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A Fine Blend: The Quietus Writers' Favourite DJ Mix Albums
John Doran , May 20th, 2015 09:54

Following yesterday's celebration of Coldcut's illustrious mix album 70 Minutes Of Madness, tQ writers have contributed a selection of their favourite DJ mixes, taking in sets from Surgeon, Carl Craig, Shackleton, Grouper, Perc and many more

Almost 20 years after the release of Coldcut's 70 Minutes Of Madness mix album, Joe Clay recently spoke to the members of Coldcut's about the mix's production and legacy - you can read the interview here. Now, a large selection of tQ contributors have come forth to offer up their favourite DJ mixes for your perusal, accompanied by their thoughts on each choice.

It's a wide-reaching list taking in a vast array of officially released mix albums, mixtapes and free-to-download online mixes across a number of genres, so keep reading and you could possibly discover a mix or two you're yet to uncover. So here, in no particular order, are tQ writers' favourite mixes.

N.B. This article isn't called 'The Best Mix Albums Of All Time'. Please tell us what your favourites are in the comment section below.

DJ Harvey - Sarcastic Study Masters Volume 2

Originally given out as a promotional CD at the Sarcastic clothing store in Japan in 2001, the mix eventually found its way onto the internet and gave many bearded men the perfect work-avoidance excuse trying to penetrate DJ Harvey’s inscrutable tracklist (which included such gems as ‘What’s This, Harv?’, ‘Sexy Woman Singing On The Beach’ and ‘Eternal Vegan Crystals’). Hours of fun trying to work it all out, like a maddening musical Rubik’s Cube. The mix was largely horizontal, included Holger Czukay, Beach Boys and Michael Shrieve, alongside the unlikely but brilliant Hudson-Ford’s ’95 In The Shade’ and still sounds ace now. Bill Brewster

Tom Moulton – Sandpiper Mixes

Tom Moulton’s tapes for the Sandpiper club on Fire Island are arguably the first instance of the DJ mix album. They were made via a painstaking process of dubbing from vinyl, slicing tape with a razor, rearranging songs, and Scotch-taping pieces together – a process that took approximately eighty hours to make a 45-minute mix. As Moulton worked without a mixer, there are no smooth beatmatched transitions, and the roughness of these mixes is alien in a world where anyone with a copy of Ableton Live can knock out a competent mix album in half a day. But the tapes Moulton made for the Sandpiper are more than just the cradle of not only the mix album, but also the re-edit and eventually the remix – they’re also shining little gems that have been burnished with hard work and love. Chad Parkhill

Megasoid - Runners Remix Mixtape

Download the mix here

When a friend first introduced Sasha Frere-Jones to a Megasoid remix – Ghislain Poirier's 'No More Blood' – the pair lost their shit: "I'm going to rent this song to myself and live in it" seemed the only viable response to what they were listening to. And for all intents and purposes that is exactly what I did when I downloaded the Megasoid mixtape the New Yorker subsequently hosted. Coming in at just under an hour, it is a feat of sustained sonic mayhem that I listened to on loop and at full volume for what might well have been a full year. Original dirty thumping bass and sweeping synth-heavy tracks laid under existing hip-hop, dancehall and grime vocals, starting with Three 6 Mafia’s 'Who Run It' and ending on Jay Z ('Change Clothes') by way of Blackjack’s 'Ridin Swervin' that utterly kills it, Eazy E’s 'The Motherfucking Real' that does too and 'Pussyole', Dizzee Rascal’s manic buzz wholly intact. A third from the end are Styles P and Swizz Beatz in an ominously dreamy take on 'Blow Your Mind' – eight years on, those lyrics still couldn’t be more apt. Dale Berning

Juju & Jordash - Live At Freerotation

The majesty of this set lies in its ability to transcend the festival context. It is archetypal ambient music, curiously earthy and enduring. Having said that, it cannot be denied that the setting in which it was first encountered added to its appeal. It was the Sunday afternoon of an intense weekend. Emotions were running high and the chill-out yurt was the sole oasis of calm. Inside, Juju & Jordash were barricaded by four-tier keyboard stacks, guitars and countless synths – the tightness of their ensemble playing presented a force to be reckoned with. However, none of this technical showmanship could ever hope to obscure the purely musical, immediate, impact of their set – one which will, I hope, become a classic of the genre. Maria Perevedentseva

2manyDJs - As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2

Radio Soulwax Presents: As Heard On Radio Soulwax pt. 2 from Radio Soulwax on Vimeo.

