Every Saturday night at 1am in the UK, Pete Tong allows an artist of his choosing to take over the Radio 1 airwaves for two full hours. The Essential Mix is legendary and for many of these DJs and producers, the pressure feels immense. A stellar mix can shoot you to recognition, solidify a career, or facilitate a comeback. Although with the generous input of fans, Pete Tong does eventually crown an Essential Mix of the year himself (last year: Above & Beyond), we also put our heads together to decide on the ten mixes from 2012 that made us listen again, and again, and again.
10. Miguel Campbell (August 25)
In at number 10 is Leeds-based producer Miguel Campbell both off Hot Creations and his own label, Outcross. This mix was aired a few months before the release of his Back In Flight School album, but provided a great foundation for Miguel Campbell fans, new and old. The mix is largely focused on deep house, but he sprinkles in fun surprises like Fred Falke‘s “808pm at the Beach” and Paul Johnson’s “Blue is for The Soul.” For us, the carefully curated choices from his labelmates and peers like MAM as well as a very solid representation of his own production style is why Miguel’s mix is showing up on our list this year.
9. Nicole Moudaber (June 23)
Nicole Moudaber is crowned queen of techno these days and her Essential Mix from back in June radiates a truly global, tribal, and pure strain of the genre. She throws in big bombs like her then-new collaboration with Victor Calderone, several unreleased tracks, and a whole string of tunes from her pals at Drumcode, Defected, and Ovum Records. With so much excitement over the summer months, Nicole’s mix manages to shine as one of the brightest stars in the DJing sky.
8. Paul Oakenfold (July 21)
Not only has Paul Oakenfold produced more Essential Mixes in his long, long career than any other artist (over 30), but he was also the second person to ever appear on the show back in the day. This mix, which he titled “Fluorescence,” is a true showcase of his ear for interesting and diverse music. Traditionally, we’d define this as trance, but it’s so much more than that. Much of Paul Oakenfold’s work defined the sound of the burgeoning rave scene in the late eighties in the UK, and we’re truly amazed how incredibly relevant and forward-thinking his work here remains to this day.
7. Hardwell (November 24)
Hardwell‘s Essential Mix, in our opinion, represents the new breed of big room. It hits hard, it sounds perfect on a booming system, and its simplicity is to be admired. “Spaceman” shot Hardwell to recognition this year (he even landed in the number 6 spot on DJ Mag’s poll) and he’s been on a tear ever since. In this two hour mix, Hardwell manages to squeeze in pretty much every huge festival tune from the summer without ever missing a beat. Soak it in.
6. Jacques Lu Cont (July 14)
The “imaginary Frenchman” aka Thin White Duke aka Stuart Price aka Jacques Lu Cont solidified a comeback this year both with a busy touring schedule, several new originals and remixes and of course, this top-notch Essential Mix. If there is one mix on this list we listened to the most, it would be JLC’s. The man just knows what sounds good — be it hard-hitting electro, classic French house, vintage rave, or even minimal techno.
5. Feed Me (September 8)
This list wouldn’t be complete without Feed Me‘s stunning mix from back in September. Feed Me, also known by his drum-and-bass producer alias Spor, uses this two hours mostly to display his own bassed out originals. If you ever need to argue that dubstep is music, use this mix as fodder. Feed Me’s Essential Mix rips through 26 of his own tracks, multiple remixes (don’t miss his take on Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” and AWOL Nation’s “Sail”), and exclusives from Kill The Noise and Deadmau5. Oh, and if you haven’t seen his live show — add it to your to-do list.
4. Nicky Romero (April 28)
Nicky Romero spent the year touring the world and representing the best of big room and Dutch house music with an acid tinge (not to be confused with Dirty Dutch) and his Essential Mix from April really ties it all together for him. “Camorra,” “Toulouse,” “Se7en,” “Generation 303,” and “Nicktim” –all featured on this mix –were such massive songs on the club circuit in 2012. Playing this for the first time, we worried it would bore us, but Nicky really proves he was able to innovate and create a distinctive sound when it’s easy to be formulaic.
3. Arty (February 11)
Arty, a name that has rocketed to progressive house stardom over the last year, put together a mix in February that represented the best of his own work, tracks that were exclusives or new back in the day (like “Trio” with Matisse & Sadko), and a sprinkling of absolute anthems for both big room and trance fans. Uplifting, melodic, and euphoric is for damn sure.
2. Maceo Plex (February 18)
Who knew it was possible to aurally define raw sexuality in a DJ mix? Maceo Plex has been completely destroying the underground world this year — it is now obvious this mix was just the foundation. He takes influences from all the different phases of his production career — electro, techno, minimal, and straight up house — to carefully craft our favorite underground mix of the year. It’s complex and dark but also seductive and joyous. You will listen to this mix and hear something different every single time. If you haven’t gotten on the Maceo train yet, it’s time to hop on board.
1. Thomas Gold (November 3)
If there’s one mix that really captured the zeitgeist of 2012, we believe it is Thomas Gold‘s contribution from November. This mix features an impressive array of bootlegs, mashups, reworks, and remixes from the top names in big room house from the last couple of years. The scale of this one is massive from start to finish and every time we listen to it we notice a different little intricacy that he’s added in. Bring on the marching bands, orchestras, and soaring vocal riffs (thanks Adele).