There's no substitute for experiencing a skilled DJ in a killer space, mixing live. Still, there are still only so many nights you can spend dancing to the wee hours. Thankfully, during the past 10 years or so, the Internet has made it possible to see or hear sets by legendary or soon-to-be-legendary DJs from around the world. Here are 25 of the greatest mixes from the Internet age, spanning radio sessions streamed online, Soundcloud uploads, podcasts, Boiler Room sessions and more.
Then closely intertwined with the grime scene, the slow, bass-heavy sound of dubstep grew out of a London underground far more diverse than the bleached-out U.S. mainstream of today. Luckily, Mary Anne Hobbs — the influential radio DJ, then the host of the BBC 1 electronic show Breezeblock — captured the best movers and shakers on this 2006 episode. Featuring now-legendary acts like Digital Mystikz, Benga, Coki and Kode 9 — and some who have left dubstep behind, like Skream — the mix recalls a time when the genre truly allowed free-form experimentation. Once upon a time there was, indeed, a "dub" influence in dubstep.
Few dance music genres were regarded with more disdain than disco at the end of the 20th Century, with visions of coke spoons and polyester shirts run through with chest hair. But in the nether regions of Norway, two scruffy hippies saw enough space in disco's grooves to evoke the cosmos. Call it cosmic or else "beardo" disco, but Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas recast the form with a heavy dose of satellite-shaking bass, mesmerizing synth arpeggios and plenty of Carl Sagan spaciness. This BBC Essential mix shows the duo at the height of their hirsute powers, paying tribute to Giorgio Moroder and Greek crooner Demis Roussos. And then there's the revelatory drop of "You Make Lovin' Fun," recasting Fleetwood Mac as the greatest cosmic disco band ever. A. Beta
Perhaps the most time-honored and visionary of all of BBC Radio 1's Essential Mixes, Flying Lotus' 2008 edition left U.K. heads scrambled. Starting with the almost-melancholy spiritual-jazz fantasia of his great-aunt Alice Coltrane and a quietly crawling Charlie Haden bass exploration, a robotic English voice intones: "Would you care for some tea?" And we're off, with FlyLo unveiling the tripped-out tentacles of the Los Angeles bass scene, which is capable of fusing Weather Report to Radiohead, maximalist Glasgow kids (Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Mike Slott) to harpist Dorothy Ashby, or Madlib and Dilla to dubstep bro Rusko. Fellow L.A. bass artists Daedelus, Daddy Kev, et al. get some shine, while the closing suite entwines Bjork, Broadcast, Portishead and folkie footnote Linda Perhacs, in a lovely meditation before FlyLo returns for his own broken-beat farewell. C.A.
The group-hug peak of Greg Wilson's 2003 return from a 20-year DJ'ing hiatus, this 2009 mix reveals why he's revered as one of the earth-moving dons of U.K. dance — notably for his late-Seventies/early-Eighties stints at northern clubs like Wigan Pier and Legend. This two-hour set evokes that period, as well as his time as the first resident at Manchester's Hacienda club. There are soulful flourishes (blending edits of the Originals' Motown stunner "Down to Love Town" and the Soul Searchers' go-go blazer "Blow Your Whistle"); his own tweak on Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" with James Brown howls; a bassbin full of disco obscurities (Kasso, Atlantic Conveyor, Gunchback Boogie Band), plus a handful of Madchester mementos (Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, 808 State). C.A.
There's no DJ quite as irascible and obstinate as Detroit's Theo Parrish. While he's rightly revered for his deep house productions and sets that make the dancefloor sweat, he'll do whatever he damned well pleases, be it playing a Fela Kuti track in its entirety or taking a free-jazz detour at peak hour. For this deft Boiler Room set, Theo feels free to be free, as his opening track puts it, moving between soulful Detroit house tracks (some that he also had a hand in producing), cavernous Berlin dub techno and space-y disco, with a short lecture about playing actual records. As fans know, Theo's way with the EQ remains unparalleled, teasing new thrills out of a Loft classic like "Life On Mars" with just a twist of the high and low knobs at key moments. A. Beta
At the precocious age of 21, Jaar was already a rising star on the NYC electronic music scene, rendering moody, woozy dance singles in between earning his degree in comparative literature at Brown University. This masterful mix — released before his acclaimed debut Space is Only Noise — danced playfully between genres, whether he's connecting Mobb Deep to a 1927 ditty about dope or Dave Brubeck to Ricardo Villalobos. Oftentimes never topping 60 beats per minute, Jaar nevertheless thrills with these heady juxtapositions that anticipated one of EDM's most singular talents. A. Beta
Though Detroit's Anthony "Shake" Shakir had a track on the 1988 comp Techno!: The New Dance Sound of Detroit that first bestowed the electronic genre its moniker, he never achieved the fame of fellow pioneers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, despite a sterling series of productions. In recent years he's struggled with multiple sclerosis, forced to man the turntables with the aid of a walker, but that hasn't stopped him, just merely pitched him down a bit. This 2010 Little White Earbuds mix is typically top-notch, a raw, crunchy, relentlessly funky dancefloor survey of the work of other underappreciated Motor City producers like Patrice Scott, Norm Talley, Mike Huckaby and Scott Grooves. M.R.
