We’ve selected 20 incredible Fact mixes that we think best represent a very strange year for music.
Global supply chains are fucked, touring the world is, for better or worse, becoming a thing of the past and nobody, aside from the crypto bros, has any money – 2021 has invariably been a weird time for musicians. Incredible projects are picked up and put down in a matter of weeks amidst the onslaught of new releases and, without a consistently accessible dancefloor to play on, for much of this year dance music has had to squeeze into living room and plague rave-shaped spaces. Through all of this, and despite some discourse circling around the supposedly dwindling and disposable nature of online mixes, our weekly mix series has held steadfast through some exceedingly tough times, standing as a reliable source of joyful energy, soul-scraping catharsis and therapeutic nourishment when we all needed it most.
We’ve selected 20 mixes that we think best represent an uncertain time. Some of these mixes feel very much like a response to the present moment, with Yen Tech piecing together a club-centric radio play about a boy called Kevin escaping conspiracy theorist parents, Loraine James working through music discovered while in lockdown and Skyshaker channeling months of angst and anguish into a furious four-deck dispatch. Daytimers member and The Beatriachy co-founder Gracie T flew the flag for the South Asian underground, Palmistry reflected on the fracturing of the contemporary psyche whilst sharing a beautiful tribute to SOPHIE and Shannen SP explored the recent history of old-school kwaito, South African hip-hop and house.
Others envision somewhere totally separate, sessions of sonic escapism that sent us to new places entirely. Malibu’s unforgettable contribution saw her gliding through slowed Eurotrance standards and cinematic soundscapes, a healing balm for frazzled brains. Actual Objects, partially headed up by Rick Farin, fka Eaves, created a cyberpunk avatar who moves to his productions in real time, while exael executed his own form of world-building, riding the line between emotional home-listening and screwy social sounds. Yazzus looked back to her youth, combining the soundtracks to classic ’90s video games with hard, fast and sexy techno, while TSVI introduced us to the bizarre world of gorge, relentless tracks designed “to communicate the aesthetic and spiritual sublimity of rock climbing.”
Alternately, some of our favorite mixes just banged. De Schuurman ran us through a thrilling showcase of the irresistible sound of bubbling, DJ Manny explored the romantic side of footwork and juke and Will Lister spiralled through grit, gauze and glitch with his “one-deck mix.” Crystallmess redefined the meaning of “godspeed” and Tom Boogizm demonstrated that he is, undeniably, one of the very best to ever do it. Below you will find, unranked and listed alphabetically, 20 indisposable mixes from 2021.
One fundamental pillar of multidisciplinary studio Actual Objects’ wider practice is music. Rick Farin’s soundtrack work with Berlin-based producer Theo Karon can be very much be understood as emerging out of the intricate, muscular productions he was making as Eaves, thick washes of sci-fi sound design, pummeling batteries of weaponised percussion and precision-engineered sample fuckery filling every inch of their digital topographies. Their dizzying contribution to Fact’s mix series is a stunning showcase of “sounds that bring their own context with them,” fusing 30 minutes of frazzled Ableton gymnastics with a glimpse of Actual Objects’ visual universe, as a virtual avatar curates the duo’s sounds in real time.
Byrell The Great has been at the heart of New York’s ballroom scene for over a decade, notably as one of the top DJs in the youth-driven kiki subculture. His music reflects the high energy nature of kiki balls, combining classic ballroom sounds with a contemporary flair for production. On his Fact Mix, the producer delivers a straight-up club mix featuring tracks from himself and contemporaries LSDXOXO and Divoli S’vere, as well as Leonce, DJ Swisha, Bored Lord and more. “I wanted listeners to feel like we were back in the clubs cutting up on the dance floor,” says Byrell The Great. “No matter where you from or what you give, as long as you like dancing to club music you’ll dance to this mix!”