A side project that soon overshadowed the day job, David and Stephen Dewaele started combining their own remixes with the then fashionable key mash-ups. There were at least a dozen of these mixes available on their website at the time, however Pt.2 was the only one they released properly due to the curiousness/ nightmare of licensing. A masterpiece in all-over-the-shop crate digging, As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 sat the likes of Salt & Pepa's 'Push It' with The Stooges' 'No Fun'; Velvet Underground's 'Waiting For My Man' with Peaches' 'Fuck The Pain Away'; Skee-Lo's 'I Wish' over The Breeders' 'Cannonball' sliding into The Cramps' 'Human Fly', and perhaps the best known moment where 10c's 'Dreadlock Holiday', 'Independent Women' by Destiny's Child and Dolly Parton's '9 To 5' all collided. All that was trashy - and indeed Trash-y - and necessary for the spirit of the times, aimed to doof you out and make you grin. Not just a snapshot, it's probably one of the defining albums of the 00s, and still sounds brilliant now. Ian Wade

Jon Carter - Radio One Essential Mix

Fuck me. I had this on a C90 with the rest of the space the tape offered up taken up by tracks by the Ganja Kru. On New Year's Eve 1997 (I think) I'd been working behind the bar of the Philharmonic in Liverpool and when Ken Dodd (I know, I know...) finally fucked off stage at 1am in the morning, I put The Plan into action. Along with my comrades John Tatlock and Stu Green we'd rock up at a house party turned off the shit, white-washed IDM and sophisticated jazzy drum & bass they were listening to put this on at full volume, and then, when it finished we'd move on to the next party. I think we did it six times in a row before we called it a night. If I'd pegged it the next morning I would have died with a smile on my face. And probably all the people whose houses we'd crashed would have cheered up at my passing as well. But my lack of manners and social skills aside - there were battle lines being drawn at the time which are still evident today and I was much happier with this kind of thuggish ragga, rough neck jungle and filthy bass music than arm chair D&B and goatee stroking techno with 'intelligent' beats. And I still think there's a case to be made for 'Narra Mine' by Genaside ii as being one of the most exciting records ever recorded - where radicalism, intransigence, belligerence and raw energy trump so-called intelligence every single time. John Doran

Hudson Mohawke - Valentine’s Day mix series

Best known as a committed maximalist and wrangler of a distinctive hybrid of hip hop, rave and fractured post house, HudMo also has a massive soft spot for the slow R&B jam. So much so, in fact, that every Valentine’s Day for the past eight years, he’s posted a loved-up mix online. This year’s offering was typical – cuts from the likes of D’Angelo, Bill Withers and Stephanie Mills peppered with occasional IDs and brief electronic eruptions, comprising an utterly un-ironic billet-doux to the genre. Sharon O’Connell

Floating Points - You're A Melody #1

A mix is a historical record: a primary and secondary source. 2 hours and 56 minutes into You’re A Melody #1, Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) plays ‘Love Is A Hurting Thing’ by Gloria Ann Taylor. It is an ineffable song. That’s why my friend screamed when he recognised it on the dancefloor: you can hear his unmediated growl clearly through the crowd. Whenever I mention it, his face ruddies with embarrassment. But a great mix does more than document; a great mix liberates itself from the material conditions that produced it. Four hours of curated records are the result of hundreds of hours of labour – ‘crate digging’. The DJ transfigures this latent input, working the mixer like Chaplin works his wrench. You’re A Melody #1 is a mechanical stream of consciousness, a non-verbal conversation between hundreds of bodies. Plastic People RIP. Yohann Koshy

Vanessa Rand - Brit Hop And Amyl House

Not much of worth emerged from the short-lived Big Beat era, but this mix album is probably the scene’s defining document. It's an absolute stormer, almost certainly mixed by Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers (but credited to Vanessa Rand, his girlfriend at the time who worked for Concrete, the label that released it, due to contractual reasons). The Chems apparently resented being associated “with that big, thuggy hands-in-the-air male thing”, but it’s hard to think of any other way to describe this mix of pulverising breakbeats, dirty riffs and tweaking acid, featuring many of the scenes stalwarts including Monkey Mafia, Fatboy Slim, Death in Vegas and The Prodigy. Joe Clay

