Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Essential Mixes of 2014
Top 10 Essential Mixes of 2014
BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix is unquestionably the biggest mix show in the world. Hosted by the legendary Pete Tong, there is no greater honor in dance music than being chosen to offer your two hour curation to BBC’s hollowed airwaves. It many ways, it’s a rite of passage for dance music artists. It’s the chance to showcase one’s artistic identity to the world. More than anything, it’s a mark of legitimacy. 2014 boasted no shortage of inspiring Essential Mixes. We’ve selected our Top Ten.
10. Gorgon City
Gorgon City’s long-awaited debut album Sirens brought the duo to the forefront of the house world. While more commercial-leaning than their previous lives as Foamo and RackNRuin, the two haven’t lost their taste for grungy house and bass music, as evidenced by their standout Essential Mix. Featuring everything from garage to techno to drum ‘n’ bass, the duo’s BBC mix encapsulated their influences perfectly.
9. Porter Robinson
Porter Robinson experienced the biggest year of his career. Aside from releasing his career-defining album Worlds, the young North Carolinian cemented his place in the electronic elete by compiling a stellar Essential Mix. Featuring 72 tracks throughout its two-hour span, Porter’s mix was something of a dance music mosaic, showcasing his favorite productions from across the entire electronic music spectrum.
Analog-purist and gearhead KiNK is known for some of the most creative performances around. Earlier this year, the Bulgarian brought Under Destruction to light, showcasing his brash, intelligent brand of techno and electronica. For his Essential Mix debut, KiNK included an 18-minute live improvisation section performed solely on analog equipment. The rest of the mix is filled with gems new and old from Josh Wink to Autechre.
Grum’s Essential Mix proved one of the wildcards of the year. One of the main producers keeping the spirit of true progressive house alive, the Leeds-based artist showcased the best of the genre in his BBC Radio 1 mix. With heavy support by Pete Tong, it’s easy to see Grum is headed places. His Essential Mix proved a smooth two-hour journey through top-notch tracks by Eric Prydz, Henry Saiz, Guy J and more.
It’s safe to say Mark Kinchen is one of dance music’s most celebrated songwriters of the moment. Bringing his abilities to the Essential Mix, MK put on a two-hour showcase of bangin’ house tunes. With an undeniably UK flavor, the Detroit-born producer curated everything from soulful deep house to jackin’ and UK bass. Of course, what would the mix have been without a hefty dose of his own highly-regarded remixes? From remixes of Disclosure’s “White Noise,” to Sub Focus’s “Turn It Around,” to his fan-favorite take on Wankelmut and Emma Louise’s “My Head Is A Jungle,” the Essential Mix was a keen display of his prowess in the studio.
5. Jon Hopkins
Jon Hopkins is not your average music producer. Mercury-nominated, classically-trained, Coldplay-supported, he’s one of the more virtuosic artists of our time. In late November, Hopkins brought his transcendent vision to the Essential Mix. In a similar vein to his recent album Immunity, the mix incorporates plenty of atmospheric electronica alongside his emerging love of techno. Pieced together with the precision of a composer, Hopkins presented one of the most fascinating essential mixes of the year, complete with “overdubs and extra processing done on synths and other hardware.”
Bonobo is one of those rare artists who flawlessly transitions from the live performance realm to the DJ world. As such, he’s established himself as something of an outlier in the music world, managing to conglomerate fans from genres as disparate as electronic and indie rock. Bonobo’s debut on the Essential Mix was long overdue. As we’d expect, he brought one of the most diverse episodes to date to the show. Less live show-oriented and more DJ-centric, his mix weaves through hypnotizing deep house and garage, all the while maintaining the signature Bonobo sentimentality.
3. Deep Dish
Legendary dance music duo Deep Dish reunited in 2014 — what better way to officially authenticate the return than deliver an Essential Mix? While both Sharam and Dubfire have contributed their own individual mixes in the past, their collaborative BBC podcast in March marked the pair’s first Essential Mix as Deep Dish. Melding the talents and tastes of the two luminaries, the mix alternates between Sharam’s more sensitive house touch and Dubfire’s exceptional brand of techno. Aside from a live set at ADE earlier this year, their Essential Mix is the official soundtrack to their reunion.
Dan Snaith just had the kind of year most musicians only dream of. His album Our Love experienced an overwhelmingly positive reception, he embarked on a world tour, and his BBC Radio 1 debut won Essential Mix of the Year. It isn’t hard to see what makes the mix so compelling — immaculately constructed, tastefully diverse — it’s quintessential Caribou with exciting elements of Daphni thrown in too. With its spontaneous twists and turn, the mix feels more akin to a live jam session than your typically patient two-hour composition. When all is said and done, Caribou’s Essential Mix wields the kind of panache and eclecticism to cement it as a timeless Radio 1 offering.
1. Ten Walls
It had to be Ten Walls. Back in September, we couldn’t help but fawn over his extraordinary Essential Mix debut. Three months later, we’re still listening and we’re still mystified. It isn’t so much the technicality of the mix that gets us — don’t get us wrong, its construction is impeccable — but rather the vision behind the composition. A classically-trained virtuoso of sorts, Basanov brought an air of canonical weight to the legendary show. Opening and closing with cinematic scores from Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect, his intentions were clear the whole way through. For two hours, Basanov transported us to the wondrous world of Ten Walls, and we loved it.