The 10 Best Essential Mixes of 2016

#5 Rødhåd

Rødhåd (“redhead,” a very apt moniker for the ginger-bearded Mike Bierbach) is a young architect and DJ from Berlin who’s taken the techno world by storm of late with powerful late-night sets at Berghain and beyond.

His Essential Mix debut is a wonderful introduction to the “Berghain techno” vibe (as my ITM colleague Andrew Wowk terms it) if you’ve only skimmed the odd news post about the club’s infamous queue. Though Rødhåd’s mix is, as expected, very pure and uncompromising, it also demonstrates how varied, expansive and musical techno actually is once you sink into the driving beats and whooshing snyths. Check out Detroit master Robert Hood’s stunning remix of Turner’s lovely vocal When Will We Leave at the 24-minute mark to get an idea of how accessible and inviting this music can actually be.

The two-hour journey also includes tracks by last year’s Essential Mix of the Year winner Ben Klock, Plastikman (AKA Richie Hawtin), the atmospheric deep-tech of Answer Code Request, Hood’s fellow Detroit legends Octave One, and a Klock remix of Depeche Mode. A slew of cuts on Rødhåd’s own label Dystopian round out the mix.

#4 Leon Vynehall

The Brighton, UK-based young house gun delivered his EM debut in March and it was a dazzler, making the official short list of Essential Mixes of the Year.

As with many other selections on this list, eclecticism is the order of the day, and Vynehall does it in real style over his two hours. It’s filled with treats from the opening stew of experimental, Afro and funk by Steve Reich, Fela Kuti and edit king Serge Gamesbourg, to face-scrunchingly funky house by Iron Galaxy, HNNY and Vynehall himself through the heart of the mix, and ending with Krautrock kings Can – all mixed with aplomb.

#3 Blond:ish

The debut Essential Mix from the Canadian duo, who divide their time between Barcelona and Tulum, Mexico (it’s a living hey), is one of the more unique entries in the series in recent memory. It was actually recorded at a mate’s house right on the beach in Tulum, and it sure sounds like it, with a languid, psychedelic vibe that, like Tulum itself, is both chill and spellbinding.

Over a dreamy two hours, Blonde:ish weave in many styles, from the leftfield indie dance of their home imprint Kompakt to Ricardo Villalobos’s microhouse classic Dexter, from an epic by Italian tribal-techno masters Voices from the Lake to a tasty edit of St. Germain’s jazzy-house anthem Rose Rouge. They even make room for a Pink Floyd tune from 1968’s psych masterpiece Ummagumma. All up it’s part Essential Mix, part audio therapy.

#2 The Avalanches

The Australian legends shook the electronic-music world when they released their second album, Wildflower, following a hiatus of 15 years. In addition to a flood of new attention and acclaim and a world tour, they recorded a rare and jaw-dropping DJ mix, which, true to the band’s famed sampladelic style, makes most other “eclectic” mixes sound flat and boring.

Clocking in at around 80 tracks, it’s a mindblowing collage of bits and pieces from the last 60 years of pop-music history that blurs into a thrilling new mutant creation the more you listen. To run down the wild variety of artists on the tracklist (the Grateful Dead, Madlib, Paul and Linda McCartney, the Stooges, Bad Brains, the Joubert Singers, Ratatat, the Pointer Sisters, Sun Ra, Frank Zappa), doesn’t do it any kind of justice. You have to hear this thing.

#1 Mano Le Tough

The Irish star, formerly based in Berlin and now ensconced in Zurich, Switzerland, came through towards the end of the year with a powerhouse of an Essential Mix debut.

Like many of the show’s best, it’s a slow burner, starting off with some moody, melodic electronica from the likes of Roman Flügel and Youandewan, with MLT only slowly ratcheting up the tempo and the vibe until he’s unleashing some facemelting techno at the peak, with highlights including the Aussie classic 6AM by DJ HMC (Late Nite Tuff Guy). Even when he’s cranking it, though, Mano’s selections remain exquisitely melodic and oh-so-seamlessly blended. It’s a masterful mix that sucks you into its atmosphere and demands repeat listens.

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