“If God exists, what’s his/her/their speed? What is godspeed?” asks multidisciplinary artist Christelle Oyiri for her ferocious contribution to Fact’s mix series under her beloved Crystallmess moniker. “In my opinion it’s somewhere around 85 BPM, so I dived into my jungle favorites, some edits I freshly created for the mix, expect unreleased gems by parisian producers GREG and Bambounou as well. I guess this mix feels like stomping the ground, and snatching respect insolently, instead of asking for it!” Fittingly, Oyiri opens the mix with an excerpt from her latest performance work, Rest In Peace Aporia, a collaboration with Gaëlle Antsoni-Koumou that premiered at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. “Respect is not given, it is to be earned,” she intones over descending seismic bass tones, pelting us head first into a lethal blend of DJ Rashad’s ‘Teknitian’ and Sheck Wes’s ‘Gmail’, setting the whiplash-inducing pace for the next hour. Her Fact mix is a hard and fast snapshot of this creative dexterity, swerving between breakneck jungle and D&B from OSSX, John B and Dom & Roland, footwork bootlegs from Frequency and DJ Frankie N Elmoe as well as some absolutely fiendish edits, including a galaxy brain blend of Black Rob and DJ Die and the blissful marriage of Jay Mitta’s warp speed singeli with Caterina Barbieri’s elegant synth variations – truly godspeed, if ever we’ve heard it.
In the late 1980s, a chance mistake by Curacao’s DJ Moortje created an entirely new genre. Bubbling house (or bubbling, as it came to be known) was spawned when Moortje accidentally played a 33RPM dancehall record at 45RPM at Club Voltage in Den Haag, and bubbling became a key sound for the Holland’s Afro-diasporic community, evolving over the decades as younger producers entered the scene. One such artist was Guillermo Schuurman, the nephew of early bubbling innovator DJ Chippie. As De Schuurman, he began producing and DJing in the late 2000s, creating a sound that combined rap and R&B samples with elements of trance and electro house. Although De Schuurman was a central player in Holland’s bubbling scene during this period, many of his tracks went without a proper release. Earlier this year however, Nyege Nyege Tapes introduced De Schuurman to a wider audience with the release of his debut album, Bubbling Inside. Two separate mixes encapsulate this journey: a ‘club mix’ largely comprised of his own productions that traces his evolution as an artist, and a ‘hidden gems’ mixtape that features music he and his friends used to listen to in their youth. Both offer a window into a time that has gone largely undocumented.
Born in 1990 in Chicago and raised in Harvey, IL, DJ Manny has been at the heart of the US footwork scene from a young age. He attended his first party with his brother before he was 10 years old, and went on to throw his own parties and produce his own tracks with the help of his cousin Jonathan, all before he turned 20. Manny met the late DJ Rashad while in middle school, and he helped Manny release his first release, Kush on Deck, in 2010. Manny has been a key member of the Teklife crew ever since, building a formidable discography, much of it self-released. Now based in Brooklyn, DJ Manny this year returned to Planet Mu for a new album, 10 years after appearing on Ghettoteknitianz, one of the label’s early footwork compilations. Titled Signals In My Head, Manny’s intention was to create an “R&B love type of album but still keeping it footwork, juke, house, techno, with a few breaks. I just want people to know it’s love out there.” On his Fact Mix, DJ Manny showcases this hazy, romantic take on footwork with a set of predominantly original material, including music from the new album, collaborations with his partner SUCIA! and other Teklife members, as well as a number of unreleased tracks.
Over the past nine years, exael has quietly built one of the most vital discographies in what could loosely be called “ambient”. However, the music of exael (who also produces under their own name naemi and various other monikers) is never quite so straightforward: within single tracks, exael can move from serene, beatless drift to throbbing, gated rhythms via electrifying shifts in mood. It shares the same kind of tangible depth, scale and unpredicatibility as the classic dub techno of Porter Ricks and Basic Channel, albeit charged with a simlarly zoned-out weirdness as vaporwave. Earlier this year, exael joined Cincinatti label Soda Gong for Flowered Knife Shadows, an album that takes the artist’s sound in bold new directions, building on their mastery of tone and texture by pushing further into rhythmic territory. It’s a theme that runs throughout their Fact Mix, which plays with rhythm, tempo and the conventions of the club-focused mix.