Grievous Angel & John Eden - Lovers Rock Vol 2

Download Lovers Rock Vol 2 here

Grievous Angel & John Eden are a great combo, always worth a listen. Here, John Eden provides a selection of 7" singles which Grievous Angel layered with FX and other post-production. Straying from the pure lovers rock of the (also excellent) Volume 1, this features tunes from the sixties to the present day. The FX certainly enhance, but this is all about the tunes - an excellent selection of records, many of which are pretty obscure - you won’t find these on other mixes. This is perfect summer listening. Pete Redrup

Optimo (Espacio) - Sleepwalk - A Selection By Optimo (Espacio)

The beauty of a great mix is when its composers don’t stand in reverence of the source material, but bolt it together in new and unlikely ways which serve their own aesthetic. JD Twitch and JG Wilkes – the men behind Glasgow’s revered, genre-flaying club institution Optimo (Espacio) - are masters of the art, with this chill-out collection a personal highlight amidst a slew of greats bearing their name. Listen out for underground figureheads Nurse With Wound, Coil, Arthur Russell and Chris & Cosey amidst proto-hippie Eden Ahbez’ fantastical ‘La Mer’, Lee Hazlewood’s unutterably sleazy take on ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On’ and Wall of Voodoo’s fearsome electro appropriation of ‘Ring of Fire’. You might not sleep easy after this. David Pollock

Daniele Baldelli – Cosmic: The Original

Without the archival power of the internet, the innovative techniques of Daniele Baldelli, resident DJ at Lasize’s Discoteca Cosmic in the early 1980s, might have disappeared forever. Baldelli fearlessly pushed disco’s mixing technology to the edge, throwing in guitar pedals to create effects, playing records cut at 45 RPM at 33⅓ RPM, even going so far as to install a cumbersome personal computer in Cosmic’s booth as a primitive sampler. The result was a wild mélange of world music, disco, and new wave that looked forward to a utopian science fiction future – and provided the perfect soundtrack for the hard drug scene that eventually shut down Discoteca Cosmic. On Cosmic: The Original, Baldelli faithfully recreates his early 80s approach, providing a document of a vibrant sound that strained against the limits of technology and dreamed of a bizarre future. Chad Parkhill

Carl Craig - The Workout

A master. At work. John Doran

Perc - Boiler Room Mix

In which Ali 'Perc' Wells lays down a demolishing selection of power station ambient, industrially tinged techno tracks and soot-blackened funk for a mid-afternoon Boiler Room audience most likely unprepared for the aural battery. Relentlessly funky, especially when he fully hits his stride by around the half-hour mark - but stay around for his wrecking-ball remix of Dan Avery, one of the Quietus office's favourite tracks of the time, which goes off like a grenade around the 40 minute mark. Rory Gibb

Surgeon - Dynamic Tension: Peter Christopherson Tribute

Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson passed away on November 25 2010. Eight days later, between the hours of 11pm and midnight, Anthony Child, aka Surgeon, played a moving tribute set to him at London night Bleep43, held at Corsica Studios. Entirely featuring a selection of Coil tracks, as well as a track from Ivan Pavlov's CoH featuring Christopherson's own vocals, the mix slips between years, tracing mournful, euphoric, and affecting steps through the group's excellent discography. Penultimate track 'Going Up' stings eyes, François Testory's vocals calling out into the dark abyss, before the 'The Hills Are Alive' makes for a gloriously unhinged close. Sophie Coletta

Shackleton - Fabric 55

Fabric 55 marked the fourth compilation in the Fabric series to be made up entirely of one producer’s work in the wake of Pure Science, Ricardo Villalobos and Omar S, and seizes on just what makes Shackleton so unmistakable as a producer. Assembled to recreate one of his own sets at Fabric itself, and featuring both unreleased and reworked past material, waves of oppressive sub-bass emanate from every turn of its 75-or-so-minutes, all wrapped up in those characteristic, effortlessly programmed strands of percussion, reminiscent of the extensive body of work left behind by the late Muslimgauze. All cursively blended, or as pleasantly as music this ominous can be, Shackleton’s contribution to the Fabric series remains keenly focussed throughout, driving forth at a simmering pace and sequenced with maximum precision. Fabric 55 was a fully realised meshing of Sam Shackleton’s various channels - the dub and dubstep-driven releases of Skull Disco, the minimal techno of Perlon (with whom he released a clutch of material in 2009) and the underlying industrialism that underpins all of his work to this day. Christian Eede