The buoyant 2010 FACT mix from this world-class Detroit DJ is a deep-house travelogue that largely cruises back and forth on I-94 between Chicago (Chez Damier and Ron Trent, Marshall Jefferson, Lil Louis) and Detroit (Scott Grooves, Piranhahead, a few of Pittman's releases from his own Unirhythm label), before a climactic blast-off with Theo Parrish's "Space Station." Like any great road trip, it's the unexpected detours that are often the most memorable, and so it is here with Pittman's sidetrips to New York City, like ESG's "Moody" and Daniel Wang's "Like Some Dream I Can't Stop Dreaming." M.R.
The Scottish DJ duo of JD Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes own four of the best ears in all of dance music. When they decided to pull the plug on their legendary Sunday night party Optimo (Espacio) at Glasgow's Sub Club after nearly 13 years, their farewell blowout was a deliriously epic affair, crammed start to finish with all the post-punk/leftfield disco/D.I.Y. funk you'd expect from an event named after a Liquid Liquid song. The pair's astonishingly far-ranging set list encompassed everything from Einstürzende Neubauten to Etta James and virtually all funky points in between (including Optimo staples like Blondie's "Atomic" and Dinosaur L's "Kiss Me Again") before culminating in (spoiler alert!) Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain." A whopping seven hours in duration, this is a glorious Soul Train line down memory lane. M.R.
Before the Lawrence brothers became the biggest U.K. breakout dance act of the 21st Century, ultimately introducing Sam Smith to The View and Hot 97 alike, Guy and Howard were just lads from South London who were hungry for twitchy 2-step and classic American house music. Months before they released their smash hit "Latch," they dropped this profile-rising mix, which roved from a muscular Kerri Chandler beat to their own skittering production on "Flow," capping everything with their Jessie Ware remix. A. Beta
Nguzunguzu made their first great mix in 2010, using Art of Noise's "Moments in Love" to thread two decades of R&B, hip-hop and club bangers from across America. The Perfect Lullabye, their follow-up for Dis Magazine, takes a more global approach, replacing the floating synth riff with zouk tracks and dembow drums. The L.A. duo open with three minutes of harp pulled from Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" then glide through 23 songs that encourage the kind of bumping and grinding that their hyperactive live sets often inhibit: DJ Puto Cox's "Pensamento 2010" swirls into a Nicki Minaj mixtape cut; an edit of The-Dream's "I Luv Your Girl" tips the original beat on its side and adds gong hits to the hook. But this mix can't be reduced to the sum of its samples: The eery, sticky sound that emerges could only be Nguzunguzu. N.M.
Caught in the Middle calls itself a DJ mix, but it's also an over-the-top opus of music criticism, history and fan fiction, rearranging the pieces from the Beastie Boys' 1989 album Paul's Boutique to tell new stories from the original source material. The three DJs worked over as many years, then doubled their efforts after Adam "MCA" Yauch's early passing. If nothing else, Cheeba, Moneyshot and Food had the guts to accept the Beasties' challenge, throwing together Bob Marley, the Beatles and Boogie Down Productions just to see what would come out the other side. N.M.
Rustie's BBC Essential mix arrived at the moment when "trap music" was mutating from Southern rap to something made by skinny Caucasian laptop owners. It's to Rustie's credit that he'd barely be associated with the genre today, and his 2012 Essential Mix is one reason why. Where most "trap" artists utilized rap music for surface-level signifiers — hip-hop reduced to accent or color — Rustie's Essential Mix updates the maximal, kitchen-sink, house-party feel of house mixes a decade earlier, from groups like Basement Jaxx. When he incorporates hip-hop — Nicki Minaj, Drake, Big Sean and more — he does so with an understanding of how the songs function. D.D.