Gracie T is a Sheffield-based DJ and member of Daytimers, a collective of selectors and producers of South Asian heritage whose aim is to showcase the talents of their community on their own terms. Since launching in late 2020, Daytimers has quickly become a vital force in the UK scene, self-releasing several compilations of South Asian club sounds and establishing itself with nights at clubs such as London’s Fabric and Manchester’s SOUP. 2021 has been a breakthrough year for Gracie T. As well as a memorable B2B Boiler Room appearance with Chandé back in August, the DJ is one of this year’s residents at Sheffield’s Hope Works. Together with Kitsta and Shannon From Admin, she also runs The Beatriarchy, a platform that aims to provide a safe space for underrepresented artists to share and discuss music. Gracie T’s Fact Mix combines tracks from fellow Daytimers artists and South Asian producers from across the globe, as well as music from kindred spirits such as RP Boo, LCY and Anz. “This mix dips its toes into the Asian Underground revival, championing underrepresented artists, with dubs and new releases from the hottest talent from Bristol’s Grove to Brooklyn’s Ayesha,” Gracie T says. “Experience a journey through more genres than you can count, carefully selected and blended.”
In 2020, LCY began a new chapter, as they retired the LUCY moniker with a self-titled EP that sampled their own back catalogue to create highly experimental club tracks utilising stripped-back D&B-inspired rhythms. However, the past year has been LCY’s most fruitful creative period yet. Last December, they took their first steps into a conceptual universe with the audiovisual piece ‘Garden of E10’. LCY’s concept-driven narrative continued with last month’s Pulling Teeth EP, a seven-track dystopian narrative accompanied by art pieces and a live audio piece centring around the character of Ériu, a being made up of dog, human and robotic matter, inspired by traditional Irish lore, fantasy soundscapes and the books of Mary Shelley. It’s this experimental and conceptual approach that LCY adopts for their Fact Mix, a highly atmospheric set that weaves together original material and introspective electronics from Riccardo La Foresta, Chant Electronique and Synergetix alongside moody club cuts from Or:la and Anders Vestergaard.
As 2020 started, Loraine James was poised to tour the album around the world, but as the pandemic took hold, her plans were curtailed. Despite this setback, James used the time to work on a number of projects: in October, she released the Nothing EP (featuring collaborations with Uruguayan producer Lila Tirando a Violeta, Farsi rapper Tardast and HTRK’s Jonnine Standish) and at the start of 2021 she worked with Dominican choreographer and dancer Isabel Lewis on a remote collaboration for CTM’s 2021 online edition. James also used the extensive lockdown period of the past year to write her exceptional second album, Reflection. Featuring collaborations with Xzavier Stone, Iceboy Violet, Baths and Le3 bLACK, the 11-track LP sees James confidently build on the abstracted, introspective nature of her debut with a set of productions that add pop and R&B elements to her signature. On her Fact Mix, James picks out tracks from artists that she’s discovered during lockdown, as well as the many musical styles that are currently inspiring her, with music from Slikback, LYZZA, Erika de Casier and Mr. Mitch sitting alongside productions from Florentino, iLL BLU, Otik and Karen Nyame KG.