Justice – Xmas Mix

In 2007 Fabric commissioned Justice to put together the 37th instalment in their esteemed Fabriclive series, but when the Parisians turned in their mix it was rejected, supposedly owing to its shortness. Justice later released it as a Christmas gift to fans. In Fabric’s defence, Xmas Mix is rather short – a mere 45 minutes into which 23 songs have been crammed. And yes, it’s pretty strange, too: a mixture of deeply uncool disco, cheesy chanson and the odd rock song. But brevity, as they say, is the soul of wit, and this precisely-mixed tour de force of Justice’s influences proved they know more about music than sidechained drums and saw synths. Chad Parkhill

Elijah & Skilliam - Fabriclive 75

In tQ's Reissues & Compilations Of 2014 So Far list from last July, John Doran advised, “If you've got any sense you'll get the Elijah & Skilliam mix on right now.” I feel the need to reiterate that proclamation. Like a lot of great music this incredible Fabric set is both intricate enough for the commute to work and bluntly powerful enough for a heavy night out. The whole thing is confident, bold and elaborately textured, while a gradually increasing tempo propels you through to the ferocious climax. It’s close to perfection. Tom Hughes

Strictly Kev & PC - Blech II: Blechsdottir

Strictly Kev (DJ Food) and PC sprinkled the Solid Steel magic on the Warp back catalogue circa 1996 to make a hip hop-style mix from electronic music. An amazing track listing featuring Warp’s finest, including Aphex Twin, Nightmares on Wax, Autechre and LFO, is expertly pieced together, peppered with spoken word samples (including dialogue from Apocalypse Now) and insane scratching. It was preceded by a cassette-only release (Blech) that many believe to be superior. Kev nailed it again when he brought Blech back to life for Warp’s 20th anniversary celebrations. Joe Clay

Andy Smith - The Document

As a member of the Portishead posse (he was their tour DJ and sample sourcer) Andy Smith loomed large on the UK beats scene in the mid-to-late ’90s. The first instalment of his album series The Document was released in 1998 and satisfies most definitions of a ‘classic’ mix for hip hop, soul and funk heads alike, with a groovy, grainy and impeccably scratched mix that embraced Marvin Gaye, The Meters, Peggy Lee and Jeru The Damaja. Volumes II and III were released, but not Vol IV, completed in 2008. It lives online. Sharon O'Connell

Greena - FACT Mix 41

Before the email arrived from tQ HQ requesting favourite dance mix selections, I probably hadn’t listened to Greena’s FACT mix for at least three years, but it was still the first that sprung to mind. This arrived at an exciting moment to be out raving in London, just as grime, UK funky and dubstep were starting to collide messily back together after a few years apart, in the hands of crews like Night Slugs, Hessle and Hyperdub. At the time I was working a mind-numbing data entry job, and music was an ideal escape route - stuck at a desk and jacked into headphones for nine hours a day, I obsessively gobbled up every note of new UK-ish dance music I could get my hands on. This mix captures that moment perfectly, zig-zagging repeatedly across the Atlantic in a high-tempo, ruffneck tumble of a mix that zooms through 30 tracks in 45 minutes. Highlights arrive faster than you can catch your breath - one of Trim’s best ever diss tracks, ‘The Lowdown’ (“I ain’t Flowdan / I ain’t gonna hold my mouth while you’re hyping”) crashes headlong into Lil Silva’s chestbusting ‘Pulse vs. Flex’ in a messy splatter, drums careening off at all angles; barely 30 seconds later Kyla’s voice swims into earshot as ‘Do You Mind?’ takes the atmosphere swooning sideways from brusque to woozily romantic. I saw Greena play a few great sets around that time, and his single 12” ‘Actual Pain’ (on Appleblim’s Apple Pips label) remains one of my favourite releases from that era. There’s been little noise from him ever since, but this mix remains a hidden gem, gradually vanishing beneath the weight of the thousands upon thousands of free-to-download DJ mixes that flood the internet every month, but well worthy of excavation. Rory Gibb

Andy Votel - Music To Watch Girls Cry

Andy Votel's extensive record collection is a pretty weird and wonderful place to be, and Music to Watch Girls Cry takes you on a trippy whirlwind tour through the deepest recesses of the entire thing. Cuts are featured from 76 tracks squeezed into 78 relentless minutes, where Turkish psychedelic classics sit comfortably next to Goblin's Argento soundtracks, beautifully naff synth versions of well known tunes, and an endless supply of killer vintage grooves and drum breaks. Snippets of dialogue litter the segues, including dialogue from Lynch films, Zappa comedy routines and dozens more obscurities (there are still many snippets of sound in this that only Mr. Votel himself could correctly ID for us). In short, this is the ultimate mix tape of lovable insanity, bursting at the seams with rarities it's taken a lifetime to assemble - and it is yet to be bested. Tristan Bath