For your rap-purist pals who disavowed Ms. Minaj as a wayward pop starship, cue up this 55-minute lyrical scud, concocted by RyJ, a partnership between glitchy house-techno producer Sasu Ripatti (a.k.a., Luomo, Vladislav Delay) and electronic spoken-word artist Antye Grele (a.k.a., AGF). The ingenious 2012 mix, which takes its name from a Minaj quote about demanding respect that men receive by default, isolates her polychromatic verses — no choruses — with urgent, atmospheric panache. Marvel at explosive verses from the familiar (Kanye West's "Monster," "Beez in the Trap") to mixtape burners ("Itty Bitty Piggy," "Handstand," "Getting Paid"). When the triumphant vocal suplex of "Blazin'" lands, the heads of any skeptics will be permanently blown back. C.A.
In 2010, London's Night Slugs crew broke with a sound that was wholly their own — grime pushed toward glistening techno, then beamed back from a fourth dimension of holographic dancefloors and radiant geometries. By 2012 they were delving into the next-gen ballroom house of MikeQ, reissuing lost Baltimore club from KW Griff and obsessing over Dat Oven's "Icy Lake," one of the eeriest records Junior Vasquez ever put his hands on. Co-founder L-Vis 1990's 70-minute Night Slugs Mix pummels through all of the above, and even squeezes in an original, nearly unrecognizable remix of Prince's "Batdance." The result is broad and exhilarating — proof that the cutting edge is not restricted by genre or place. N.M.
At its best, house music can deliver uplift, frenzy and ecstasy — and Frankie Knuckles would know, as the acknowledged inventor of the form. He brought his wisdom to bear for his Boiler Room set in New York, less than a year before he died unexpectedly at the age of 59. The vibe is charged from the start, with just an hour to cram in decades worth of aspirations. The sound is house in its most deep and classic varieties, with fleet beats that glimmer and shine like cymbals splashing underneath a spotlight. Horns wander in and out, and rousing vocals keep the human heart within it all pumping until the end. A. Battaglia
Brooklyn-based DJ/producer Galcher Lustwerk leans toward deep, moody house — a heavy-lidded antidote to the wide-eyed sounds that curry favor in the club. For this set on the U.K. mixtape site Blowing Up the Workshop, Lustwerk takes it easy and slow, with sumptuous grooves that toggle between a skip and a saunter. "Rolling trees, rolling deep, taking E, LSD," a voice intones early on, sounding like it doesn't want to be startled. The momentum comes by way of subtlety and a sense of mystery. It's the sound of the underground bubbling up to make the dance floor shake from beneath. A. Battaglia
With this 2013 mix for Dazed Digital, Aidan Moffat of indie rockers Arab Strap masterfully condenses the Walt Disney pathology — childlike wonder swept away by blustery and treacherous adult winds — into 37 spine-tingly minutes. Sampling, stretching and essentially chopping and screwing music from the studio's Golden Age of animated features (pre-war 1940s and 1950s-1960s) into mesmerizing arrangements, Moffat suspends the possibilities of youth right in front of your face, soaking them with anxiety, sorrow and reverb. Barking dogs fade into cuckoo clocks. Bits of dialogue linger — "Now I shall never get out" from Alice in Wonderland; "You are a bold and courageous person" from the 1964 album Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House — amid the scratchy specters of Peter Pan, Bambi and Dumbo. The Mickey Mouse Club farewell reads as both lifeline and threat. C.A.
Deep in the days of trap and deep house, Caracas-born, New York-based producer Arca led the charge of something far grimier and more sinister. Taking up a thin thread from the old "IDM" days, Arca's tracks almost repelled dancing, combining spartan, skittering beats with hiccupping hip-hop samples and the occasional layer of pure, atmospheric murk. This 2013 release — technically a mix but really just a free album — signaled a new shift in underground culture, represented visually in the similarly dark, almost sexless aesthetic of fashion collectives like Hood By Air. Building on the velocity of &&&&& and the like, Arca would go on to create fashion-week runway soundtracks for that label and eventually got tapped for work by Björk. A.C.
