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COMPILATIONS OF THE YEAR

The year's essential comp cuts!

It's impossible to ignore the way the web has changed the modes and mediums of music. MP3s at the click of a mouse and free downloads coming out of every orifice; never has it been so easy to get our grubby mitts on decent dance music.

Perhaps most notable is the rise of the podcast. Palmed out for nuthin’ by pretty much every online publication, club event and label going, it’s propelled mixtape culture to a level of insanity, rendering the previous profit of lone artist DJ mixes practically redundant.

Not that this dynamic has seen top quality compilation releases dry up. In fact, it’s only set the onus of higher standards, as producers strive to ensure people get their money’s worth in response to a cyber world lacking standardisation. These days, compilations are used as a shop window for dance music’s many esteemed brands — the labels, the clubs, the radio shows that make clubland the cultural carnival it is.

They are looked upon to deliver something a bit more permanent, a keepsake; less disposable. Happily, this has helped cement the most trusted sources out there, serving as a barometer for the what, where and how it should be done. Without ‘Fabric Live’, ‘DJ- Kicks’ or Ministry’s ‘Masterpiece’ series (to name only a few) we would be without some of dance music’s most amazing moments. This year was full of them, yet again...


  

01. Various 'Hatched' (Dirtybird) 

How it sounded then:

The devil-may-care fun of early Dirtybird was a breath of sub-driven air through the stultifying dry ice monotony of minimal. And though, seven years later, they’ve gone from newborns to ruling the roost, there’s still little that’s as eccentric, out there or floor-wrecking... If this is its offspring, then this Dirtybird is laying golden eggs.

How it sounds now:

Glancing back over 2012, it’s tempting— pun permitting — to call it the year Dirtybird really took flight. Its quirky, leftfield house and techno brought a fresh wave amid the austerity of minimal, culminating in their ‘Five Years Of Dirtybird’ compilation in 2010. This year’s ‘Hatched’ collection took that one step further. Proffering its unique breed of oddball, bottom-ended house music, it marked its territory in stone, prompting scores of imitators in the process. Reactionist turned revolutionary, Dirtybird dictated its own flight path in 2012.

 


  

02. Paul Woolford 'The Lab 04' (NRK)

How it sounded then:

While Woolford’s work with Scuba, Appleblim and T.Williams has sent him down some unexpected side roads, with UK bass being so all- encompassing, it hasn’t inspired a reinvention — this is largely business as usual for the Leeds house and techno producer, but no worse for it. With a seamless, yet not frictionless, airtight selection, Woolford doesn’t need UK bass’s seal of cool.

How it sounds now:

Don’t be fooled by the many faces of Paul Woolford. Batting for the Ibiza faithful as We Love resident while tickling the fancies of hardened bass heads over in the UK — occasionally in the same breath — none can deny house music is at this man’s core. His contribution to NRK’s ‘Lab’ series in June confirmed it. Following a year which saw him balance both ends of the scale in either hand — Planet E in one, and Hotflush the other — there’s little point predicting his next step. Chances are, he’s already made it. 


  

03. Andrew Weatherall 'Masterpiece' (Ministry of Sound)

How it sounded then:

Three CDs of distinctively Weatherall sounds. Rather than attempt to tap into his influences, as these comps have done in the past, the selector offers a voyage into sometimes scuzzy, fuzz-drenched post-punk house, chugging cosmic funk, dubbed-out rhythms and Italo disco pumping that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Panoramic, epic... a masterpiece indeed.

How it sounds now:

A walking Movember campaign all year round nowadays, there’s no denying the trailblazing role that Andrew Weatherall has played within dance music — not just due to his dapper dress sense. From his Shoom days to his A Love From Outer Space parties today, his technical talent and breadth of knowledge as a DJ has never been in question, keeping him as relevant in 2012 as he’s ever been. ‘Masterpiece’ is modern day vintage class. The where, what and Weatherall... 


  

04. Nick Höppner 'Panorama Bar 04' (Osgut Ton)

How it sounded then:

Panorama Bar resident Nick Höppner is a DJ to be relied upon, and for this — the fourth in a so- far strong mix series — he effortlessly shows that ability he’s got to work a dancefloor into a state of pumping rapture. [He is] one of those people whose place in life is behind the DJ booth, and of all his releases, this mix is arguably the most true to what he does best.

How it sounds now:

In the same vein as fellow Panorama Bar residents Prosumer and Tama Sumo, Nick Höppner is a DJ who values substance over style. A selector who picks from all over the house and techno spectrum, new and old, his touch, indicative of a tune’s timeless worth, is always a gold standard stamp of approval. Hence, ‘Panorama Bar 04’ is one for the heads, destined to stand the test of time. 


