Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top ten mixes/podcasts of 2011

This year I kept up with mixes and podcasts mainly by following the same mix/podcast series and news sites that I'd followed in past years. The volume of quality mixes out there continues to boggle the mind, but I have to say that I regret not investing the time to discover podcasts from a wider variety of ssources.

The Electric Deluxe podcast is still the best when it comes to consistency, creativity, variety, and trainspotting/track selection. I may not have been as diligent in keeping track of new podcasts as I was last year, but I still think they are the most effective way to sample the year's best music and keep track of the latest trends. In chronological order:

(Honourable mention) Midland, FACT 185, September 17, 2010 (link)

This one doesn't count because it was released in 2010, but it deserved a mention because I probably listened to it more than any other mix this year. The mix takes ages to properly develop, running through odd abstract and downtempo music, gradually upping the tempos before finally hitting its house stride about forty minutes in. It took a few listens to grasp where Midland was going with all this, i.e. to understand the story being told with the mix. This is why it didn't make my 2010 list, and didn't really register with me until the start of 2011.

(Honourable mention II) Dino Sabatini, Prologue Portefeuille Podcast 02, December 27, 2010 (link)

This was released in the final days of 2010 so it effectively counts toward this year. The concept here is fairly simple: one hour of atmospheric, deep, moody techno.

ASC, Deep Space Mix 19, January 20 (link)

This is my favourite type of ambient set -- warm, shimmery, angelic ambient music that just sort of floats by. I'm a bit envious because sometimes I try to make mixes like these and I always fail because I can't help but turn it into a horror/noise fest. For some reason I have the attention span to listen, but not to create a mix like this.

Animal Collective, ATP Animal Collective Mixtape, March 22 (link)

Animal Collective curated ATP this year and put together a promotional podcast featuring a number of the artists that were booked for the festival. This is two plus hours of weirdo science pop oddities, most of which I'd never heard of. I may be completely burned out on Animal Collective's music, but their taste in music still seems fresh and unpredictable.

Martyn, Impulsief mix for oki-ni, April 9 (link)

This is one of those mixes that proves you don't need to be a beatmatching wizard to be a great DJ (Martyn is a great technical DJ too, but that's not the main reason why this particular podcast is great). The mix flows from funk to classic house to synth pop and 90's techno (LA Synthesis!!), sometimes its beatmatched and sometimes not, and the flow couldn't be any more natural.

Patrice Baumel and Nuno dos Santos, Trouw Podcast May 2011 (link)

According to the description, the mix was made by extracting sound elements and beats from dozens of tracks and assembling them into a entirely new whole. This concept isn't new, Richie Hawtin's "Beats EFX and 909" and "DE9 Diversions" albums are probably the most well known mixes of this type. But the key part of the description here: "spacious soundscapes, track fragments, voices, echoes and reverberating pads float in and out." This might seem a bit OTT -- dozens of beats AND various elements appearing and disappearing? -- like a techno version of "Revolution 9". But it's not like that at all. It feels less like a mix than a long, slowly shape-changing track (which is why I listed it as a track on my P&J Ballot) where familiar sounding melodies float by like in an extended daydream. This mix is way more than the sum of its parts, and really must be heard to be believed. This was easily my favourite mix of 2011.

Psychatron, Electric Deluxe Episode 047 (David Holmes – Johnny Favourite – Exploding Plastic Ambience Mix), July 4 (link)

Filled with extended dub remixes (remember what "dub remix" used to mean when applied to 80's/90's dance music?) and classic 70's/80's style synth pop, this is the kind of alternative 80's dance party that I'd like to hear more of.

Prurient, FACT Mix 266, July 18 (link)

As far as truth in advertising goes, this is a spot-on preview of what you'd expect from the newer, less abrasive and extreme sound of Prurient. "Bermuda Drain" turned out to be pretty good too.

Diego, Electric Deluxe Episode 049 (Diego Hostettler presents his Shapes & Forms mix), July 31 (link)

Dub techno never seems to get old, but putting together a mix of mostly 90's Chain Reaction material is really tough without churning out a mix that sounds like something that we've heard a million times already. The mixing and sequencing is fantastic, perfect for getting effortlessly engulfed in the swampy dub goodness.

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast Episode 3 (The Sun In Eclipse Gathers Together More Mixes), August 17 (link)

If FACT can publish a end of year list with the 20 best FACT mixes of 2011, then I can promote myself a bit too. Only in my dreams do all my mixes turn out as good as this one.

Alva Noto, Resident Advisor Podcast 276, September 12 (link)

I love hearing mixes where they pack about 25 tracks into 50 minutes. But most of them don't criss-cross between left field experimental genres and dance music like this one does.

Giorgio Gigli and Obtane, Resident Advisor Podcast 282, October 24 (link)

I think my jaw hit the floor when I heard this podcast for the first time. It's like the Berghain sound drowned under a sea of heavy blankets. This is the kind of techno that appears in my dreams, something that virtually nobody ever tries to actually make, with shuddering, hazy beats and other assorted odd noises howling outside my window and getting swept aside by rivers of bass. Is this the kind of positive fallout that happened when the Gas boxset got released and everybody was reminded of how amazing those albums are?

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