During DJ EZ's riveting three-hour-plus live-streaming Boiler Room set, it often doesn't matter what music he's playing, though what he's playing — usually vintage U.K. garage of the past 20 years — tingles with the healing power of spun blood. What matters most, as the crowd pushes toward the decks, is to simply watch this guy go. The veteran of garage's Nineties heyday and Aughts crossover gives a flamboyant clinic in selecting, mixing, blending, chopping beats, and repeatedly teasing out builds and drops with a tasteful intensity. He uses the cue buttons on his CDJs like an MPC, punching in the vocal of Paul Johnson's house classic "Get Get Down" in triplet time, rewinding it repeatedly. Around the two-hour mark he switches to turntables — on the fly! — caning Issac Christopher's bass-bombing dustup of Chic's "Le Freak" as punctuation. A master at work. C.A.
Night Slugs producer Jack "Jam City" Latham's third Earthly mix in 2014 signaled his lurch away from club jams into zonked introspection, and it's a revelation. After a warped, time-lapse version of Little Feat's aching "Long Distance Love," he pitches down and blurs Joni Mitchell's "Furry Sings the Blues" until it sounds like Bryan Ferry nodding out in a bus station, then follows Tweet's "C 4eva" with a static-y, interlude of excerpts from an interview with political philosopher Herbert Marcuse and a BBC special on teens and porn over a medieval choral drone. Dead Can Dance's "The Fatal Impact" cocoons Prime Minister David Cameron in goth ooze, while author bell hooks intros Sage the Gemini. It's a clattering soup of pretension that still blisses out with a glitchy bump of Jermaine Jackson's "A Better Way" and wraps with the Pop Group's gnarled "Don't Sell Your Dreams." C.A.
In January of 2014, DJ Snake was just overcoming a reputation as a one-hit wonder — back then the one hit was EDM novelty "Bird Machine," not the soon-to-explode "Turn Down for What." Dubstep DJs Skream and Benga nominated Snake for Essential Mix's "Future Stars" series on the strength of the former, and the Parisian opened his set with the kind of cool, high-energy house that would sound at home in a sweaty French club. By the hour mark, he's setting off the kind of bombastic trap fireworks that would light up his next two years of festival sets — and the Billboard charts. When Pete Tong arrives to announce the end, we've heard "Turn Down for What" and a new remix of Alunageorge's "You Know You Like It" — both of which would remain on the radio well into 2015. N.M.
"Where's the assassin? Where's the assassin?" So goes a line of questioning at the start of this curious set of house music twisted and turned out of shape. Murderousness is not usually the vibe associated with house, but Joey Anderson, from the New Jersey/New York axis, has a unique outlook even when churning through the classics. His favored sounds are gaseous and atmospheric, with a sense of creeping and crawling even when the rhythms are running at full speed. He goes big on lingering effects too, with piano lines and "acid"-minded synth squiggles. A. Battaglia
Madlib can cut and mix with nearly anyone, but on African Earwax he lets the records play at their own pace — less rocking the party than pulling out personal favorites for awestruck guests grooving on the couch. Compiled for a gallery show of Jason Jägel's MF Doom art, the volume crosses Western and Central Africa, focusing on old songs with the feel of turn-of-the-Seventies psychedelic funk. Isaac Hayes looms large, but he rubs shoulders with giants like Ghanaian highlife master Ebo Taylor and Nigerian rock band the Funkees. Each selection would be plenty compelling — and expensive — as a stand-alone 45, but Madlib doesn't treat them with the deference of a record hoarder. This music makes him excited, and he wants it to make you excited too. N.M.
One of Frankie Knuckles' greatest productions, the 1991 hit "The Pressure" for gospel group Sounds of Blackness, remains one of the most stirring house tracks of all time, body-moving and soul-saving in equal measure. Opening a DJ set with it is a foolhardy move for even the most adept DJ, but when he's not behind the decks, Detroiter Robert Hood doubles as an ordained minister. Recorded this past June under his Floorplan alias and captured by MixMagTV, Hood moves masterfully from gorgeous gospel to relentless techno and back on this instantly classic set, with a nod midway through to Inner City's classic "Good Life." Built primarily from his Floorplan productions, Hood proves that even as EDM nears ever closer to a creative impasse, you can always take 'em to church. A. Beta