Once upon a time, DJ mixtapes were for the faithful. Today, it's the opposite – everyone can access them, and more and more, they do. By the time you finish this sentence, 20 more livecasts and podcasts, club and stadium sets, amateur and pro, old and new, will go up on SoundCloud, and 20 more on Mixcloud. It's overwhelming, but it's also a treasure trove, as this chronological selection of 20 of the best we heard in the first half of 2013 proves.
MK, FACT Mix 366 (January 21st)
Disclosure broke garage to American EDM youth, but the sound was incubated in the early-Nineties remixes of Detroit-born New Yorker Mark Kinchen, a.k.a. MK. Their gorgeously cut-and-pasted vocal trickery inspired future Daft Punk collaborator Todd Edwards – and then London in the late Nineties. Two decades later, MK's in L.A. and the trick still works. This mix highlights his recent fruit – notably, scintillating remixes of Lana Del Ray's "Blue Jeans" and Storm Queen's "Walk Right Through."
Tensnake, Essential Mix (February 16th)
Hamburg DJ Tensnake's approach on his 2010 club banger "Coma Cat" – friendly, assured, patient – typifies this Radio 1 showpiece. It begins slowly, with Alice Coltrane, but rides a steady arc to far giddier grooves – especially the second hour, where Todd Terje's remix of Hot Chip's "How Do You Do" and a yet-untitled new one from Tensake mesh easily with house classics like T-Coy's "Carino" and Röyksopp's remix of Felix da Housecat's "What Does It Feel Like."
Truss / MPIA3, RA.351 (February 18th)
Nail-hard, back-to-basics techno – the kind of machine-oriented music that made Surgeon and Adam X underground DJ kings in the mid-'90s – has been on an upswing recently. London producer Tom Russell is a prime example, as both Truss and MPIA3. His edition of dance site Resident Advisor's podcast works as a primer for this new wave of brutalist techno, grounding it in Nineties touchstones by Der Dritte Raum and Pilldriver, and letting melody seep into the assault.
Atoms for Peace, Essential Mix (March 9th)
No surprise here – Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have been moving decisively toward electronic music ever since Radiohead's Kid A (2000), and the closest to straight-up rock their Essential Mix (as Atoms for Peace) comes is the late desert-blues guitarist Kuodede. But this is exactly the kind of laptop-compact, blooms-in-your-headphone set you might hope for, dotted by Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, and enticing snippets of unfinished Yorke material.
Ron Morelli, Beats in Space #668 – Part 2 (March 12th)
"Beats in Space" is Tim Sweeney's long-running NYC dance radio show with guest mixes every week. Here, Sweeney's chat with the dry-witted Morelli, who runs the acclaimed dirty-house label L.I.E.S., is worth hearing by itself: Morelli thanks "Russian torrent sites" for providing his set's tracks. He's kidding – the set is stuffed with vintage house goodies (such as N.Y. House Authority's classic "Apt. 2B") given a cloudy cast by hard-jacking techno and Conrad Schnitzler's eerie electronics.
Jack Beats, Live at Ultra Music Festival (March 16th)
DJ Plus One and Beni G of London's Jack Beats are both former hip-hop DJs, and their EDM is as cut-and-paste antic as their old scratch routines. Their set from the Miami mega-fest's first weekend careens from dubstep to trap, from the stop-start stomp "Incredible," by Carnage & Borgore to Mat Zo & Porter Robinson's gushing summer anthem "Easy," with every transition building on the previous one or spinning it on its head.
Frankie Knuckles, Boiler Room New York (April 4th)
It's simple: No Frankie Knuckles, no house music – his iconic Chicago clubs, the Warehouse and Power Plant, are where the style germinated. As this triumphant webcast from a small Brooklyn warehouse shows, he's rooted in the classics, from his cover of Ashford & Simpson's "Bourgie, Bourgie" to his own "Your Love" (with Jamie Principle), both in smartly updated new versions. Knuckles produced or remixed all the selections; they're full of drama and low on cheese.
On his albums, Moby hasn't really been making serious dance music for a few years now. But as a DJ, he's long gone for hard, energetic electro-house like the triumphant set he spun at Coachella's first weekend. Tracks include Alex Metric's "Rave Weapon" and – what's this? – Moby and the Loops of Fury's March-issued "Para," a dip into dubstep bass hooked with the irresistible rolling piano that typified the man's rave work.
Eric Prydz, Live at Coachella (April 14th)
Stockholm DJ-producer Prydz got his start DJ'ing alongside the three guys who became Swedish House Mafia, but he has a totally different m.o. "They had a taste for the big vocals, the big hooks. A lot of my music has a darker edge to it." He proved it on the opening weekend of Coachella: This set opens with fifteen taut minutes that only reveals itself as a build once it explodes. The next hour is lean, fine-tuned, and brooding, climaxing with Prydz remixes of M83 and Depeche Mode.
Pearson Sound, RA.361 (April 29th)
Born David Kennedy, Pearson Sound is one of the sharpest and most unique of the young British dance producers who emerged from dubstep a few years ago but who've moved in other directions since. This stark set, infused with house (Steve Poindexter), techno (Adam X), and garage (Ramsey & Fen), as well as some unreleased new stuff of his own, twists and turns without losing the groove – minimalism too restless to settle for merely sounding bare.
