the most ambitious. DJ, producer, live performer and musical auteur Sim Hutchins enlists the help of nine artists to build a frantic patchwork of tracks to fit his Clubeighteen2thirty concept: a twisted Balearic clubland.
This means fake Kiss-in-Ibiza style ads and fast, manic cuts. Between the 10 artists we are served euphoric hardcore by Moonbow, bargain bin Eurodance by Banshee, breakcore acrobatics by husband and wife Mike Paradinas and Meemo Comma, enormous trance from EMMA and rapid-fire bangers of all kinds from Hutchins himself at the peak of the mix. Think God’s Plan by Drake, Heartbroken by T2 and Millionaire by Kelis. And that’s about half of it. This is, by no means, for the faint of heart, but for those willing to withstand the onslaught, it is a rich vein.
Polish Jazz Mixtape for NTS
The Polish Jazz project draws attention to some of the best talent and electronic music being recorded in Poland. One avenue exploring this is a series of mixes by DJs, magazines and aficionados on NTS. This standout episode, helmed by Lukasz Kepinski, landed at the end of summer, and its languid flow perfectly reflects the season’s balmy nights. There are nine entries to the series so far and all, like this, are a satisfying introduction into the Polish scene.
Crack Mix 212
Psychedelic sounds and a satanic theme were not what we expected when DJ Richard submitted his entry to our Crack Mix series. The White Material co-founder made himself known when the label’s releases became hot property for collectors, and his own abrasive output offers only a passing hint at what his Crack Mix would sound like. This is one of those pleasant surprises, and one we returned to again and again in the office. Comprised of psych classics and a finely poised tension between beauty and dread, this particular highlight of the year showcases the producer’s wide-roaming tastes. “I don’t listen to much club music while at home, so I wanted to make a mix that represented this,” he wrote to Crack via email. It’s a welcome insight into some of the sounds that’ve influenced his 2018 album Dies Iræ Xerox.
Despite holding down a monthly slot on NTS for over two years, along with regular guest spots on Charlie Bones’ Do!! You!!! breakfast show, surprisingly this is Flo Dill’s first official mix. The low-key Sanpo Disco is a perfect match for Dill’s un-showy brand of woozy janglers and lazy head-nodders, and for the mix series she turns in this beautiful set that leaves us a little bit more in love each time. I Level and Gary Panter are just two artists that demand a deeper dive after listening, while sections of both the Cocteau Twins’ and the Durutti Column’s back catalogues saw deserved revisits. Much like on the radio, Flo Dill manages the trick of sweeping you along with her warm and hazy aesthetic, and coming out on the other side feels delightful.
Finn’s bedroom b2b sessions have continued to be a consistent source of joyous and frenetic excursions this year, after dropping the much-hyped session with Murlo at the tail end of 2017. The pick of the bunch in 2018 was when Mumdance joined Finn for this hard-as-nails set of trance, ghettotech, juke and other flavours of breakneck club sounds. It shows in the mix, too, that the DJs on board were having loads of fun. We’d recommend losing yourself to this one, then making your way through the rest of the series.
RA Podcast 621
For her entry into the Resident Advisor mix series, Liz Harris (aka Grouper) offers what she describes as a double-sided postcard. It’s a fitting description of a set that does much to capture a sense of place, both literally and symbolically. She calls on many close friends and collaborators to paint the picture of the Oregon coast, but tracks by the likes of south London’s Coby Sey do just as much to conjure the icy, wild expanse. Bask in the sonic depiction of the picturesque region.
Cav Empt Tape
Joy Orbison is a something of an outlier among his peers. You could place him in the same bracket as the Hessle Audio trio in shaping what UK techno is today. You could also put him as an off-shoot from the late-dubstep era with Swamp 81, or an eclectic maverick and label head a la Will Bankhead; or, as a precursor to the modern darlings of technical wizardry like Objekt and Call Super. Point being, who knows what Joy O is anymore? The only thing for certain is that nobody holds a match to the conventions of genre like he does, as evidenced by the opening gambit of Suspect, Cocteau Twins and Alien Sex Fiend. For his Cav Empt mixtape, jazz merges into Batida and Batu segues into UB40. By the time the dusty crackle of Duval Timothy’s keys ease the tape to an end, it feels like very little of what Joy O has been tapping into recently is left unplayed. An enigma doing what he wants.
Eris Drew In Session
Thundering Goddess Mix
It seems strange to think that it was only in 2018 that Eris Drew began to play outside of the USA with any regularity. Especially given that, this year, the rave belonged to her more than any other.
Her joint release with Octo Octa was one of the best this year but it was on the dancefloor where the gospel of her Motherbeat parties was truly spread. By bringing the dance with her in wonderfully free abandon, it was easy to get caught up in her concept of dance music and rave as a continuation of the ancient pulse of the universe. Closer to home, this mix demonstrates how her favoured palette of rave sounds is having a moment right now too. Classic tracks blend seamlessly with efforts from young producers on the rise like Truska, Yak and Soundbwoy Killah. It also showcases her drive to expand her arsenal, incorporating the scratching she’s only recently started throwing into sets after years of playing at clubs.
Is there a more powerful force for good in the dance today than Eris Drew?