Ever since her unforgettable appearance on PAN’s essential mono no aware compilation all the way back in 2017, French producer Malibu has been busy excavating new seams of ambient, ethereal beauty. Whether producing as Malibu, or releasing stunning ambient pop edits as DJ Lostboi, she picks a delicate thread through the landscape of contemporary electronic and experimental music, joining the dots between Kelly Moran and Evian Christ, casting magic spells on Charli XCX and lending her cinematic vocal stylings to Oliver Coates and Dark0. Approaching her source material with a singular regard for the gauzy and gorgeous, Malibu teases her ambient palette into new and exciting places. For her Fact mix, Malibu collates a stunning selection of what she describes as “music to count shooting stars to”, weaving together a gossamer patchwork of unreleased material, new favorites, contributions from friends and collaborators, as well as some Eurotrance standards, all slowed to a bewitching crawl. Complete with dreamy field recordings and Terrence Malick-esque whispers, Malibu’s Fact mix picks you up on a transcendent updraft and deposits you on the shores of Camargue, pearlescent sea foam lapping around your ankles.
Palmistry is one of the most enigmatic architects of modern day pop music. Constantly caught adrift between the spiritual and the hedonistic, he sings about lust, demons and faith with the same ecclesiastical grace, contextualising his appetite for the party and his ear for a killer hook within a broader artistic practice. He often comes off as an outsider musician whose experiments just so happen to sound like smash hits, a theme he traces on his most recent album, fittingly titled wyrdo. Inspired in part by visual essayist Adam Curtis’s documentary series The Trap, on his Fact mix he weaves together DIY pop edits, some old and new favorites and his own music with esoteric vocal passages, covering philosophical conundrums, the nature of life after death and the applications of psychedelics. It’s a dizzying listen, equal parts transcendent and baffling, with tracks bolted together to map mood and emotion, as opposed to rhythm or genre. Towards the end of the mix, Keating includes two tracks he worked on with SOPHIE before her tragic death, presented here as a tribute to the late artist. Credited, in a stroke of genius, to Sophistry, both ‘OFC’ and ‘The Worst Boy Band in the World’ are dazzling combinations of Palmistry’s melancholy pop spirituality and SOPHIE’s virtuosic manipulation of synthetic sounds. It’s the result of two totally singular sound worlds colliding and, as is the experience of listening to any of SOPHIE’s music in the wake of her death, an extremely sad reminder of all the incredible work she did not get to make.
Shannen SP has been an instrumental part of some of London’s most exciting and forward-thinking music for a few years now. With her ever-exploratory NTS Radio Residency, as well working behind the scenes to co-curate Hyperdub’s legendary event series Ø alongside Kode9, she charts a new wave of diasporic experimentation, with a specific interest in contemporary electronic music coming out of the African continent. More recently she co-founded the Nine Nights Collective, launched during the months of the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown. For her Fact mix Shannen SP turns to a much brighter, more joyful sound, including low-slung kwaito, South African hip-hop and house. However, though the music might sound light, her selections are drawn from a space of engagement with collective trauma. “This is an old school kwaito / South African hip-hop / house mix,” she explains, “with most of the tracks coming out of the late ’90s – early 2000s, so very much post-Apartheid sounds.” She continues, “as a gqom and amapiano fan, as well as this just being amazing club music with really interesting instrumentals, it was great to hear the influence this sound had on both those styles. I really love the old school quality to the way the tracks sound in the mix. Hearing the music coming out of South Africa after the collective trauma of Apartheid – and the sounds being so bright and joyful – was powerful.”
Skyshaker describes the newly founded House of Vemanei as “an international alliance of chosen families committed to the creation of worlds in which feminine presenting transgender and nonbinary people of color best fit.” Juggling their work as a DJ, composer and filmmaker with their tireless activism as a mainstay of the house and ballroom community in New York, Sky Vemanei spent time with the legendary House of LaBeija and the House of Old Navy, before going on to form the the artist collective House of Vemanei as an incubator for the gender-nonconforming Streamline community. Their Fact mix serves as an inauguration of Vemanei Soundsystem, a blistering, four-deck transmission from a new and vital community. “I was happy to be behind four decks after spending the majority of the pandemic indoors and writing on a laptop,” says Sky. “This mix navigates all the emotions I felt during the pandemic, having lost a friend a day before lockdown, and plotting to leave several toxic circumstances.”
For their Fact mix, which they’ve entitled ‘Column Break,’ Elaine Tierney and Jack Rollo, aka Time Is Away, add the texture of their radio shows to a session of music for dancing. “This mix, recorded during December 2021, is our attempt to grapple with what has been an anxious and difficult year for everybody,” they explain. “Moments of ecstasy and release rub alongside closed loops of doubt and worry and a feeling of collective dread. It also represents an attempt to reconcile the dense layered approach we take to our radio program with the kind of open-ended dance records we might play in a club. In this way, it is a tribute to consciousness-expanding and time-dilating collaged mixes we listened to obsessively as teenagers in the 90s. Mixes, like Coldcut’s ‘70 Minutes of Madness’ or Warp’s ‘Blech’ tape, that ignored tempo and genre and revelled in odd combinations and dreamlike jump cuts. That’s not to say that we have achieved anything as complex or beautifully made as those mixes but just to give a feeling of what we have reached towards. This year, as the flow of night life has stopped and started, thinking about dancing, together or alone, has mattered. Hopefully this mix might provide a key: something to move to and think with.” As we’re faced with yet another period of isolation and angst, music to move to and think with, both together and apart from those we love, becomes more and more essential. This what dancing through the pandemic has felt like for us.
Over the last year and a half Tom Boogizm has been on a phenomenal run. Already legendary throughout Greater Manchester and beyond, the Wigan musician, producer and DJ has cemented his reputation as an uncompromising force for good, operating in the shadows while eschewing promotional pomp and cringing fanfare for a singular sonic palette that is as wide-ranging as it is unmistakable. From a string of essential tapes, each of which garners cult status almost as soon as it’s dropped, for his label $hotta Tapes, to four groundbreaking collaborations with the mysterious Michael J. Blood, with whom he recently launched a new label, BodyTronixxx, to the shape-shifting, heart-breaking, soul-searching music he makes as Rat Heart, Boogizm has been extremely busy building a body of work that continues to give us genuine hope in the face of the never-ending headache that has been the last 16 months. He’s also proof, alongside Anz, Finn, Florentino, Space Afrika, Henzo, Sockethead, FUMU, Blackhaine, Rainy Miller and countless others that, across both genre and discipline, Manchester is unquestionably the most thrilling stronghold in the UK music scene, stretching across a dizzying variety of styles and moods in a way that is perfectly encapsulated by Boogizm’s Fact mix. Moving between squalls of ferocious energy, pockets of high-pressure humidity and passages of brightness, Boogizm’s selections are as changeable and unpredictable as freak weather – yet more evidence that the selector is one of the very best to ever do it.
TSVI dedicates his Fact mix to a new sonic obsession. “I recorded the mix with my Pioneer XDJ-RX in my bedroom on probably the hottest day here in London to date, so the mix is quite hot and explosive,” he explains. “Played recent and unreleased tracks across a wide range of BPMs, mostly gorge music, a genre which is inspired by rock climbing and mountaineering originating in Nepal and India then later on settled in Japan, my new obsession!” Heavily featuring a repetitive use of blown-out tom-tom drums, which are said to symbolize hard terrain and the contraction of a climber’s muscles, Québecois gorge producer Kazuki Koga, whose tough-as-nails track ‘Strangler Gorge’ sets the tone for Barzacchini’s relentless mix, describes the sound as an experimental electronic interpretation of Nepalese folk percussion. “Gorge is only vaguely defined by its own secret codes and legends,” they say. “Its purpose is to communicate the aesthetic and spiritual sublimity of rock climbing, and to explore the climbing route that leads to the summit of the gods.” Drilling down into the intense and unassailable sound, Barzacchini grinds some essential gorge productions against obscure SoundCloud finds, exclusives from friends and collaborators, as well as some of his own tracks. Zip up your Arc’teryx, check your crampons and hold on for dear life.