Maya Jane Coles, Essential Mix
Two months before her hotly anticipated debut, Comfort, London house producer Coles proved yet again why she became a headlining DJ before turning 25. The bubbling, glossy, soulful style she specializes in can charm nearly any floor, and her second Essential Mix (the first was 2011) has new dramatic flair. Her own new material stacks up nicely against the glitch-soul of [a]pendics.shuffle feat. Blakkat's "Heavy Burdens High (Safeword Remix)" and Coles' own climactic Ella Fitzgerald remix.
As Four Tet, Kieran Hebden makes DJ mixes for dancing in your head. In January, he presented two hours of global, out jazz for the London livecast Just Jam (complete with cheesy color FX); this set for WNYU's Beats in Space is more eclectic, with rare Prince bumping uglies with Neneh Cherry and hot, jackin' minimalism from Joy Orbison & Boddika. Hebden also jokes that his Coldplay rework will eventually come out on a "sixteen laserdisc" box.
LTJ Xperience, Sunlight Mix (May 10th)
As LTJ Xperience, Italian producer Luca Trevisi makes dubbed-out, beach-ready disco-house, a blend that this promo mix perfects. It's a lavish hour of disco re-edits so smooth they could make Michael McDonald faint: Lots of gritty vocals (notably on First Choice's "Double Cross," near the end), with strutting, gliding groove towering over all. It's one of the most instantly likeable and endlessly replayable mixes – freebie or otherwise – in recent memory.
Carl Craig, Live at Movement Festival, Detroit (May 25th)
Carl Craig co-founded the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000, and despite a controversial 2001 exit, he still plays the festival – now called Movement – often. Craig's festival sets can be pretty predictable, but on his home turf, he dropped plenty of lean, hard, new grooves as well as some hometown gems, such as a back-to-back showing of Ben Sims' remix of Reese & Santonio's "How to Play Our Music" and Jeff Mills' "The Bells."
James Murphy, Live at 12 Years of DFA Records
"The ideal [is] to take chances without forgetting the principal thing about DJing: making a fun time for people," James Murphy recently told The Guardian. On this fabulous hour from a recent NYC party celebrating his epochal label, DFA, Murphy transforms largely mid-Seventies disco via endlessly distended intros that suddenly snap into classics like Sylvester's "(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real" and Diana Ross' "Love Hangover." Who needs cowbell?
Daniel Bell, Live at Movement Festival, Detroit (May 26th)
From early collaborations with Richie Hawtin as Cybersonik to church-building minimal techno with cuts like 1994's "Losing Control" (as DBX) to the beloved 2000 mix-CD The Button Down Mind of Daniel Bell, Bell is a Detroit DJ stalwart. His headlining set from the Movement Festival hits the road – it's heavy on bumping Chicago house (Boo Williams, Armando, Glenn Underground) and its global adherents (Nina Kraviz, the Mole), and never flags during its 2.5 hours.
Jamie Jones, Live at Time Warp, Mannheim, Germany (June 4th)
One of underground house's biggest stars, Jones runs the Hot Creations label, which issues club favorites like communion wafers. His set from an eastern German festival mostly sidelines the easy hooks he writes with Hot Natured (his group with Lee Foss and Infinity Ink) in favor of deeper, dubbier tracks such as the winking, bleeping electro-disco of Click Click's "Ducks in the Kiddie Pool" to the James Brown sample-fueled "The Funking," by Fer BR.
The Juan MacLean, Essential Mix (June 8th)
This year, Pete Tong's venerable BBC Radio 1 DJ showcase turns 20 by showcasing sets by everyone from Atoms For Peace to Eric Prydz to Daft Punk confrere Todd Edwards to French up-and-comers Perseus & Jonas Rathsman. The two-hour length allows DJs to stretch out, and in DFA Records man Juan MacLean's case, that allows a wide-ranging modern house showcase, giving resurgent garage grooves (Bicep remixing Disclosure) and the freaky-dubby likes of Murk's "Be Mine (Murk Remix)" equal breathing room.
Skrillex, Essential Mix (June 15th)
A week after the Juan MacLean's sleek Essential Mix came its opposite – a rambunctious ode to U.S. brostep by its leading practitioner. But Skrillex uses the platform to make explicit the links between EDM-fest headliners like Knife Party and Boys Noize (not to mention himself) and hipster favorites such as Blawan and AC Slater. It's an audacious gambit that he puts over with real vigor – a conscious statement his big-tent peers now have to catch up with.
DJ Koze, Fact Mix 387 (June 18th)
Daft Punk get all the headlines, but the wooziest widescreen dance album of 2013 is DJ Koze's endlessly lush Amygdala. He's also a joker, and this set for the weekly series for London's Fact Magazine features a robot voiceover back-announcing the tracks, a nod to both radio and reviewer-promo album advances. It's a lovely head-trip consisting of sixteen favorites from the year's first half – including three of Koze's own. If you're that good, why bother with modesty?
Photo by Courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy