In 2008, a Scottish artist by the name of Calvin Harris had just begun hitting his stride and earning notice from the dance community at large. His debut LP offering the year before, I Created Disco, proved a hit and later led to collaborations with Kylie Minogue. He also earned credit on the tour circuit through support for Groove Armada and Faithless. Naturally, Pete Tong took interest in the burgeoning artist as well and promptly slotted him into his Essential Mix series.
We revisit Calvin Harris’ debut Essential Mix just days after its 11th birthday, which immediately places its listeners on a path down into the blog house era from whence it came. Iconic hits of the day like deadmau5′ “The Reward Is Cheese,” Riva Starr’s “I Jack U,” and Harris’ own twist on the DJ Assault hit “Ass N Titties” are featured, with additional flecks of Santagold, Pryda, and Cosmonauts. It’s a nostalgic journey that maintains the same levels of cheery fun that ensued upon its October 2008 debut, and served as another early indicator of the success Harris would continue to reap as he climbed the dance music ranks.
Boys Noize has been a pioneer since breaking out in the early aughts. A decade ago, he was one of the standout artists helming the blog house movement and bringing it to the prominence it had at its peak. It was also around this time that his namesake imprint really began taking off as a platform for top quality music.
Naturally, Pete Tong had his eyes on the German icon from his earliest years, and in 2009, invited him onto Essential Mix. The mix is now a sonic time capsule from the memorable time that was the Blog House Era, with a great deal of the selections mirroring the distinctive mixture of funk, electro, and tech that dominated the dance music sphere at the time. To boot, Boys Noize mixed entirely in vinyl, showing off his mixing skills in any medium.
His mix now turns ten years old on October 10, and to honor it, we’ve selected it as this week’s edition of Weekend Rewind.
Back in 2012, Skrillex had just been crowned an EDM superstar. His unique brand of raucous dubstep was dominating the charts and social media alike. Of course, those familiar with how social media treats superstars will remember that the trolls had Skrillex in their crosshairs as well.
Success breeds contempt on the internet, and Twitter A&R was ready to typecast Skrillex—real name Sonny Moore—as nothing more than a dubstep producer who made his name on spectacle rather than substance. Moore, however, didn’t feed the fire with his own internet assault, as so many of his peers would have done. Instead, he threw everyone a curveball. Not only did he collaborate with Boys Noize, a bonafide legend on a new project called Dog Blood, but he also invented an entirely new genre entitled “electronic-core-rave-metal” with his new German cohort.
Naysayers would contend that this project and genre were equivalent to Moore’s previous work: eye- and ear-catching for no reason other than a claim to originality. Looking back though, it’s clear this project was born from a love of music and chemistry he shared with Boys Noize, aka Alexander Ridha. Dog Blood never embarked on a worldwide, 200-date tour, and to this day, they haven’t even put out five releases. This project demonstrates the best parts of music culture: mutual respect among talented artists leading to fresh, innovative music.
Now there is a new four-track EP from Dog Blood just around the corner. To honor the release from this dance music supergroup, Dancing Astronaut looks back at a sunrise set from the pair at Monegros in 2014. Adopting an entirely different vibe than Dog Blood sets are known for, these 90 minutes prove that Moore and Ridha shared undeniable chemistry as DJs and that their taste goes deeper than any naysayer would care to look.
Madeon was just 16 years old when he crafted his entrancing remix of deadmau5‘s “Raise Your Weapon.” He had just won a remix contest for Pendulum’s “The Island,” and in the months following this deadmau5 remix, the French prodigy would release his “Pop Culture” live mashup on YouTube, garnering him thousands of new fans and priming him to release “Icarus” at the beginning of the following year. (To date, “Pop Culture” has nearly 50 million views on YouTube.)
deadmau5’s “Raise Your Weapon” came out in May 2011, followed by official remixes from Noisia, Stimming, and, of course, Madeon. The young artist flexed serious remixing skills on this piece, packing the sultry number with energetic melodies and quirky twists and turns. Madeon’s remix quickly became beloved by deadmau5 fans, along with those who were discovering the teenage prodigy. Happy birth month, “Raise Your Weapon.”
Ultra Music Festival is upon us, and what better of a time than now to revisit one of the most boundary-pushing and genre-bending performances to have ever taken place at the festival? Avicii headlined the main stage at Ultra Music Festival for the first time in 2012, bringing out none other than Madonna to open his performance. As he reclaimed the headlining spot in 2013, expectations were high after his “Levels” and “Seek Bromance”-filled 2012 set.
Tim Bergling (Avicii) was known at the time for bringing electronic music to the mainstream, but 2013 was the beginning of his true experimentation on one of the world’s biggest stages—literally and figuratively—for an electronic music artist. The set has now gone down in history as one of the performances that have helped to solidify him as a musical genius and a true artistic innovator. Bergling complemented his euphoria-inducing progressive songs with a collection of country, rock, and soul artists, whom he featured in album True. He brought to the stage country legend Mac Davis, bluegrass musician Dan Tyminski, singer Audra Mae, soul artist Aloe Blacc, Incubus guitarists Mike Einziger and Ben Kenney, and Incubus drummer Jose Pasillis II.
