Top 10 compilations of 2017
A slew of quality releases this year proved the compilation is still a vital format for taste-making selectors to present a snapshot of where we’re at with dance music. From seminal labels celebrating their back catalogue, collections of rare disco and sublime mixes of unreleased material, right through to electro icons enjoying being back in the limelight, here’s our top 10 compilations of 2017...
10. Dimitri From Paris
One of dance music’s most popular disco connoisseurs delved deep into the back- catalogue of NYC’s legendary Salsoul Records in 2015, turning out this incredible comp. Originally only available in Japan, it was selling for three-digits on Discogs before it got a re-release as a double-LP repress in September this year. Featuring an exclusive mix on the first disc and 10 of his re-edits on the second, this definitive collection — containing re-rubs of the likes of Loleatta Holloway and Inner Life — is an essential for disco fans, and one of this year’s most hyped releases.
Astrophonica — the forward-thinking label launched by Fracture and Neptune in 2009 — released its first compilation LP, ‘Gradients’, in March of this year. Originally a platform for its founders’ mad, break-laden beats, Astrophonica has since expanded to offer consistently impressive drum & bass and juke efforts from the likes of Moresounds, Sam Binga, Sully and Tehbis & Touchy Subject. The ‘Gradients’ compilation brings all the aforementioned back into the fold, plus ropes in the likes of dBridge, Teklife’s DJ Earl, Stray, Om Unit’s Philip D Kick alias and up-and-comers Lewis James and Tusais. If you don’t already know, get to know.
Midland very quickly graduated from breakthrough artist to circuit headliner. Part of the reason for that is how seriously he takes his job. You won’t often hear him pulling the same tricks twice, making the Graded boss a versatile selector who can command Berlin clubs as easily as large UK festivals. In September, he served up one of his more emotive and dreamy sets for ‘Fabriclive’. Drifting pads, swirling harmonic bells and weightless drum-lines all make for the sort of soothing listen you’d experience at 4am in the club while lost in a narcotic, sleep- deprived state of submission. From the mid-point, textures begin to fizz and rhythms get more jagged but before it gets too much, the grooves are smoothed out once more until they become ambient bliss.
‘Kern Vol. 4 — Mixed By DJ Stingray’
In just three instalments, Tresor’s Kern had established itself as one of the key DJ mix series, even before electro purist DJ Stingray took the reins in September this year. Following on from Objekt’s convention-challenging technical masterclass last year, Stingray followed a more traditional path: his mix is defined by a quick and slick underlying groove, but by packing in 27 cuts over 75 minutes, the whole thing races by and keeps you very much on the edge of your seat. With unequivocal ties to the sound of Detroit as Drexcyia’s tour DJ since day one, he presents an uncompromising vision of Motor City techno and electro within a year which saw the sounds return to dancefloors all over.
‘inging Back Master mix By Tony Humphries’
Tony Humphries was an unexpected choice to mix Running Back’s 15th anniversary retrospective earlier this year, given that the label’s house sound isn’t really the soulful style the New York legend is renowned for. It certainly proved a wise one, however; although, given records this incredible, it’s hardly surprising the Zanzibar legend pulled it off. Opening with Nordic disco legend Todd Terje, featuring key moments from the likes of Mr. G, Leon Vynehall, Redshape and Paul Woolford, plus several cuts apeice by Shan and Tiger & Woods, it showed Humphries on stellar form as ever, spinning the label’s modern house and disco treasures with his classic DJ touch.
A firm stronghold of the Ostgut Ton family, Steffi was the next tastemaker to join Fabric’s highly revered mix series back in June. While comprised of just 15 tracks, the set brings together previously unreleased exclusives from close friends and collaborators, including the sombre ‘Forking Path’ by Answer Code Request, and tracks by Voiski and Dexter & Virginia, allowing Steffi to skillfully weave together deep, steely techno and Motor City-inspired electro. The result is a deep, moody and dynamic listening experience with broken beats and retro-futurist landscapes. Set alongside ‘World Of The Waking State’ — a superb, mellifluous LP for the aforementioned Berlin label, which in our eyes is her best studio album to date — it seems 2017 was truly Steffi’s year.
‘The Men In The Glass Booth’
Consisting of two 5xLP box sets of disco edits and rarities, BBE Records’ ‘The Men In The Glass Booth’ is a meaty offering of undisputed quality. The album tells the evolutionary story of disco from its founding point in 1976, when Salsoul Records forever changed the perception of the DJ by sublime cuts from Walter Gibbons, Bobby DJ Guttadaro and Jellybean Benitez included, plus it’s curated by disco hero Al Kent and also includes an exclusive 40-page book — and, of course, it’s completely sold out. If you’re a fan of BBE’s releases, be sure to stop by their incredible record shop in London Fields. It’s a treasure trove of must-haves at reasonable prices, plus you’ll be supporting one of London’s best independent labels!
03. Special Request
Paul Woolford has never been average, especially when it comes to his break-wielding, rave revivalist alias, Special Request. Stepping into his ‘Fabriclive’ mix back April, he commanded the natural eclecticism of a man who’s been deeply embedded across the dance music spectrum for the better part of two decades. Catching the listener off-guard is key to his game throughout: from the foreboding ambience of the opening to the first punchy kicks of Caustic Window’s ‘Cordialatron’, and sudden, filthy electro of ‘No More’ by Dexter; the way a brutal junglist assault (courtesy of Dillinja) is proceeded by a beatless harbinger-of-doom; and finally how it all effortlessly drops back to ambient rest via ASC and Carl Craig. Masterfully crafted unnatural perfection.
‘Funkadelic: Reworked By Detroiters’
What do the luminaries of Detroit’s techno scene have to do with the psychedelic sounds of Funkadelic? Quite a lot, actually. By bringing in the likes of Underground Resistance, Moodymann and Marcellus Pittman to remix the coveted funk gems of George Clinton’s Funkadelic, Westbound Records somehow pulled off in 2017 what few would ever dare try. As sacrosanct as the futuristic synth-led bass bombs may be — and as suspect as many remix complications so often prove — ‘Funkadelic: Reworked by Detroiters’ successfully joined the dots between original P-funk and the more future-facing sounds of the Detroit techno scene.
01. Kerri Chandler
New Jersey’s Kerri Chandler is nothing short of a legend in the house scene, launching the Madhouse and MadTech labels, dropping numerous seminal cuts over the years, and never compromising on quality in favour of money and mass appeal. When contributing to !K7’s hugely respected ‘DJ-Kicks’ mix series, then, he opted to take us on a walk through his locale, journeying through his record collection in what’s basically an archetypal home-listening mixtape. It’s soul-infused and personal, touching on jazz, funk, deep house and hip-hop, and comes knitted together with Kerri’s own keys and spoken-word musings. More simply put, it’s perfect from start to finish.
Want more? Check out our top tracks of 2017.