RA Poll: Top DJs of 2016
The 2016 polls begin with the RA readers' top DJs of the year.At the risk of stating the obvious, we at RA believe very strongly that DJing is a form of art. That might sound uncontroversial to readers of this site, but in the world at large, DJs still get short shrift next to other kinds of performers—even the birth place of house music doesn't give them their proper due. In a way the confusion is understandable. To the uninitiated, it might sound strange that someone would be paid, and possibly worshipped, simply for playing other people's music. To the casual observer (especially tax officials), a DJ playing for a sweaty crowd at some weird hour of the morning might not seem culturally valuable. And whether you mix vinyl or "just push play," there's no denying that DJing is, on a technical level, much easier to get the hang of than a musical instrument. But beneath relatively simple tasks like beat-matching, cueing and EQing lies a craft of incredible depth and subtlety. DJing means more than playing good records with smooth transitions. It means sensing the mood of a room with incredible accuracy, gauging the collective taste of hundreds or thousands of strangers and giving them enough of what they want to lure them into your own musical world. It means having the entire history of recorded music as your toolbox and drawing from it whatever you think the night requires. Every weekend, countless people around the world shell out hard-earned cash to hear DJs mix records. Some are only after a good night out, but many are looking for something more elusive—a moment of transcendence that's only possible on a good night on a good dance floor with a good DJ playing. With this annual poll, we ask who gave you that experience in the last 12 months. With the result, we toast the artists who, weekend after weekend, give people memories that will stay with them for years, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that dance music is more than entertainment—it's one of the essential art forms of our time.
- DJing? On-the-fly production? Both? However you choose to define Paula Temple's performances, they laid waste to dance floors in 2016, pushing this seasoned techno artist into the top 100 for the first time.
- Hailing from the sleepy coastal town of Newcastle, Australia, Mall Grab makes hazy house with universal appeal. No surprise he's gone from busting kickflips by the beach to becoming one of dance music's fastest rising stars.
- Detroit-born, Drexciya-affiliated, balaclava-clad master of searing techno and electro—whatever his position in this list, in terms of sheer badassery DJ Stingray is clearly #1.
- In turns slamming and surreal, sombre and euphoric, Konstantin's DJ sets beautifully channel the sound of Giegling, making him one of the most beguiling selectors out there at the moment.
- Lena Willikens cultivated her tastes at Düsseldorf's cradle
of weirdness, Salon Des Amateurs. As a touring DJ she's developed a signature style that perfectly balances an appreciation of unusual music with the skills to make bodies move.
- The words Kerri Chandler uses to sign off his Facebook posts—love, respect and admiration—are precisely what he's earned in a decades-long career. In 2016 he kept doing his thing, freestyling on the keyboard and bashing out house anthems, leaving a trail of smiling faces his wake.
- Archie Hamilton is the second member of London's Fuse crew to crack the top 100—just rewards for a DJ whose seamlessly flowing sets took him to five continents in 2016.
- Antal, the big daddy of the Rush Hour family, enjoyed some much deserved attention this year, drawing on several decades' experience in his solo sets and dishing out thrilling back-to-backs with Hunee.
- As this list shows year after year, the upper echelons of techno can be incredibly hard to break into. But by spending the past eight years consistently nailing it in the studio and the DJ booth, Dax J has got there.
- Solardo, the duo of Mark Richards and James Elliot, are a perfect encapsulation of the house style that's moving so much of the UK right now: fun, floor-ready beats that draw from the entire history of dance music.
- Behind a steady stream of self-deprecating humour is a DJ with a rare ability to get crowds in his corner. Palms Trax's down-to-earth character infuses his melodic house and Afro excursions with a personal quality that's struck a chord with crowds around the globe.
- Aside from collaborating with orchestras, releasing records at a relentless rate and being barraged by flashing cameras and flying projectiles, Jeff Mills builds techno layer cakes like no other. After three decades in the game, he still regularly reaches celestial heights in the mix.
- To deliver bangers with soul, pummelling dance floors with personality and emotion, is one of DJ culture's core challenges, and something few do more deftly than Alan Fitzpatrick.
- That Helena Hauff recently closed an all-night set with an Arpanet remix of Sébastien Tellier tells you why the Hamburg selector is such a sensation: she rocks parties with records no one else would touch, to unforgettable effect.
- Whether you're Ben UFO or a soppy young raver, Denis Sulta's music will get a reaction out of you. This helped make him our poll's highest new entry, and one of 2016's breakthrough stars.
- Joseph Capriati has been known to shed a tear or two in interviews, but in the booth he's a picture of calm, mixing punchy techno and swinging tech house with a marksman's precision. He breaks into our top 30 for the first time.