Okay. First of all, I know I promised a Riff roundup of MoJo staffers’ favorite albums of the year today, but only a few intrepid souls got their lists to me in time, so I’m abandoning my attempt to create an overall list. Instead, welcome to the Riff‘s Week of Top Tens, where I (and hopefully other Riffers) will be posting some of our favorite stuff ‘n’ things of the year. To kick it off: various-artist DJ sets.
As you’ve probably noticed, I like a good mix. There’s a lot of music that seems to truly fulfill its destiny only in the hands of an able DJ, and a long form mix is a great way to discover new artists and styles. I admit, this is a ridiculously subjective Top Ten (featuring mixes that first appeared on my Top Tens here throughout the year). I know there were probably millions of DJ sets released on the internet just since this morning, but these have been in rotation on my iPod the most.
10. DJ Dub-4 “September 07 Mix” (grab an mp3 via Mashit)
I’m not sure what “kuduro” is, apparently it’s an Angolan/Portuguese dance music inspired by traditional carnival music and carrying political messages. So says Wikipedia. Here it gets combined with Jamaican dancehall and UK breaks for a set that has an unmistakably tropical sheen, sweaty and syncopated, a perfect antidote to winter storm warnings or soggy California nights.
9. Diplo BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix (9/16/2007) (download via Filter27)
Diplo’s DJ sets have been all over the place this year and they’ve been kind of hit-or-miss; his widely-hyped set for Pitchfork was a little too random, but he seemed to learn his lessons and tighten it up for the BBC, never letting the energy level fall below “freakout.” Whether it’s the head-spinning opening mashup frenzy (yes, that’s Soulja Boy over Eddie Money) or the thuddy techno, dancehall and hip-hop sections, it’s a whirlwind tour through just about everything that’s good in music today, with extra M.I.A. for good measure.
8. DJ Joven Live at Zizek, Buenos Aires (4/18/2007) (go here and scroll down)
My buddy Disco Shawn turned me on to the Argentinian avant-cumbia scene, and while there were cool mixes this year from Villa Diamante, Oro11 and more, this set from DJ Joven has the most fascinatingly eclectic appeal. Whether he’s mixing Justin Timberlake over traditional cumbia beats or recreating the style electronically, it’s world music in the best sense.
7. Shinichi Osawa – “Kitsune Udon” (listen to samples here) (secret link to an mp3 here)
One of the toughest mixes to track down on this list, this only-in-Japan release features tracks from French label-of-the-moment Kitsune, and while some of the same players show up (Presets, Guns ‘n’ Bombs) there’s a fresh perspective here on the skronky techno and indie-rock remixes.
6. Mad Decent Podcast #17: High School Hyphy (iTunes podcast link here)
Bringing together the best tracks from the excellent In School Suspension compilation, this mix proves the Bay Area’s Hyphy movement has some awesome talent coming up through the ranks. These whistle-y, whispery tracks have a serious party spirit, and even though this mix comes in under 20 minutes, it’ll have you ghostriding the whip in no time.
5. Sinden 21 Minutes to Know Me (zshare link here)
London DJ and Switch-protege Sinden is fast becoming one of the biggest names in ecstatic, Baltimore-inflected house; every one of his remixes this year has been a revelation, whether it’s a silly, stompy version of “Fever” or a disorienting cut-up of Amy Winehouse. This quick little mix hits all the high points.
4. James Murphy and Pat Mahoney Fabriclive 36 (listen to samples here)
I don’t know where these guys get these records, or when they were even made. Was there a huge underground space-disco scene in New York in the ’70s that produced masterpiece after masterpiece, and only James Murphy has all the 12″ singles? Jeez. Lucky. Well, this mix for the London nightclub and label was apparently created on a classic Bozak mixer, “one of the first DJ mixers ever built,” and the sound is warm and inviting.
3. Jokers of the Scene Top Shelf Motherfucker Mix (download at Discobelle here)
My initial description of this mix lauded its combination of traditionally black and white musical lineages; now, in the wake of a controversial New Yorker article, that agenda (intentional or otherwise) seems all the more admirable. But mostly this is just tons of fun: Snoop, Pharoahe Monch and Steve Miller all get thrown in a blender and re-edited over thundering beats, coming out sounding like the biggest party in town. Bonus points for the way they suddenly drop down to hip-hop speed and then loop their way back up to a dance tempo: exhilarating.
2. Simian Mobile Disco Live @ Radio 1 Big Weekend (5/20/07) (rapidshare link)
Talk about “big.” Flawlessly mixed (and often in key), it’s hard to believe they were doing this set live, but mixing it up they were, in front of a huge festival crowd. Combining the duo’s own hard, rockist techno with forward-looking tracks by Duke Dumont and Switch, this mix is “mental” in the best sense of the word.
1. James Holden Live at Piknic Electronic (9/9/07) (download at Andersblog here)
Wikipedia says UK producer and DJ James Holden studied math at Oxford, something that makes perfect sense after hearing the absolute precision of this 3-hour (!) set recorded at a Montreal festival. It’s somewhat innocuous for a #1 slot—no booming B-More beats or easy-cheesy samples?!—but Holden focuses on slow-building, organic-sounding and abstract beats, along with stunning-yet-subtle remixes of Beck and Madonna (!!), for a set that ends up having an almost mystical beauty. It’s complex and intense enough that I wish I’d been there dancing along, but so calm and hypnotic that I’ve fallen asleep to its gentle hum on many airplanes. Mostly it’s inspiring, strange, and expansive, like nothing else I heard all year.