Nightmares On Wax - Boiler Room Mix

This gem of a mix exudes a soulful, graceful ambience from the get go. While the selections are generally older picks (from disco to funk to hip-hop to Motown and back again) everything is intelligently remodelled with a confident, futuristic ambition. Nightmares on Wax performs dreamlike transitions to build a solid, suave groove, and then the tunes begin to jump out. It’s game over by the time he unleashes the Diana Ross classic ‘It’s My House’. If you still need convincing, it also features a delicious reworking of Janet Jackson’s ‘If’ that sounds like Jessy Lanza covering Prince. Tom Hughes

Surgeon - Wax Treatment May 2011

There are plenty of great Surgeon live mixes, but this one stands out as something unique. The opening track by Alice Coltrane, with brushed drums, double bass, harp and sax, marks a pretty sharp delineation between this and the harder sets he has released. Surgeon gives us an eclectic dub-based selection, in the midst of which techno classics such as his own Atol make perfect sense, and where Linval Thompson flows gracefully into Blawan, followed by Detroit-style techno, electronica and back to reggae for the close. It must have been truly special to have heard this set live on a soundsystem. Pete Redrup

Appleblim - Dubstep Allstars Vol. 6

You could spend ages playing favourites with Tempa’s Dubstep Allstars, and the abyssal skank of Youngsta’s chasmic Vol. 2 and the free-associative, estuarine flow of Kode9 and the Spaceape’s Vol. 3 both have strong claims for being the series’ best. However, having been living in Bristol at the time of its release, selecting Laurie ‘Appleblim’ Osborne’s edition is down to personal circumstance as much as anything else - its taut, shimmering hour encapsulates that particular time period in the city, when local producers and allies further afield were equipping dubstep with a few critical extra kinks: making it increasingly permeable to the influence of dub techno and drum & bass, folding in audible nods to long-running Bristolian sound system culture. Arriving at almost the same time as Appleblim and Shackleton finally laid Skull Disco’s withered corpse to uneasy rest, and paired with Osborne’s equally exquisite Resident Advisor mix from the same year (seek it out, filesharers), Dubstep Allstars Vol. 6 felt - and still feels - like an unusually self-contained document of a thrilling time. Its selections are brought vividly to life by Osborne’s subtle and unobtrusive mixing, which just rolls and rolls through Peverelist’s perfectly-weighted perpetual motion machine grooves; the spaced-out rudeboy techno of Komonazmuk’s ‘Bad Apple’ and Gatekeeper collab ‘Cheeky Herbert’; the woodblocky shuffle of early Hessle Audio; surgical steppers from early 2562 and the twist-up sub-bass lashes of Rob ‘RSD’ Smith’s ‘Pretty Bright Light’. The sound captured here has long since been and gone, as is often the case in UK dance music’s fast-changing ecosystem; you might then consider this mix, as with the other early Dubstep Allstars volumes, to be a living fossil - a past snapshot of evolution in process, but one that nonetheless remains living, breathing and vibrant. Rory Gibb

Daniel Avery – Divided Love Two

The second mix to bear the name of Avery’s Fabric residency, the first was literally a mixtape limited to 100 copies. This vinyl slab accompanied Avery’s debut album Drone Logic and if that was his seismic calling card as a producer, Divided Love Two reinforced his skills as a mixologist. Subtitled Esposita the 57 minute journey starts with the pulsating 303 bassline of the album title track, then skidoos out of the meat market, across the factory floor and up the M1 back in time to a Sheffield warehouse circa ’91. Although vocal samples talk of trepidation, it’s not all dark where angels fear to tread. Avery is tactile on his re-working of ‘Taste’, testy like a Déjà-Vu recordings release and teasing with synth lines like Christian Löffler skittering atop the bass rumble. A chip off the block of mentor Erol Alkan, kissing cousins with Timothy J Fairplay and the heir apparent to Andrew Weatherall, if the love for Avery is divided their revered opinion certainly is not. Nick Hutchings

Junior Vasquez – Voguing & The House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1976-96 Exclusive Mix

