If you thought the DJs of the world were going to take it easy in 2021, think again. Every month, a flood of new DJ sets, live stream recording and mix series instalments hit the internet, providing hours and hours of possible escape.
With any number of subcultures finding oxygen on the internet, it’s impossible to pick any one ‘sound of 2021’. The mixes on our radar (from both established names and an inexhaustible new class of DJs) span techno, trance, footwork, UK garage, drum & bass and many other mutations of electronic music -- often in the space of one set.
From endless choices, these are the mixes that lift our spirits each month.
Cassius Select - Dekmantel Podcast 316
The Dekmantel mix series is a trove of boundary-pushing music, featuring some of the Dutch festival brand’s favourite selectors like Teki Latex, VTSS and DJ Earl. Canadian DJ/producer Cassius Select recently stepped up with this mix of off-kilter club music that refuses to settle in one groove. Rhythm-hopping but never chaotic, it’s both a serious and fun-loving hour. Cassius Select is now based in Hong Kong but spent almost a decade in Sydney, where he found kinship with a crew of like-minded producers.
J.C. - Ilian Tape Podcast Series 058
Munich-based duo Zenker Brothers have run the label Ilian Tape since 2007, showcasing artists like Surgeon, Stenny and Skee Mask. On the side, Ilian Tape also facilitates a genre-busting online mix series. This January entry from Madrid’s Jose Cabrera, aka J.C., perfectly fits the Ilian Tape trinity of hip-hop, dub and techno. J.C. is a regular at Berlin’s techno institution Tresor, and it’s fun to imagine these sounds enveloping you as a woozy warm-up set.
Russell E.L. Butler - Juanita’s Mix 035
New York-born community arts project Juanita’s is a major champion of the city’s underground talent, which shines through its killer mix series. The series showcases DJs playing outside their usual style, usually with a focus on understated home listening. New Yorkers like Turtle Bugg, Mike Servito and Anthony Naples have all excelled in the format, and this hour from recent New York arrival Russell E.L. Butler is another treat. The mix moves slowly and seductively through deep funk, soul and ambient electronics from the likes of Gang Gang Dance, Herbie Hancock and Sade. A mix for headphones.
Logic1000 - RA.764
Sydney’s own Samantha Poulter, aka Logic1000, is making a real name for herself on the global scene. Based in Berlin, the producer has turned out a string of undeniable club bangers that often hinge around manipulated R&B a capellas. For her turn on Resident Advisor’s mix series, Logic1000 weaves a two-hour journey from SAULT through to heavy-duty club gear. The tracklist also includes some enticing IDs from her studio. A mood-lifter for restless days.
DJ Q - RA.766
If UK garage and bassline lifts your spirits, this mix is a gift. Fresh from his 2020 2-step anthem 'All That I Could', UK mainstay DJ Q stepped up for Resident Advisor's long-running series in February. Doing his thing in a neat hour, the Huddersfield-born DJ leans heavily on his own releases alongside tunes from Zed Bias, Wolfie, Joker and garage original Todd Edwards. The mix has all the skittering rhythms, bouncy basslines and cut-up vocals a DJ Q fan could want.
Midland - As the city rests, a mixtape
Midland is one of the most creative minds in the underground house scene, but this isn't a club mix. Designed as a follow-up to the DJ/producer's 2018 mixtape 'As the city sleeps', this new 90-minute chapter meets our current global moment. Midland describes this mixtape as "a collection of songs that have kept me company over this odd year", intercut with field recordings from his past travels. Expertly stitching together songs by the likes of Massive Attack, Janet Jackson, Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba, it's a warm bath of sound.
Byrell The Great - Fact Mix 793
Byrell The Great is a star selector within New York's ballroom scene, playing music designed to make bodies really move. In his mix for Fact Mag's genre-bending series, Byrell The Great works in his own ballroom essentials like 'Humpz' and 'Pocket' alongside pop snippets and bumping gear from UNiiQU3, LSDXOXO and Paco Pack. “I wanted listeners to feel like we were back in the clubs cutting up on the dancefloor,” the DJ told Fact Mag. Mission accomplished.
Sicaria Sound - Dekmantel Podcast 323
As Sicaria Sound, Sancha Ndeko and Lou Nour make and play music that harkens back to the glory days of underground dubstep. The DJ/production duo dart all around the bass spectrum, from 140-BPM steamrollers to dark and murky atmospherics. Their March entry to Dekmantel’s mix series is a celebration of mood-drenched low-end. If you can’t hear it through powerful speaker stacks, headphones are a good second best.
Maelstrom - Bleep Mix 170
Mael Péneau, aka Maelstrom, inhabits the space between techno and electro that French producers excel in. Maelstrom is best known as co-founder of the label RAAR with compatriot Louisahhh, and he can also throw down a bracing DJ set. This entry to the Bleep Mix series features a selection of tracks from Maelstrom’s new album, Rhizome, alongside heaters by Objekt, Shed and Minor Science. Expect IDM, techno, electro, breakbeats and several moments of soaring drama.
Octo Octa - RA.769
Even in the current global era, Octo Octa stays busy. In addition to running the T4T LUV NRG label with her partner Eris Drew and releasing the killer EP She’s Calling, Octo Octa isn’t letting her record collection gather dust. This vinyl mix for the Resident Advisor podcast series is an uplifting hour of warm melodies, exultant vocals and ravey stretches. As the DJ put it to RA, the mix is “a story of queerness, love, hope and revelry.” Go ahead and let the light shine in.