And overall, we like what we see. It feels like the list becomes a little more diverse each year, and in 2015 we have a healthy number of new entries to celebrate. They join DJs who make the list year-on-year, and those who have recently broken the top 20 and stayed there. This list may only be the tip of our culture’s iceberg, but together these DJs represent where dance music is at in 2015.
Answer Code Request’s monthly slot at Berghain has long been a favourite for clued-in Berlin clubbers. This year he took his style of slanting, groovy techno to the world, touring places like Australia, Singapore and Canada for the first time.
Packing a bag full of ultra-trippy bangers, Barnt played it weird and wonderfully direct this year, whether walloping Nachtdigital with Joy Orbison or smashing the terrace at Amnesia.
Alessandro and Federico Fognini are in the midst of what’s often called a “meteoric rise.” In 2014, just three years after they started DJing as Mind Against, the Italian brothers burst onto this list at #33. 12 months, two EPs and more than 100 gigs later, they break the top 20. For this, they have their sound to thank: ethereal and bittersweet but with enough oomph to rock a club, the Life And Death duo reliably supply the night’s deeper shades.
Tunes didn’t come much bigger in 2015 than Bicep’s Dominica edit, although “Just,” an original production from the duo, wasn’t far behind. The boys from Belfast deployed both expertly this year on a touring schedule that swept them through four continents. But despite Bicep’s ever-increasing fame, they remain a pair of humble, music-obsessed friends with a passion for finding and playing amazing music.
There have been many ways to measure Jamie Jones’s popularity over the years—the era-defining label, the chart-topping band, headline slots at every major club and festival on the planet—but if you want to gauge why he remains such a force, then look to Ibiza. Jones’s Paradise residency had DC-10 bursting at the seams every week, full of a new generation of kids ready to live by his good-times manifesto. The reason they revere him? He used to be one of them.
Niall Mannion now lives in a tiny scenic village on the outskirts of Zurich. That might seem like an odd place for a world-famous dance DJ to lay his head, but it shows how Mannion has moved beyond his early associations. He’s no longer known as the Berlin staple, the Panorama Bar regular or the honorary member of Innervisions. He’s just Mano Le Tough, with his own irresistible style—sometimes melancholy, sometimes uplifting, always on point.
There’s a nice moment at the end of Motor City Drum Ensemble’s closing set at Dimensions Festival 2015. He looks out at the crowd, visibly moved by the response to his performance. From the way the crowd looks, the feeling is mutual. With each passing year Danilo Plessow edges higher and higher up this list, and with good reason. It’s rare that he plays a record that’s anything less than phenomenal, whether it’s house, disco, soul or krautrock, a classic or an obscurity—and the way he stitches them together is damn near flawless.
What makes Solomun such a global draw? The answer lies in his DJ style, which blurs the lines between pop and club music. His sound may have moved in a darker, leaner direction in 2015, but for every Plastikman or Ø [Phase] track there was another well-timed classic just around the corner. Few DJs can get away with this—playing techno at Pacha Ibiza one minute, headlining Robert Johnson or Tomorrowland the next. It’s this versatility that has earned Solomun his highest ranking to date.
What makes Laurent Garnier a great DJ in 2015 is the same thing that made him a great DJ in 2005 and 1995: the Frenchman turns out fantastic club and festival sets. He only played around 30 times this year—the fewest of any DJ in the top 100. But he chose his gigs carefully, playing mostly in France, where he’s a certified national treasure. He spent his time away from the DJ booth just as wisely, working on film and radio projects as well asrelaunching his legendary F Communications label.
Kieran Hebden might be the most in-form DJ on the circuit. He’s been a fixture on this list for years, but in 2015 he’s climbed an eye-catching 79 places. Sure, he gave us some great releases, including a lush two-track album, but this year his DJing was in sharp focus. No matter the situation, his sets always sounded super fresh, and his back-to-backs with Pearson Sound, Jamie xx, Caribou, Floating Points and Skrillex revealed a deep record bag and a supreme confidence in what he was doing.
This year some fans have taken to calling Rødhåd “a butcher.” The nickname puzzled the German artist, who sees his approach as “sensitive and balanced”—qualities you wouldn’t normally associate with someone booked at festivals like Awakenings and Time Warp. But he’s right: what brings him to bigger and bigger stages is his knack for offsetting heavy techno with more melodic sounds, a balance that wins over everyone on the floor.