If Madonna calls, Junior’s out. He’s busy spinning original platters from the voguing scene that Ms. Ciccione so gleefully plundered, kicking off with ‘Just Like A Queen’ Vasquez’s own sassed up and sexed up creation as alter ego Ellis D. Larry Levan’s spiritual lovechild Junior Vasquez presides over a pumped up journey that’s satisfyingly sassy like First Choice’s ‘No Man Put Asunder’, unceremoniously sleazy like Kevin Aviance’ ‘Cunty’ or unrepentantly supercharged like 2 Bodys ‘Body Drill’. Vasquez provides plenty of opportunities for the floor to demonstrate that their dancing skills are mighty real. However the peak of his potency comes with the delicious segue between the nineties pneumatic drill of Armand Van Helden’s ‘The Witchdoktor’ and the unbridled early eighties euphoria of ‘Is It All Over My Face’ by Arthur Russell’s Loose Joints. Nick Hutchings

Galcher Lustwerk - 100% Galcher

The fourth instalment in Matthew Kent’s ongoing Blowing Up The Workshop series, 100% Galcher arrived in 2013 with little fanfare from Lustwerk himself. “Some tracks and stems from 2012 compiled into a promomix. Hope you enjoy! - GL,” read the accompanying message. It’s an understated approach that carried over into the mix itself, all woozy synths and deep house (the good kind, mind) peppered with the occasional burst of Lustwerk’s laidback drawl seamlessly blended from track to track, a chance for him to showcase his production prowess. Comprising then-entirely unreleased material (some of which is now finally seeing a release via his Lustwerk Music imprint), 100% Galcher is built on the White Material boss’ eye for subtle, dreamy house indebted to the work of Detroit and Chicago’s greats (Lustwerk himself hails from New York), with enough distance to stand out on its own, birthing with it also a number of memorable vocal lines: “Some shit I neva seen, she done some shit I neva seen.” Christian Eede

DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and DJ Food - Caught in the Middle of a 3-Way Mix: A Tribute To Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique

DJ Food joined forces with a pair of Bristol DJs to collaborate on a version of the Beastie Boys‘ Paul’s Boutique album made entirely from the album and its original sample sources, incorporating commentary from the Beasties, vintage interviews, demo versions and much more. The result is an inventive, imaginative and hugely skilled hour-long mix that is executed to perfection. Joe Clay

Omar-S - Fabric 45: Detroit

Some mixes play tricks with context, offering new insights into well-known raw materials through recombination; others are thrilling in showcasing new and as-yet-unheard music. Alex ‘Omar’ Smith’s Fabric 45 is remarkable despite doing neither of those things. Sixteen of Smith’s own tracks, unflashily mixed, simply sequenced, it’s about as utilitarian as dance mixes come, acting as a straight-up showcase for the producer’s own material. Which is just fine with music this damn good - who needs a destination when the journey alone is worth the price of travel? Over the course of an hour or so Smith acts as your guide, taking left turns along gloomy alleyways, through neon striplit malls, past crackling train-lines and over bridges and walkways; from Motor City soul hewn from layers of pulsating static (‘Flying Gorgars’, ‘Oasis One’), to keening vocal house (‘Day’, ‘Maker’), glowering cyberpunk techno (‘Blade Runner’, ‘A Victim’) and the beautiful-yet-deadly ‘Psychotic Photosynthesis’, a triffid lurking at the mix’s centre ready to snare passers-by in its stinging tendrils. Something that’s always struck me about Fabric 45 is its emphasis on the perception-altering, hallucinogenic charge that’s common to so much of Smith’s music, but tends to be far less apparent when his tracks are played standalone rather than heard in sequence. Here, their impact heightened by their surroundings, his layered chords and fragmentary melodic motifs take on a dense, disorienting quality that’s equal parts enchanting and nightmarish; akin to being hypnotised by the pulsating bioluminescence of some strange yet strangely familiar deep sea beast. Rory Gibb

Sasha & John Digweed - Renaissance: The Mix Collection

What made all the bluster concerning last year’s 20th anniversary of Britpop so disingenuous was that it overlooked the moment when the second wave of dance music crossed over to a wider audience. Arguably one of the first – and best - DJ mixes of its kind to be released on CD, the then upcoming talents of Sasha and John Digweed blended effortlessly a heady and hedonistic miasma of progressive house and early trance that included Leftfield, Underworld, and Age of Love to freeze in time forever the euphoric nights that would become days that would become euphoric nights again. Julian Marszalek

James Holden - At the Controls

Border Community’s James Holden was at the vanguard of the new breed of digital DJs, and on At the Controls he delivers a masterclass in how to use Ableton to bring together eclectic sounds and make a cohesive piece that still feels like it was made with love by a human being. In Holden’s hands Malcolm Middleton into Aphex Twin’s Xtal works. It bangs, it drifts, it jars, it melts – it’s a deep, immersive mix that is progressive in every sense. Joe Clay