For his Fact mix, Will Lister pursues a considered approach, spiralling through a swirling showcase of the kinds of elegant bass and euphoric float he played out this year, spinning together a dense soundscape with a killer selection of club tracks. “The mix is jokingly titled the ‘one deck mix’, as I made it using a single borrowed CDJ2000 and my Elektron Octatrack, with the idea being born out of not having a DJ set up and also not wanting to put the mix together in Ableton,” he explains. “I set them up so I was feeding the OT with the CDJ, and then taking live loops from the tracks I was playing, and mixing between the CDJ, to the loops, back into the CDJ. It also meant I was able to do a bit of remixing live, where I could chop the tracks around, and send different parts to different effects. I wanted to be able to interact with the songs I was playing, to give it more of a live feel and play around with the frantic energy of some of the tracks. It’s also quite similar to how I DJ in clubs in that I tend to mix quite quickly and chop between different songs, layering and looping them to play around with the textures.”
Yazzus races through a headlong rush through essential selections from the soundtracks to Wipeout 2097, Ghost In The Shell, Tekken 4 and System Shock 2, cemented together with a hard and fast contemporary sound, including recent tracks from ÅMRTÜM, Roza Terenzi, badsista, Clair’s hardcore rave edit of Sexy Sushi’s electroclash anthem ‘Sex Appeal’ and an unreleased track from Yazzus herself. It’s a thrilling snapshot of the scenes the Ghana-born, London-bred, now Berlin-based DJ and producer has immersed herself in recently, following a relocation to Germany, as well as a testament to the unstoppable momentum she has been building for the past few years. Between releasing an essential EP on Steel City Dance Discs, gifting us two unmissable edit packs, the first a love letter to the ’90s dance music she draws so much inspiration from and the second a killer collection of the bootlegs and edits that have become her signature, Yazzus featured on Mary Anne Hobbs’ 6 Music show, contributed a track to Tresor’s landmark 30th anniversary compilation and made her debut at Berghain. Not only is her mix exactly what we want to hear at a techno party, it’s also Yazzus at her most playful, weaving in childhood inspirations and a reverence for an extremely personally formative period of dance music into her high-speed, forward-facing sound. Never before have we wanted to both go out and stay in quite so intensely.
Yen Tech guides us through an extraordinary aural retelling of an alternative cultural history of the COVID-19 pandemic in his sprawling Fact mix, which weaves together text-to-script speech, AI language models and a breathtaking suite of experimental music, selected and compiled solely for its emotional heft. These are tracks that have provided strength and solace to the Shanghai-based producer and vocalist over the course of an extremely heavy year, linked more by an exploratory spirit than by any coherent aesthetic or genre focus. “This is my personal soundtrack to the psychic exhaustion of my recent American experience,” explains the artist, “a necessary exhalation of divisive energies and anxieties – expelled like milky steam from the husk.” Using a loose, text-based narrative as a framing device, the mix follows the story of a 10-year old boy called Kevin who decides to run away from home as his parents descend further and further into a social media-fuelled mire of conspiracy theories, xenophobia and mania.The result is something like a 2021 update of Prefab Sprout’s melancholy escapist masterpiece I Trawl The Megahertz.
Yu Su makes the kind of music that is capable of transporting the listener to unimagined places. Born in Kaifeng, China, and based in Vancouver, Yu Su’s music draws from house, dub, jazz and the sounds of her native country to create downtempo oddities and slow-burning club tracks that transcend time and place. This year she released her debut album, Yellow River Blue. Issued through her freshly launched bié Records label, the album is an homage to her home beside the Yellow River and a “personal musical autobiography, constructed around stories of chasing something inconceivable.” To mark the release, the producer and DJ delivered a Fact Mix filled with misty dancefloor psychedelia from Copeland & Gast and Patricia Kokett, Peruvian club sounds from Aristidez (remixing Argentinian duo Carisma’s ‘Fracciones’), Anz’s energetic ‘Gary Mission’ and more.
Listen next: Fact Mix 840 – Time Is Away