The 10 Best Essential Mixes of 2016

The irrepressible Pete Tong and company went from strength to strength this year on BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix, with sensational debuts from new talent like Mano Le Tough, Leon Vynehall and Rødhåd; more great work from EM vets like Âme and Dixon; the mindblowing return of The Avalanches; and the last-ever BBC Radio 1 broadcast from Space Ibiza.

We’ve chosen 10 of the best Essential Mixes from this year for you. That’s no easy task – there’s a reason they call them essential, and those who didn’t make the cut, certainly not for lack of quality, include Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Cassy, Moderat, tINI and Fatboy Slim. Consider this a selection rather than a definitive list, and keep diving into this truly essential series if these 20 hours don’t quench your thirst for the world’s best DJs in action.

#10 Maribou State

The first Essential Mix of 2016 came from the rural-England-based duo, an appropriate way to kick off the new year for the two after a triumphant year that saw them tour the world with a live band, launch a new label and release an acclaimed debut album, Portraits.

The pair’s mix fits into the tradition of eclectic Essential Mixes, following in the footsteps of Jamie xx, Todd Terje and others. Their entry is certainly worthy of those names, with wonderful selections from Daft Punk, Bonobo, Gold Panda, Nils Frahm and Aussie funkmeister Harvey Sutherland alongside legends Gil-Scott Heron, Al Green and Nina Simone. With all that going on it’s also a very personal and atmospheric mix, augmented by field recordings from their world tour. It was a hard act to follow.

#9 Baauer

Baauer spent 2016 making a surprisingly graceful comeback from the kind of viral Internet notoriety that can define or ruin a career, releasing a full-length debut that earned its share of respect and kind of killing it on The Late Show.

He also recorded this Essential Mix, on which he seems to be telling the world that he’s first and foremost a passionate young trap and hip-hop DJ from Brooklyn and not That Harlem Shake Guy. But it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to forget all the baggage and just sink into this excellent mix, which is as eclectic and melodic as it is tough, and features tracks from Hudson Mohawke, M.I.A., Shlohmo, Jay-Z, Djemba Djemba, our own RÜFÜS and, of course, quite a few from Baauer himself.

#8 Dusky, Derrick Carter and The Black Madonna at Space

Essential Mix’s annual mini-season in Ibiza wrapped with the show’s last-ever broadcast from the terrace at Space Ibiza before the club closed for good in October.

It was a particularly choice line-up for such a momentous show, featuring two Chicago heavyweights and Smart Bar residents, The Black Madonna and Derrick Carter, and the London-based duo of Dusky, relative newcomers who’ve been killing it recently at venues like Panorama Bar and Fabric (and who also had their own highly regarded session on the show this year, now on the shortlist for Essential Mix of the Year).

The Black Madonna kicks things off with a 40-minute set that, in her typical fashion, swings from jackin’ house through to disco and garage classics, all mixed smooth as butter. In the second segment, jackmaster Derrick Carter does what he’s been doing for 30 years: blow the spot the fuck up. He’s in fine form, and it’s a refreshing reminder how funky house can be and how hard-hitting at the same time. Dusky crank things up even more with their driving, soulful, melody-saturated techno.

The best thing about the broadcast is the crowd noise that’s audible throughout, giving it that extra-live feel: it must have been a hot night on Space’s terrace (RIP).

#7 Âme X Dixon

The Innervisions honchos, veterans of their own memorable solo Essential Mixes, delivered 2016’s first entry in the show’s X series of back-to-back mixes, and to no one’s surprise it was one of the high points of the year.

The utter confidence with which Dixon and Âme’s Kristian Beyer build up and break down the vibe, alternating between their patented long excursions into trippy ambience followed by puslating deep techno and tech-house by the likes of Mano Le Tough, Bicep and Yotam Avni, confirms their status as vibe masters.

Of particular note are the lush, exquisite jazzy and tropical flavours in the first hour of the mix. This is one for the headphones.

#6 Seth Troxler at Output

Essential Mix’s broadcast from Brooklyn’s Output in October marked the show’s first excursion to New York since 2003.

Berlin-based Yank Seth Troxler made sure it was worth the wait with a smokin’-hot two-hour live set: Troxler wastes no time getting in gear, digging some banging jacking house out of his bag right off the bat and only getting more intense from there with hypnotic deep techno and acid and some raunchy ghetto-track action. From the sound of the crowd noise it seems like the punters were climbing the walls.

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