It’s not that we are afraid of debate or that we don’t want to make mistakes. Nothing is further from reality. However, we think it’s convenient to tell how difficult it is to design lists like this one. What defines the best? The best career? Who better has performed only during the year? Who already reached top positions time ago, but still remains at the top? Should we penalize those who settle in privileged positions without working hard, despite they keep moving thousands of people? Not to mention how difficult it is to judge whether a great DJ or a great performer is better. The musical and technical knowledge necessary to discover, select and mix music and that necessary to compose, produce and play your own musical proposals live are as disparate and different as equally difficult to acquire and develop.
With this list, the Xceed team wanted to reward those names which in this 2018 have played a decisive role in the evolution of the alternative electronic music scene, either because they have performed at the best moments, stages and events of the year, because they have starred in memorable sessions on streaming platforms and in unimaginable locations or because they have released albums which have been played during the last months in dancefloors around the world. This is not about being a DJ, a producer, a live performer, an amazing guy, a woman with a great story behind or, simply, the most visible face of the most successful party. It is about all that at once. It is, after all, about being a star in one of the most fashionable industries of this era.
The Spaniard surprised the entire international electronic scene at the beginning of the year with “Human”, a video-album in which electronica, house, indie, electro-pop and even the less conventional trap were merged into a release which, with 11 episodes, study 11 places in the world that represent the deepest essence of the human being. Dubai, Lanzarote, Australia, Kenya, Vietnam, California, Tokyo, Europe, the Argentine Andes and Antarctica are the protagonists of this great work published by Natura Sonoris, the label created by Henry Saiz himself.
Although “The Best Of Both Worlds” was released in 2017, it has been in 2018 when the American DJ Honey Dijon has established herself as one of the great figures in the industry. Possibly, she is the best representative of the LGTB collective, being one of the first transsexual women to become an international DJing star. Currently, it is one of the names which bear the Chicago house genre around the globe, having performed in almost all the top festivals (Primavera Sound, DGTL, Awakenings, Oasis, Together, MUTEK…) and in prestigious clubs such as Hï Ibiza or Berghain.
The Italian artist and his label Mannequin Records have been leaders in the field of synth-pop and minimal waves for decades. Ambient techno is what he does, an enveloping and attractive experimental sound that has led Alessandro Adriani to perform live in some of the most avant-garde festivals, such as Berlin Atonal, MIRA, Week-End or Dimensions. In addition, his label has organized nights together with highly recognized labels, such as PAN or Syncretism.
The man with the mask has been one of the great sensations of this 2018. Since 2017, when he appeared in the Château de Fontainebleau for Cercle, Boris Brejcha hasn’t stopped playing all over the planet, relaunching his career at a dizzying pace and, along with his Fckng Serious colleagues, extending the sound of his label thanks to a bus tour. The high-tech minimal techno fans enjoyed more than ever in this 2018 thanks to Boris Brejcha. A classic whose fame had never been so high.
The Ukrainian duo Woo York came back under the lights last May with “Chasing The Dream”, a 13 tracks LP in which the most peaceful melodic techno and the deepest and darkest ambient joined forces to offer a different proposal in the young Afterlife label. Their album presentations have been multiple, always accompanied by a modular and portentous staging which has got the good reception of all critics. It was one of the most anticipated releases of the first half of the year and Woo York didn’t disappoint. They never do it.
Maceo Plex himself recognized on multiple occasions that R&S Records was the label that most contributed to his musical tastes in the 90s. This label was commissioned to launch in October of 2018 “2000-2005”, a retrospective album that Eric Estornel (real name of Maceo Plex) published under his most experimental alias, Mariel Ito. Composed of 10 tracks, the album recovers the most experimental origins of the American producer. Leftfield house, electro, IDM and breaks make up this work that has brought the attention again on the Miami-born man, which has also left his mark on melodic techno with releases like the “Mutant Robotics” single, published on his own label Ellum. Undoubtedly, Maceo Plex has been one of the big names at the end of the year.
Years don’t pass for him. The British Aphex Twin is still at the top, and he still gives music lessons to all, keeps breaking barriers, crossing borders and discovering new territories. Several subway tunnels in London, New York, Turin, Los Angeles and Tokyo woke up in August with enigmatic graffiti announcing the release of “Collapse”, an EP which saw the light in multiple formats (even cassette) and which became a new massive step made by “the most influential contemporary electronic music artist”, according to The Guardian. As expected, his gigs at the avant-garde festivals Club To Club in Turin or BIME in Bilbao, as well as his spectacular performance at the Funkhaus in Berlin, made history.