Grouper - FACT Mix 379

Liz Harris’ eerie FACT mix, Image Of True Death, begins with a poem about being dead by Ivor Cutler, followed by the delicate beauty of Jandek’s ‘Nancy Sings’ and Anne Briggs’ haunting a cappella rendition of the traditional ‘Thorneymoor Woods’. This trio sets the tone. Harris’ mix maintains a gothic, timeless atmosphere throughout; if it wasn’t for the subtle electronic flourishes at the midway point, occasional American accents or the beautiful, stripped down version of Blackmail by Swans, it could double as the soundtrack to an ethereal Elizabethan tragedy. It’s an elegantly organised collection, at once educational, exciting and unnerving. Tom Hughes

Ben UFO - Rinse:16

A DJ who has heavily informed on much of the music that I hold dear today (primarily thanks to the blessing of Hessle Audio’s ongoing weekly Rinse FM residency), no request to share some of my favourite mixes could come without a contribution from Ben UFO, one third of the Hessle triumvirate. Between the quick-fire pace of his 2013 addition to the Fabriclive series, the all-corners-covered showcase of Rinse:16 and the dizzying hedonism of last year’s Dekmantel set, whittling it down to one was tough, but Rinse:16 ultimately wins out, owing to its ability to capture just what makes Ben Thomson such an important, and above all else, entertaining selector and DJ. Coming at a time when Ben was edging more and more towards the house and techno that mostly punctuates his sets today, this mix displays what has made him the revered DJ he is today, rejecting the easy option of filling the mix with unreleased exclusives - no doubt, there are some present - and instead highlighting some then relatively hidden oddities, Dro Carey and STL for example, and lining them up alongside older personal favourites from the likes of Carl Craig, Soul Capsule and Actress. Ben’s perhaps a tad tired of the “DJ’s DJ” description by now, but Rinse:16 is the work of a DJ unbound by strict genre or BPM restrictions, as he smoothly flits between house, techno, UK Garage and the bass music that characterised much of Hessle’s earlier output, before paring it all down as Bok Bok’s ‘Silo Pass’ dissolves into a trio of beatless pieces from Pearson Sound, Andrew Coltrane and How To Dress Well to round the mix out. Christian Eede

Richie Hawtin & John Acquaviva - X-Mix 3: Enter – Digital Reality! (Studio !K7, 1994)

A fine summation of a golden period for techno, this 1994 two-hander finds the Plus 8 co-founders working together (apart) in perfect harmony. Acquaviva actually shades Hawtin, from the sublime opener, 'At First Light' by Sysex, via Scanner and Laurent Garnier’s incredible ‘Astral Dreams (Speakers Mix)’ with some Hardfloor to round it all off. Hawtin’s mix is still top drawer, as he digs deep into his own catalogue on a harder excursion. It has the dubious honour of inspiring Dave “Roll another fat one” Pearce to get behind the decks after he heard it at a friend’s party. Joe Clay

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36

Of a piece with the rest of his music from around the time, Ricardo Villalobos’ contribution to the Fabric series is one of those rare mixes that makes no effort to capture your attention from the off - a bone-dry opening 15 minutes, with twig-snap drums and the odd, almost offhand flourish of sampled live percussion, is a tease and a warning: you’re either in it for the long haul, or not at all. Much of Fabric 36 floats along in a kind of exquisite tedium, the peak-night rush simmered down into a punch-drunk after-hours drift, now too exhausted and spannered to do much other than keep time as your consciousness lolls around somewhere near the back of your eye sockets. But it’s that skittish body-rhythm bedrock that makes its highlights so extraordinary, as new additions and embellishments leap out in vivid 3D from the environment you’d previously become habituated to. Mirroring Villalobos’ sets, which often involve wading through a comfortable opening hour or two before things start to get really bloody weird, signs that not all is at ease begin to prick at your awareness around 20 minutes in: the boxing-jab bassline of ‘Mecker’ disturbs the heartbeat equilibrium; ‘Fizpatrick’ spirals upward like grains of pollen in a breeze. Then 'Andriuc & Japan’ drags you down, down, down, into an Alice In Wonderland-esque drug-dementia labyrinth where clattering rhythms suddenly drop away into nothing and apparently safe pathways are revealed to be booby-trapped corridors that squeeze in to crush air from lungs. The mix heads towards its close in a glorious breath of fresh air, ‘Primer Encuentro Latino-Americano’, but by this point it’s difficult to imagine it ever really ending; tellingly, it finishes by simply fading into the distance, as if a concerned friend is leading you by the arm towards the scant comforts of reality, while the groove thumps ever on out of earshot. Rory Gibb