Kristian Beyer has been an insatiable digger for decades—much of what his labelmates play comes from his ever-growing collection. This, combined with his flawless mixing and impeccable sense of pace, is what makes him so enthralling as a DJ: you’re hearing the tracks that have bubbled to the top of his vast personal library, constructed into something grandiose, romantic and unmistakably Âme.
It’s hard to imagine a more well-rounded techno DJ than Ben Klock. He’ll play Coachella, then a week or two later he’ll be back in the booth at Berghain, continuing the residency that helped make him a superstar. He remains instrumental in bringing the club’s sound to the world, but it’s his decades-deep knowledge of techno, his stamina—Klock doesn’t really do weekends off—and contagiously good vibe that have given him staying power on this poll.
When Seth Troxler took over the Mixmag Lab in November, he was introduced as an “underground” favourite, despite being one of the most famous DJs in the world. That and the breezy set that followed were a testament to how real Troxler likes to keep it. He plays records with the unpretentious attitude of someone mixing in his living room (which is exactly what he did on his entry in the long-running DJ-Kicks series this year). And whether he’s spinning in an office or a festival stage, he’ll always make it a night to remember.
It’s obvious why Ricardo Villalobos is still such an absorbing figure. He’s been at it for 20 years, but rather than sliding into comfort-zone DJing or studio inactivity, he just keeps pushing. Killer remixes of a Trax white label and an Afrobeat deity? A long-awaited return to the US? An excellent experimental LP with Max Loderbauer? A reissue of two all-time classics? DJ sets that ranged from banal to brilliant? He did it all in 2015.
Jack Revill is a man with little time for bullshit. He comes from a place where there’s no room for big egos, and his DJing embodies this spirit. He’s the kind of guy who’ll smash club classics withArmand Van Helden. Play Stirling on a Wednesday night. Drop amix with zero pretention and maximum energy. And take down your number for directions to the afterparty.
He reminds us of a simple but easily forgotten fact: DJs can play literally anything they want. As he leaps from obscure house to modern techno to garage to Afrobeat to whatever else, the Hessle Audio co-founder is intent on capturing the dance music zeitgeist in its entirety. But as impressive as all that is, it’s his uncanny ability to shape these sounds into something rich, dynamic and utterly party-rocking that makes him one of the world’s best DJs.
From DC-10 to Primavera Sound to Dekmantel Festival, from anR&S EP to a collaboration with Mind Against, Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri had an enormous year, and they’ve never sounded more of the moment. They play and produce music that’s darkly dramatic and overwhelmingly minor-key, but the finesse and flexibility they bring to the mix makes their sets precisely the sort of uplifting escapism that dance floors the world over crave.
In November, Eric Estornel recorded his third Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1. Alongside many of his own recent productions, it featured old techno and electro cuts, showing a side to the artist that few people get to see. Because here’s the thing: Estornel’s success didn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of 25 years of dedication and hard work, so it’s no surprise that he continues to outshine almost everyone around him.
THE ONE AND ONLY……..
There’s a simple reason why this keeps happening. Dixon, more than perhaps any other DJ, has a monk-like devotion to his craft and to his fans. Hardly a fraction of his week isn’t spent somehow upping his game. He skips pre-gig naps to edit tracks in his hotel room, making nips and tucks to render his theatrical house bombs that much more explosive. He squeezes in an extra set at the end of the weekend because he thinks that’s when he plays best—four cities and as many flights deep, ill-rested but thoroughly warmed up. And, together with his Innervisions crew, he throws parties in unique locations, at considerable cost and added risk, because it will more likely make for an extraordinary experience.
It’s unprecedented for a DJ to hit #1 three years in a row, but in this case it’s not the least bit surprising. Beyond the actual act of DJing, Steffen Berkhahn has a clarity of vision that sets him apart from other artists. This is part of what’s made Innervisions so distinctive from the beginning, in its sound, its artwork and its events. It’s also what gives Berkhahn’s sets their singular character. Whether it’s your thing or not, Dixon’s cinematic sound is utterly unmistakable, and he delivers it with gusto in cities around the world every weekend. It seems only natural he should remain, year after year, one of the world’s most beloved DJs.