  

05. Solomun 'Watergate 11' (Watergate)

How it sounded then:

From the boogiefied French hip- hop of Alliance Ethnik’s ‘Respect’ to Lucy Pearl’s evergreen R&B/disco bump ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’, to the cheeky electro chunk of ‘Endless Street’ by Marseille’s Superfunk,[‘Watergate 11’] reconciles [Solomun’s] love of tougher dancefloor forms with his first musical sweethearts hip-hop and ’80s boogie perfectly and is easily the best for ages in Watergate’s very patchy mix series. Seek out.

How it sounds now:

Solomun’s mix for the other big Berlin institution last June is sure-fire proof why he is arguably the most talked about DJ of 2013. As accessible as it is intelligently arranged, ‘Watergate 11’ is brimming with party nostalgia and free of the dancefloor dourness sometimes (wrongly) associated with the club’s home city. A funky, fun treat. 


  

06. Maya Jane Coles 'DJ-Kicks' (!K7)

How it sounded then:

It’s eclectic in the extreme, but all threaded together with a diaphanous lightness of touch and perspicacious grasp of what makes a DJ set a proper narrative — as well as making you dance, of course. A near-perfect calling card from an artist brimming with promise.

How it sounds now:

The current climate for record sales has pushed most producers out of the studio and into the DJ booth to make ends meet, none more so than Maya Jane Coles. Primarily praised as a producer, it was her ability to craft a studio DJ mix that turned heads when she stepped up to the prestigious ‘DJ-Kicks’ plate. Carefully considered and at times courageous, Maya wears her influences on her sleeve — from hypnotic techno to dark, moody garage — without losing her thread. 


  

07. Joris Voorn & Cassy 'Cocoon Heroes' (Cocoon)

How it sounded then:

Appropriately,Sven Väth has selected two modern heavyweights from different ends of the spectrum to serve up mixes of what to expect [from Cocoon], with Dutch techno stalwart Joris Voorn heading up disc one, and classy deep house mistress Cassy taking the second. Voorn’s effort is typically far-ranging, with the free-flowing results touching on deep and swirly house as much as darker and more twisted techno. It’s no doubt that the Cassy disc will appeal to the more discerning fan, though: going deep as ever, classic house influences blend into stripped Berlin techno with plenty of hypnotic highs along the way.

How it sounds now:

Sven’s hugely successful ‘Cocoon Heroes’ party wouldn’t be what it is without its accompanying series. If Maetrik live saw the brand at its most epic, Cassy & Joris Voorn’s effort presented it at its most prophetic. Cassy’s especially. Featuring techno 2.0 from the likes of Pearson Sound, Sigha and Shed, it’s a slick, sneaky peak of techno’s future — even still now. 


  

08. Luke Solomon 'Cutting Edge' (D-Edge)

How it sounded then:

Aside from fashioning a long and illustrious career part responsible for Music For Freaks, Classic Recordings, as well as a plethora of room-rocking house stretching back almost 15 years, Luke Solomon has also struck up a cosy relationship with Sao Paulo’s underground den, D-Edge. It’s a fraternity that’s resulted in numerous DJ sets before those iconic Tron-like LED screens, culminating in this studio mix of 14 tracks, strung together with the deft intuition and leftfield nous expected of such a DJs’ DJ.

How it sounds now:

Luke Solomon has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in 2012. The year he revived Classic alongside Derrick Carter, released under his Freaks moniker for Hot Creations with Justin Harris and revisited his Digital Kid project, it’s not only been about rediscovering the past to move forward this year. His residency for gem of the Brazilian underground D-Edge is perhaps the most obvious example. A cleverly crafted journey into veritable house and techno classics — past and present — it served to remind the dance world of a venerable DJ with indelible talent, still sounding fresh. 


  

09. Catz 'N Dogz 'Body Language Vol 12' (Balance)


How it sounded then:

The essence of the operation here? Just sturdy, solid-as-a-rock DJ nous; the ability to select a seemingly innocuous house or techno tune and turn it into a deadly dancefloor weapon. Cuts from bass heads like Braiden, Eats Everything and Squarehead rub shoulders with deep housers Soul Clap, Till Von Sein and Chez Damier as part of a languid mix that swings, trudging a seamless, linear path on which melody unravels and flows freely.

How it sounds now:

The value of a decent mix can be tracked on two accounts. First, its capacity to deliver something more on each and every listen. Secondly, the props it gives to undiscovered gems, raised to anthemic status off heavy rotation. ‘Body Language Vol.12’ offers both in spades. As well as displaying the duo’s deft touch for a DJ mix, it turned their remix of Soul Clap’s ‘Ecstasy’ into one of the most frequently played tunes on our office stereo. And that’s only for starters... 


  

10. Funk D'Void 'Balance 022'

How it sounded then:

Coming off the back of superb efforts from Deetron and Nic Fanciulli, the run of successive quality continues with another double-CD package. Deserving of copious repeat listens, this really is the real deal.

How it sounds now:

Plugging away for the best part of 20 years, you’d be forgiven for thinking Scotland’s Lars Sandberg aka Funk D’Void had reached his summit during his long and industrious career. Wrong. This two-disc collection of disco, proggy tech and deep house is mixed to absolute perfection.  

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