These Are My Favorite DJ Mix Series
I listen to a lot of mixes. Recorded DJ sets are to me what full-length albums are to the people in my life who aren’t big on dance music: a continuous listening experience that I repeat and which gives me a sense of the composer’s musicianly identity. I need to listen to mixes when I run every morning, so I keep a constant supply ready in order to avoid the paralyzing feeling of scrolling through my SoundCloud feed looking for a suitable and downloadable recording. As a result, I have an arsenal of go-to sources. Narrowing down my list of favorites was difficult, so I decided to focus on lesser-known collections and to leave out podcast series curated by radio stations like NTS and Berlin Community Radio or other music websites like Boiler Room, Resident Advisor, Juno Plus, XLR8R, Self-Titled and Truants, all of which have killer offerings. I feel obliged to point out that I don’t think of this article as a list of “the BEST” mix series, because people always comment on or Tweet about our listicles as if that’s how we frame them. These are just some of my recommendations for good places to look if you’re trying to find reliable mix outlets.
Secret Thirteen (Lithuania)
DJ Skirt – Secret Thirteen Mix 122 [reupload] by Secret Thirteen on Mixcloud
I pretty much made this entire list just to big-up Secret Thirteen again. I’m obsessed. A few weeks ago we “re-hyped” founder Justinas Mikulskis’s goth megamix, and before that I included his blog in my overview of the scene in his home country, Lithuania. His curation of the website’s mix series is flawless and simply unmatched, so it’s worth starting from the first podcast and listening to them all, which is what I’ve been doing. That way you’ll find your own highlights within the parameters of Mikulski’s taste in experimental music, which includes patently avant-garde selections from the likes of Lawrence English to the adventurous sides of dance floor DJs like Helena Hauff and Asusu. Aside from those I’ve already mentioned, my favorites from this series include Jeremy Bibles’ blend of recent records to hit his Experimedia record store, Gabor Lazar’s conceptual journey, Moniek Darge‘s hour-long meditation and Mark Fell’s selection of irresistable house tracks that have influenced his style. But it’s hard to narrow it down. They’re all exceptional.
Greek podcast series Phormix stands out thanks to its tight focus on punk-indebted styles like EBM, industrial, run-down acid and demented techno. I’ll listen to a set from an artist I don’t know if they have a set on Phormix, which policy has exposed me to Greek musicians like stalwart analog practitioner June and unsettling noise producer Aglaia Is Always Wrong. Although the curation of Phormix emphasizes local talents, there’s plenty of contributions from abroad, like an early contribution from the Swedish king of deranged electro, Luke Eargoggle.
Dekmantel (The Netherlands)
Dekmantel reached critical hype levels during the third installment of its three-day underground electronic music festival at Amsterdamse Bos this past summer, and its reputation is bolstered by its extracurricular activities. The founders also run a record label and in February launched a mix series to highlight their favorite artists year-round. Its skein of sets came out swinging with early contributions from heavy-hitters and rising stars like Marcel Dettmann, The Black Madonna and Palms Trax, and thus the roster so far is a who’s-who of super-relevant names (as is the lineup for the festival each year): I-F, Joey Anderson, Call Super and Four Tet all rank here. The standout Dekmantel mix for me is Randomer’s, and I keep going back to it during my runs because it’s relentlessly energetic, dynamic and at times wonky or weird. I think it’s one of my favorite mixes of all time.
Volga River Rhythm Club (Russia)
I’ve kept an eye on Russian electronic music in recent months thanks to the lo-fi sleepy house label Gost Zvuk and the reportedly (according to my friends who went) life-changing Outline Festival that took place in Moscow in July. My fascination with the label led me to Volga River Rhythm Club, a fledgling Russian mix series that I’m not actually sure is still running. But a couple of months ago, it was off to a great start with a few odd and groovy sessions from mysterious local selectors Kalivas, Mutenoise and Low Bob, the latter of whom I’m pretty sure is involved with Gost Zvuk. It’s hard to tell or to find out about other Russian artists, labels and collectives when you don’t read Russian.
The Bunker NY (USA)
Bryan Kasenic threw the first Bunker party 12 years ago in the basement of SubTonic in New York’s Lower East Side, and his unwavering commitment to his original vision has made the Bunker an experimental techno institution. Like Dekmantel, it expanded from events to become a label and a podcast series, so it’s my one-stop shop for über-deep adventurous techno and related styles. Its podcast series launched about a year ago with a live set from Metasplice reviewer Bee Mask that was recorded at No Way Back, the Movement Festival after party Kasenic has participated in for ages. Other standout sets in this unflappably solid collection came from Zemi17, Leisure Muffin and Lauren Flax.
Butter Sessions (Australia)
Melbourne duo Sleep D founded the label and successful mix series known as Butter Sessions. Expect lots of Australian talent represented and a selection of subjects that leans toward housier side—but neither of those characterizations are inflexible. The most recent contribution, for instance, comes from SO, a resident at Japan’s Labyrinth Festival, which has built a reputation for epic wormhole techno sets.
Finn Johannsen, who aside from his duties as a Hard Wax mainstay also regularly contributes recommendations and interviews to Electronic Beats, recently submitted a 3.5-hour long reggae and dub mix to the Trushmix series. That’s a good indication of the level of quality and the stylistic diversity this series maintains. They often stray from patently dance floor formats to showcase quirky, bizarre and otherwise funky sounds from all over the world, and they regularly showcase artists I’ve never heard of. Once I started digging through their archive it became pretty obvious to me that DJ Fettburger runs Trushmix, as there’s a lot of material from the Sex Tags crew and the artwork and general vibe of the mixes matches the label’s sonic identity.
Ilian Tape (Germany)
The Zenker Brothers’ Ilian Tape podcast is at least as good as their label of the same name. There’s a lot of effective material here from DJs of a certain level of renown, so this series isn’t ideal if you’re a head looking to find out about new artists. Most of the artists who appear on the Ilian Tape label also offer up a mix to the collection; Sciahri’s contribution is a highlight in that category. As for non-Ilian artists, I like the donations from Coni and Peverelist.
Smoke Machine (Taiwan)
Taiwanese mix series Smoke Machine has become a veritable force to reckon with in the world of techno since it launched in 2009. Submitting a set to the site seems to me almost like a right of passage for up-and-coming techno DJs, although its influence in that sense is tempered somewhat by the fact that they’ve only released 44 podcasts. The archive contains standout contributions from moody ambient techno producer Evigt Mörker, Marcel Dettmann protégé Kobosil, experimental heavyweight Lee Gamble and Japanese stalwart DJ Nobu, among many others.
Blowing Up the Workshop (UK)
The only reason I hesitated before wholeheartedly endorsing Blowing Up the Workshop on this list was because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to big up mix series EB readers are likely to know about already. Blowing Up the Workshop received a big Pitchfork feature following the success of its 100% Galcher Lustwerk set in 2013, but curator Matthew Kent’s vision hasn’t changed. Blowing Up sets are usually ambient, or at least good for home listening, and highlights (besides that Galcher set, which IMHO was definitely worth the hype) include Hurfy D and Bandshell.
Published September 10, 2015.