The 15 Best Essential Mixes of 2015

2015 was a big year for BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix. A new series pairing superstar DJs in back-to-back collaborations, the 20th year of the show’s live broadcasts from Ibiza Week and one hotly anticipated Essential Mix debut after another – from names like Flume, Ben Klock, Black Coffee and Floating Points – were just some of the reasons Pete Tong and co. smashed it this year. It seemed more than ever that the weekly mixes, airing overnight in the UK, were conversation starters for days and months after premiering. There was so much quality it feels wrong to rank them – but here are 15 of the best.

#15 Black Coffee – 21 November

Pete Tong introduces South African deep-house don Black Coffee’s Essential Mix debut by effusing, “You’re about to witness something very special.” Indeed: over an alternately simmering and soaring journey, the Durban-based DJ and producer demonstrates why deep house is so popular and commercially successful in SA. It’s a mix as accessible as it is soulful, combining his signature Afro-house with lush deepness from European mainstays like Vince Watson and St Germain, shimmering tech-house and playful flourishes of R&B and funk (check “Little” Louie Vega’s Funkadelic remix).

#14 Hot Since 82 (three hour special from ENTER Space) – 31 July

As part of the 20th-anniversary celebrations of BBC Radio 1’s Ibiza Weekend, Essential Mix handed over the decks to Hot Since 82 for a special three-hour live set recorded at ENTER, on the massive Sunset Terrace of Space Ibiza. This epic is suitably hotter than July in the Balearics, ranging from chunky snare-rolling tech-house to steamy Latin- and tribal-flavoured workouts to peaky progressive-tinged anthems. Bits of crowd noise bleed into the recording at times to remind us of how the Terrace must have been heaving on the day. Highlights include Mathias Meyer’s trance-inducing Infinity; Âme’s warped, wiggly classic Rej; and the man of the hour’s own spine-tingling version of The Police classic Voices Inside My Head.

#13 Frankie Knuckles (tribute set) – 4 April

To mark a year since the Godfather of House tragically passed away at the age of 59, Pete Tong paid tribute by broadcasting two previously un-aired mixes by his friend, one recorded live in London in 2011, the other in the studio the same year. Here Knuckles is at his “soulful and life-affirming best,” according to Tong. Many of the tunes are Knuckles’ own (an incredible remix of Teddy Pendergrass’s You Can’t Hide and a new version of the all-timer Your Love among them), balanced by superior cuts from Deetron, John Julius Knight and others. Hard to keep a dry eye when the show ends with a tweaked version of his aching 1991 anthem The Whistle Song.

#12 Eric Prydz x Jeremy Olander – 3 January

Essential Mix kicked off 2015 with the inaugural edition of an occasional series featuring some of the world’s top selectors going back to back. The first of these pairings (which later included Four Tet vs Jamie xx) pits two of Sweden’s best against each other. Eric Prydz and Jeremy Olander concoct two hours of muscular tech-house and blissful progressive, mostly unreleased tracks by one or the other of them under various names. It’s a session full of rolling grooves, infectious melodies and loooooong breakdowns; highlights include a pair of Olander’s lush Dhillon productions and a gorgeous unnamed orchestral number from Pryda towards the close.

#11 DJ EZ – 11 April

“This man has magic in his fingers,” Pete Tong raves about London kingpin DJ EZ at the start of this cracker, wherein UK garage gets the Essential Mix props it deserves. It’s a furious combo of tough UKG jackers, bass and broken beat from Preditah, Flava D and Musical Mob; along with a slew of chunky garage classics from MJ Cole, MK and Todd Edwards in the second half. From start to finish it’s saturated with soul and sunny melodies to offset the whiplash snares and ever-pulsating kickdrums. Do we need to say it’s technically brilliant, with EZ alternately cutting up a storm or dropping in new tunes with ice-cold casualness?

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