DJ Koze is the clear example of a complete artist, a guy who has been at the top for years and who has never stopped working to improve and always offer something new to his audience. On May 4th, 2018, the world received with open arms his last great pearl, “Knock Knock”. We are talking about a 16-tracks LP which is, without a doubt, between the best stuff 2018 gave us. Among these tracks, we find “Pick Up”, a track played repeatedly in thousands of clubs and which takes place in our Top-20 of the year.
The Frenchman is one of the greatest in history, but he continues to surprise us every year with something new. In 2018, together with Sónar Festival, he gave us something never seen before. “Laurent Plays Garnier” was the performance curated by the Barcelona festival in which Garnier only played tracks produced by him. Many were unaware of the magnitudes of his studio facet. In this way, Laurent Garnier demonstrated that he’s not “just” one of the greatest DJs in the history of electronic music, but also a fruitful producer. If he doesn’t use more of his tracks, is because he doesn’t want to. 2018 has seen another of the great steps of Laurent Garnier in his impeccable career.
Thinking in 2018 and electronic dance music makes it impossible not to think about Richie Hawtin and his new show CLOSE. With two MODEL1 (the most innovative mixer on the market, designed by Hawtin himself and his family) and numerous gadgets, Richie Hawtin has played his traditional minimalist techno, characteristic of his Minus label, in live format and surrounded by small 4K cameras that allowed the spectator approaching as never before in the hands of one of the most influential artists in the history of modern techno. CLOSE has been an audiovisual revolution for the scene and one of the highlights of the year.
With the release of “Once” in early March, the South Korean Berlin-based Peggy Gou hit the international house scene. Particularly, “It Makes You Forget”, also known as “Itgehane”, took Peggy Gou to the top positions of the most important charts. That was only the consecration of an artist who, in 2017, was already pushing hard and who, in 2018, has toured all over the world performing in the best stages. Having performed in Club To Club, Pitchfork Music Festival, Lattexplus, Mint, The BPM, Oasis, Dimensions, Sonus, Glitch and many more, Peggy Gou has become one of the biggest claims of the scene worldwide. Undoubtedly, one of the great revelations of 2018.
Adriatique don’t need presentation. In this last year, the Swiss duo formed by Adrian Shala and Adrian Schweizer has established itself as the best melodic techno proposal of the panorama. Whether at Afterlife or Diynamic parties (Tale Of Us and Solomun labels, respectively), Adriatique have always been above the rest. For many, they are the best Diynamic proposal. For many others, their “Nude” album is the most interesting product released by Afterlife in 2018. Both are enough reasons to believe Adriatique are in the best moment of their career.
The Belgian is the techno artist of the moment. The most demanded, the most acclaimed, the most revered. And there are reasons for that. Her personality, her staging, her aggressive, old-school, acid and raver musical selection, and her ability to empathize with the audience and get close to it, make Amelie Lens one of the artists which have been erected in 2018 as the most pointer of the planet. On New Year’s Eve from 2018 to 2019, she performed at Cosmo in Rome, Galactica in Bologna and HYTE in Berlin. Previously, she acted at Awakenings, Contact, Movement… and, easier to say, practically all the great festivals of the techno scene. In addition, she has trodden all the historical clubs of Europe and her Exhale party stands as one of the most striking of the scene. It seems that everything Amelie Lens touches becomes gold.
Their self-titled album was released in 2017, although it wasn’t complete until 2018 when the Northern Irish duo surprised with “Helix”. Since then, Bicep have performed all over the world, playing the sounds of the album and many other previous works, such as their “Higher Level” remix or some of their original pieces, like “Dahlia” or “Just”. In recent months, they have also recovered their facet as selectors, resuming their performances as DJs and alternating them with their live shows. Their live set at Printworks in London is possibly one of the best performances we have lived in this 2018. Actually, the music of Bicep is also the best electronic music we have been able to hear and dance in 2018.
It was the 6th best in 2016 and the 5th best in 2017. In 2018, there has been no discussion. The German Steffen Berkhahn, better known as Dixon, has managed to be the best selector and mixer or, in other words, the best electronic music DJ of the year 2018. Dixon takes the Xceed DJs of the Year award after 12 months where he has continued to perform at the best festivals, be in all the top line-ups and stay as one of the most sought-after DJs. Wherever he goes, Dixon is always the big date of the day. Minutes before his performance, the dance floor breathes something special. His openings always take the people to another galaxy. His musical narrative is impeccable. It’s just excellent. It’s sublime. Dixon manages to reunite groove, house, techno, electro and downtempo lovers. Dixon always teaches new music. The best new music of the moment. To see Dixon is to attend a DJing master class. To see Dixon is to be very VIP. Because to see Dixon, my friends, is to see the best underground electronic DJ of the last five years. And who knows if one of the best of the 21st century. For many more years, dear Dixon.