Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Essential Mixes of 2015
Top 10 Essential Mixes of 2015
There is perhaps no greater honor in dance music than being chosen to deliver a BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix. Hosted by the legendary Pete Tong, the weekly Friday night segment has become the gold standard for mix shows.
In many ways, it’s a rite of passage for dance music artists. It’s the chance to showcase one’s creative identity to the world. More than anything, it’s a mark of legitimacy. Having Tong’s stamp of approval and reign over BBC’s hallowed airwaves is an opportunity reserved for only the most high-calibre artists.
In 2015, Tong and crew made some big changes to the Essential Mix. For one, they introduced the Essential Mix Masters series, highlighting veterans in the scene like Sven Väth and Erick Morillo. Secondly, they hosted a string of amazing collaborative mixes from artists like Eric Prydz and Jeremy Olander, and Four Tet and Jamie xx. With all these exciting developments in mind, we’ve chosen our top ten Essential Mixes of the year.
The mysterious, gold-masked Claptone enraptured the house world with his debut LP, Charmer, this past fall, embarking on a global tour to support record. Shortly before its release, the German house dignitary unleashed an Essential Mix to allow his fans access into his carefully developed artistic vision. What ensued was a well-crafted array of soulful clips graced with newer and more classic productions. Retro and modern aspects of house struck a careful balance throughout the mix while maintaining the core elements of the Claptone persona that catapulted him into the spotlight several years ago.
Air Date: April 25
Photo Credit: Neda Rajabi
9. Ben Klock
Techno connoisseurs around the world were impressed to see Berghain resident Ben Klock on the BBC Radio 1 roster this year. To commemorate the occasion, Klock delivered a hair-raising set rife with diabolical techno that brought us straight to the sweaty, dimly-lit dancefloors of Berlin. Listening to Klock’s performance behind the decks is akin to running a marathon – the ceaseless rhythm of his selections heightens the heart rate while the sparse breaks afforded leave one slightly exhausted at the end. Of course, this is the energy one would come to expect from a man who typically spins for eight hours on end at the world’s premier techno destinations.
Air Date: October 10
8. DJ EZ
UK garage purveyor DJ EZ capped off his two-decade long career with his Essential Mix debut in April. His spectacular two-hour set of bass and garage came as no surprise, given his 14-year residency at Kiss Radio 1 and experience mixing numerous Pure Garage compilations. DJ EZ noted that the mix is structured similarly to his live sets, split between energy and bounce in the first hour, and a dip in BPM for a much deeper second hour. Ultimately, DJ EZ managed to transport listeners between the garage and bass world — from the ethereal music of Authr, to the funky Todd Edwards Vocal Mix of Sam Smith “Lay Me Down” — all without skipping a beat.
Air Date: April 14
7. Floating Points
Practicing neuroscience is arduous to most, but Floating Points takes on the job and then some by also pursuing a career as a musician well on his way to stardom. According to Pete Tong, he once created a track on the plane to a festival, tested it at the DJ booth, then dropped the finished result in his set. The London-based musician’s career continues to elevate with his trifecta of talent, comprised by his ability to produce, DJ, and compose, all while in his mid 20’s. Less than a month after the release of his newest album Elaenia, the thriving young artist delivered an Essential Mix that highlighted his ability to deliver jazz classics, techno cuts, latin beats and everything in between.
Air Date: November 28
6. Lee Burridge
15 years ago, Lee Burridge made his Essential Mix debut alongside Craig Richards. The All Day I Dream founder’s triumphant return to the decks was centered around Burning Man this time around, exploring much of the melodic tech that Lee has fostered through his parties and labels through the years. His playa-inspired mix showcases the talents of Butch, C Vogt, Lauren Ritter, and more – offering those who did not make it to Black Rock City a taste of the dance culture out there. From the seamless listening experience to Lee’s masterful song selection, it was easily one of our favorite mixes of the year.
Air Date: September 5
It’s hard to believe that Nero released their debut studio album, Welcome Reality, just four years ago. Since then, the UK outfit have released a second album, Between II Worlds, and gained vocalist Alana Watson as a full-time member. Nero entered the dance music sphere as a drum ‘n’ bass act, and their debut Essential Mix in 2010 is tangible evidence of their roots. Yet as time passed, the group began to adopt a more versatile style, highlighted by a renewed focus on songwriting. Their follow-up Essential Mix accurately portrayed Nero’s evolved tastes, channeling everything from Jon Hopkins, to Bjork, and The Beatles. Ultimately it was another eclectic offering from the UK trio, and a firm reminder of their ongoing maturation.
Air Date: September 12
Photo Credit: Derek Bremner
4. Maceo Plex
In 2015, we were afforded two chances to catch Maceo Plex on the hallowed Essential Mix. The first came in a special live recording from the legendary Slam Tent at T in the Park, where we received a brief but satisfying snippet of Maceo Plex’s closing set. The second came in the form of a full takeover on his birthday, where Eric Estornel took the chance to dive deep into his personal tastes. “For my birthday,” he said, “I’ve decided to just play what I want and explore many styles old and new, and not necessarily for the dance floor.” The result was one of our favorite mixes of the year, undulating between minimal and spirited soundscapes, to ravey, old-school offerings.
Air Date: November 7
In 2015, Flume topped off his résumé with multiple sold-out shows, headlining sets at festivals worldwide, and his first ever Essential Mix — all in the midst of his split from production duo What So Not. Heralded by Pete Tong as “Australia’s biggest and brightest electronic music star,” Flume included an incredible variety in his mix, switching between hip-hop and trap tracks, to gentle house edits and solo White Label originals. The result was a two-hour showcase of the deeper facets of Flume’s artistry — one that exhibits the eclectic tastes and diverse talents that transcend his popular productions.
Air Date: October 3
2. Eric Prydz and Jeremy Olander
Eric Prydz paired with Jeremy Olander to put forth 2015’s first Essential Mix, premiering a plethora of new music in the process. The two Swedish powerhouses carefully guided listeners through a two-hour excursion, traversing through the dark reaches of their collective techno catalogue, all the way into more celebratory regions of progressive house. Many of the songs displayed resurfaced later in the year as singles from Olander’s first EP on his new Vivrant label, to originals from the seemingly endless stream of new Prydz EPs in 2015. Together, Prydz and Olander created a wonderfully diverse yet cohesive mix that set the bar high for the rest of the year. Nearly a year later, it remains one of our favorite mixes from 2015.
Air Date: January 3
1. Max Cooper
Max Cooper is a rare talent. His music finds itself at the intersection of high-brow science and left-field electronica. With a Ph.D. in Computational Biology and a vested interest in 4D soundscapes, he’s one of the more cerebral producers out there. For his inaugural BBC Radio 1 honors, Max Cooper crafted a spectacular two-hour journey, weaving through analog textures and dreamy overlays in an overtly methodical fashion.
“I’ve been listening to Essential mixes since I first started getting into clubs and electronic music,” Cooper says. “So it was a shock, and exciting for me, to get the offer to make one myself. The two hour format really allows some time to explore ideas musically as well.”
Cooper responded to the opportunity by delivering one of the most sophisticated mixes we’ve heard to date on the platform. In a similar vein to his live performances, his Essential Mix spanned everything from ambient, to breaks and techno. With tracks from Burial, Rrose, Nils Frahm and more, the mix was easily our favorite offering from 2015.
Air Date: February 28