There's no better place to be than in the midst of a dancefloor when it's popping. We've seen many incredible sets over the course of the past year, and we're grateful to the DJs who have inspired many happy moments and memories.
See below for our rundown of the top 10 DJs of 2019.
The free-wheeling Bradley Zero breaks into our Top 10 DJs of 2019 as a figurehead for the exploding south London scene. This was the year the city’s new jazz sound took flight – and a 12-week XOYO residency, Kala, Gottwood and We Out Here festivals plus his Rhythm Section parties mean Bradley was foremost among those most responsible for spreading its gospel.
The Vancouver-raised, Berlin-based cover star behind March’s debut album ‘Significant Changes’ fused soul, disco, house and trap into glorious new forms. Yet her boundary-pushing breakthrough as a producer is in sharp contrast to her gloriously old-school, instantly unforgettable DJ sets, which swing from breezy summertime jams to obscure disco grooves and uplifting vocal house across a spectrum of pure joy.
While you might not find his records in the ‘staff picks’ section of record stores like Rush Hour or Phonica, Holy Goof has won hearts and minds the world over with his riotous take on bassline. With headline shows at Printworks and Electric Brixton, there’s not been a DJ as adept as Goof at big, brash and dumb fun since the heady days of wobble dubstep.
Belgian phenomenon Amelie Lens was unstoppable this year. While her Lenske label continued to deliver some of the hardest acid and techno going, she also launched her own Exhale party – and took it across Europe, destroying dancefloors each weekend in front of thousands of fans. If you went to a techno festival in 2019, you probably will have seen Lens – her DJing calendar is as relentless as the music she plays.
The Siberian DJ made an ill-judged response to criticism of her hairstyle but remains the single biggest festival draw on the planet and a DJ of rare accomplishment.
This article entry amended on 10/12/19
Editor’s note: We felt we were doing the right thing by acknowledging the incident with Nina on twitter, but the words we used initially – particularly describing it as ‘minor’ - were tone-deaf and clumsy. As Editor I take full responsibility and would like to offer my sincere apologies. We hope it won’t overshadow the achievements of the artists in this list.
Tech-house is now a – perhaps the – headline sound; particularly in Ibiza, where CamelPhat’s BODYWORKS residency, which they share with Solardo and Fisher, has become a central hub for an entire movement. CamelPhat’s dark, catchy, progressive output is truly connecting, not only at Hï Ibiza, but also on Radio 1, as the Liverpool-based duo continue to open the gates to electronic music’s next generation.
Charlotte de Witte
With youth, energy and a sublime understanding of what makes a contemporary big-room techno set work on her side – as well as a new label offshoot for her KNTXT party brand and radio show, whose first release was the ‘Liquid Slow’ EP with Chris Liebing – our October cover star Charlotte de Witte has a one-way ticket to stardom as the sound and face of a new generation of international DJs.
A blond-haired, safari-suited force of nature in the DJ booth, Denis Sulta (aka Glasgow’s Hector Barbour) has built upon a breakthrough year in 2018 with a non- stop DJ schedule which has taken him to Glastonbury, ADE, Ibiza, Berghain and the Barrowland Ballroom in his home city, both solo and with his self-curated Sulta Selects parties. A born showman with his own distinctive take on dance music.
Impossibly, Peggy Gou’s star rose even higher in 2019. That was in part down to her punishing yet perfectly judged tour schedule, including key Ibiza and festival dates, plus her own headlining Gou Talk show at Printworks in London in autumn. Her sound is primarily house-proud, but she can go harder – and often does, much to the crowd’s delight, like when Mixmag witnessed her more than hold her own ahead of Carl Cox at Glitch in Malta. The audience at Printworks was, for the first time, more girl than boy-heavy, with 53 per cent women, 47 per cent men. Gou-Mania still making real waves.
Interview by Nina Posner Eris Drew + Octo Octa
“Seeing the power of your partner move everybody is really incredible,” Maya Bouldry-Morrison, aka Octo Octa, tells us over Skype. “I never knew anyone who communicated what I felt so deeply in dance music.” She turns to her partner Eris Drew. “You gave me the language I was searching for.”
“When you express that to me…” Eris begins, smiling; “that validation means the world.” The couple (who, in Eris’ words, aim to “create magic in the context of a community dance ritual”) have an outstanding knack for uniting mind, body and spirit on the dancefloor, spreading their message with everything from vocal house to progressive trance to joyous DJ tools. Dancers are encouraged and supported to connect with and honour the truest versions of themselves.
“It’s about freedom,” says Maya. “Not just sexual freedom,” Eris elaborates, “but also expressive freedom, and the freedom to celebrate love.” It’s hard to believe that T4T LUV NRG, their back-to-back party with safer spaces policies and gender neutral bathrooms, which only started at the beginning of 2019, has now blossomed into a series of events and performances all over the world — including at Unsound, Dekmantel, and a particularly charged Boiler Room in Melbourne —that will continue into 2020. In June they launched a label under the same name to release “limited edition alchemical objects,” including Maya’s esteemed album ‘Resonant Body’ and Eris’s ‘Raving Disco Breaks Vol 1’ mixtape, with more to come from old friends, new discoveries, and themselves.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but see it for yourself: there have never been two DJs more suited to play alongside each other than Eris and Maya. A b2b set is always revelatory for both the DJs and their audience. At Sugar Mountain in Melbourne, for example, the sheer bliss between the pair was palpable. No matter who was behind the decks, both were constantly dancing, only pausing occasionally to kiss. When they dropped an especially jacking record early on (the upbeat ‘Let Me Tell You’ by Wildchild), Maya could be seen behind Eris, marching along and mouthing the hook. “You were playing [that record], but [now] I keep grabbing it,” says Eris. “I’m more than happy to let you drop it first,” Maya grins.
Both accomplished vinyl DJs, they work the mixer with an enthusiastic concentration, often favouring long, gradual blends so that the sense of ecstasy is that much more tangible when a track finally switches over. Their recent releases might suggest that Maya brings the warm house sound while Eris is more inclined to ravey breakbeat, but the duo will typically have a few of the same records in their bags. Who plays them shifts from set to set. “It’s a deeply collaborative process, and having someone who has such a similar taste in music is really wonderful,” says Maya. Eris nods: “we give each other a lot of permission, in a sense, to be ourselves.”
Their nine-week autumn tour has allowed a special type of connection to build between the pair, while partner Brooke “held things down at home – they’re our hero!”. “We play in Scotland, then we go and take that energy to play in Sydney… there have been moments where you absolutely cracked me open,” says Eris; “where the synchronicities are crazy and it’s opened my heart completely.”
“Same!” Maya responds. “Like, my brain’s ablaze and I’m only hearing what you’re playing.”
One October night at Glasgow’s Shoot Your Shot, Maya cued her mixes so Opus III’s ‘Hand In Hand (Looking for Sweet Inspiration)’ would play right as Eris returned behind the decks. When she did, the couple embraced, and the crowd cheered. “I truly believe in those moments – everybody’s feeling what we’re feeling,” says Maya.
“That song is so beautiful; it’s about being hand in hand together,” Eris says. “So hell yeah, I ran back from that bathroom!”