Mumdance - Mahraganat Mixtape for Dummy

Mumdance’s Mahraganat Mixtape begins with the sound of vibrant Cairo streets and this sense of hustle and bustle seeps into the entire mix like thick city smog. A busy, breathless, breakneck pace is maintained during the half hour of original Mahraganat music, with Mumdance – a predominantly garage and grime producer – overseeing a glorious celebration of modern Egyptian music. Despite the choppy nature of the frantic tracks, artists such as Dezel, Kanaka, Alaa Fifty, Sadat and Islam Chipsy are woven together seamlessly to produce an intense expression of unreserved energy and joy. Tom Hughes

Jam City - Earthly III

Following the club constructions of Earthly and Earthly II, the first two instalments in Jam City’s Earthly mix series, the third volume was, immediately at least, perhaps a slight shock to the system but, now more clearly than ever, came as a fitting precursor to second album Dream A Garden. Bringing together an array of Jack Latham’s long-held influences in the post-punk of The Cure, Dead Can Dance and The Pop Group and acoustic offerings from Joni Mitchell, Tweet and Little Feat, alongside hip-hop from J Dilla and Sage The Gemini, Earthly III largely occupies the 100 BPM territory throughout. The transitions may seem a little rough and ready at times, and parts of it subjected through a few too many filters, but such details are unimportant in this context. It’s a mix that could only be birthed in an era that requires a fightback, a push against an unrepresentative, dominant and outrightly heartless government, simultaneously presenting positivity through the various optimistic tales of love and hope that figure throughout, and a focus for what there is to fight for and against. Latham’s musical choices are interwoven with quotes from the enemy (David Cameron on the 2011 riots sparked by Mark Duggan’s death at the hands of the Met, ‘vlogger’ Zoella’s account of a Primark shopping spree, news clips of austerity-driven policies) and allies (bell hooks on feminism and intersectionality, Angela Davis speaking at the Occupy Wall Street protests, sociologist Herbert Marcuse discussing a “revolution in paradise”). Collectively, it forms one compelling and ultimately hopeful listen that makes me believe, even if just for its 53-minute duration, that a better future is realistically achievable, where those driving forward in their own self-interest, sucking the life out of my home city in order to line their own pockets with no regard for anybody else, can be beaten. Speaking to Latham earlier this year, he posed the question: “How do we make fighting oppression beautiful and calming and healing as well as angry?” Earthly III goes a considerable way to providing the sonic answer to that proposition. Christian Eede

Coldcut - 70 Minutes Of Madness (Journeys By DJ)

The title of this article poses a particular problem for me. The word 'favourite' means I should probably abandon most concepts of innovative mixing techniques, "superior" taste, obsessive crate digging skills, the evidence of deep listening and simply concentrate on which tapes, CDs and streaming mixes have sound-tracked my all-time best nights out, the wickedest pills I've taken, the most joyful reunions with friends, the most out of control after club sessions back at someone's house... The kind of events where certainly the order of the day was not sitting round, adjusting one's cravat, sipping from a china cup of Earl Grey and announcing, "My, that really was some fine beat juggling there and, but oh my gosh what a wry juxtaposition of intelligent drum & bass with minimal techno..." In all probability most of these parties - where people ended up dancing in the back garden as the sun came up - were soundtracked by a mix currently popular during that month, taped from a pirate by some unknown DJ, or were from KISS FM or Radio One, or a cover-mounted CD that came with a magazine, knocked out by the likes of Jon Carter, Plump DJs, Marshall Jefferson, Red Alert, Funkmaster Flex or David Holmes where the object of the exercise was making people dance not making them stroke their well-sculpted mid-90s rave goatee. However, it's not a complete binary and there's always plenty of shaded area on the Venn Diagram if you're willing to look for it. If there is one mix CD I can listen to in pretty much any situation you care to name, it's this astounding mix by Coldcut, ably backed by Strictly Kev and PC. I won't say anything else about it because of the giant feature we ran on it yesterday but I will say this. If you've never heard this mix before then I'm genuinely really jealous of you. Twenty years later it's still melting my head. New colour. New sound. New value. John Doran

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