Bergling spoke to Dancing Astronaut in 2013 about the performance, stating, “It’s about how to incorporate acoustic instruments from different styles and influences you wouldn’t expect and still stay true to your own sound and musicality, which for me has always been about the melodies and positive energy.”
Bringing country musicians on stage at Ultra was not simply unexpected, but in many cases, unwanted. Cross-genre collaborations are inherent to expanding one’s artistry in 2019, but it is this performance that began a shift of mentality at the time. Bergling took the reactions in stride, and continued to innovate and broaden the reach of not only his own music, but the reach of the genre as a whole.
Swedish powerhouse producer Eric Prydz has been in the game for years, but his never-ending oasis of talent just keeps on giving. In late 2018, he played a slew of shows under his techno alias Cirez D alongside Adam Beyer and kicked off 2019 with select Pryda shows. Later this year, he’ll be bringing his insane hologram setup to Creamfields for a visually stunning HOLO live performance. While Prydz’s dedication to innovating for the most advanced technology stands on a calibre of its own amongst the industry, Dancing Astronaut would like to recognize where his visionary projects stemmed from and look back on his greatest strength: mixing. Twelve years ago this month, Prydz took to the Radio 1 decks for his Essential Mix 2007, still one of his greatest mixes to date.
Prydz weaves progressive, electro, and techno into his Essential Mix, taking listeners on a two-hour journey. Featuring tracks from both his Pryda and covert Tonja Holma alias, his eclectic selection also incorporates several of his own edits on tracks from artists Arno Cost, Brett Johnson and D’Malicious. Dance-worthy, energy-ridden and, of course, mixed to perfection, this Essential Mix will forever go down in the books as testimony to Eric Prydz as one of this generation’s most timeless DJs.
Swedish House Mafia continue to make their return to the electronic sector one painstaking step at a time, the most recent of which directed the three-part supergroup to Columbia Recordsto pen a record deal with the label. Dancing Astronaut invites Swedish House Mafia fans to momentarily avert their eyes from the horizon where new SHM music has long loomed, to instead glance nine years backwards and relive the trio’s 2010 Creamfields Essential Mix as the ink of the Columbia agreement dries.
The Essential Mix takes streamers back to Aug. 29, 2010, a time in which Axwell, Ingrosso, and Angello were jointly pioneering their iconicity as Swedish House Mafia. The 2010 set, live from Daresbury, England pairs a number of classic Swedish House Mafia productions that have now ascended to catalog-staple status with remixes and edits of offerings from other electronic entities like Bingo Players, Calvin Harris, and Pendulum. Highlights include an instrumental rendition of “Miami 2 Ibiza,” and Axwell’s bootleg of “Tell Me Why vs. Bittersweet Symphony.”
Swedish House Mafia currently shoulder headlining duties for Creamfields’ 2019 edition, slated for Aug. 22-25.
One of Skrillex‘ most seminal works, Bangarang, has officially reached its seventh birthday. It was the then-burgeoning talent’s fourth EP, whose exploratory nature made it a standout of the time and an early indicator of the success to come later in his career. Totaling seven tracks, Bangarang maintained all the hallmarks of the Skrillex sound, but also saw him explore new realms along a series of fellow powerhouse collaborators. “Devil’s Den” with Wolfgang Gartner was a house-based rodeo that kicked up its robotic undertones with a variation of throwback synth riffs, for example, while his Ellie Goulding collaboration “Summit” showed off his softer side. Other notable singles from the EP were “Right On Time” with 12th Planet and Kill The Noise, and of course, title cut “Bangarang.” It was quite an out-of-the-box project at the time of its production, and showed off Skrillex’ willingness to step outside his comfort zone.
Eventually, Rolling Stone named Bangarang their 14th best electronic album of all time. We suspect it will still sound plenty timeless another seven years from now.
Essential Mix turned a quarter-century old this year, and per tradition, invited an array of top talent from newer and older generations to help with the festivities. The Black Madonna, Nicole Moudaber, Derrick Carter, and Skream were some notable names on the billing, lighting the iconic show’s decks up with house and techno. The show continues to chug along at a forward-thinking pace per usual, most recently hosting RÜFÜS DU SOL on November 30 for an emotive two hours.
It just so happens that five years ago on November 30, Pete Tong went b2b with Eats Everything as part of the series’ 20th birthday celebration — time certainly has a way of flying by. Sasha played before, filling the industrial Machester space with an hour of buzzy, melodic house gems that were some of his crate favorites at the time. Pete Tong and Eats Everything laid down heady grooves afterward, with cuts from Green Velvet, Martin Buttrich, Maceo Plex, and more. Both do well in bringing about good memories from that time in dance music.
Since it’s been a few months since Hardwell played his final live show following an official announcement that he’d retire from touring, now feels like the perfect time to revisit the hectic sets and infectious sounds that catapulted him into notoriety. His BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix from 2012 captures this iconic aesthetic perfectly, featuring “Apollo” and other original works that would later become the some of the heaviest weapons in his crate, plus other gems of the time like Porter Robinson‘s “Language.”
The artist gives fans insight into how he got his start during the introduction per usual Essential Mix protocol, reflecting that his style is between progressive and electro house and noting that he signed to his first label at just 14 years old. Although he has recently stopped touring, Hardwell is still producing music — meaning the wild energy fans have grown to love will live on through his original releases.