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.
It’s natural to focus on the visceral intensity of a techno set, but Rødhåd treats the task with surprising delicacy. Sure, he dishes out huge slabs of immense, hypnotic music, but there’s a sensitivity to the way he combines sonic elements that has become his signature as a DJ. Running up to four decks at a time, he custom builds his blends and drops, controlling the dynamics and energy with a degree of focus that works as well in dark basements as it does on festival stages.
You can tell how good Hunee is by watching the DJ who’s coming on after him. Though the Amsterdam-based selector cuts a wholesome-looking figure—he’s known to sip tea and wear sandals in the booth—to his peers he can be intimidating. Every second of his sets, from his trademark Pointer Sisters intro, to the wonderful stew of house, disco, soul, Latin and African music that follows, earns cheek-puffing admiration and facial expressions that say, ‘How am I supposed to follow that?’
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the energy a DJ projects. Whether he’s playing gargantuan festivals or an Ibiza afterhours, Jamie Jones still enjoys every transition, bassline and hi-hat with the zeal of a young raver. That enthusiasm is palpable to the audience, giving the sense that, despite his status, he’s very much on their level. Even as his career matures to encompass performances with the Colombia National Symphony Orchestra, Jones is loved for his tireless commitment to the dance.
Chris and Steve Martinez aren’t twins—they’re three years apart—but hearing them DJ, you might think they are. In their track selections, their transitions, their dance moves in the booth, they appear synced in a way that seems almost supernatural. Maybe that’s not surprising given their journey so far, with all those countless back-to-backs at clubs and festivals around the world. By now they’re in a groove few DJs can touch, and it’s kept them near the top of this list year after year.
In 2016, Ben Klock reminded
us what he really is: a DJ fanatic, obsessed with making each set better than the last. Every year, we talk about his work ethic, precision mixing and ability to whip dance floors into a frenzy, and each year he finds a way to take things a little further—be it with a busier schedule, new tricks in the mix or fresh ways to work a crowd. Ten years into his career, he often finds himself playing for screaming crowds in massive clubs and festivals, but his subtle touch remains the same.
Ollie Jones’ transformation, from dubstep’s biggest DJ to a genuine force in house and techno, is now complete. He could have got there on a slipstream of nepotism, calling in favours from friends, but instead he stayed humble and worked extremely hard. This has meant learning to become a much subtler DJ. Finding his feet in the studio with a new sound. Ignoring the inevitable online backlash. And with the extra scrutiny that came with the switch, he’s had to make sure that each time he plays, he smashes it.
If 2016 has told us anything about dance music, it’s this: everybody, from your mum to your milkman, has a soft spot for Carl Cox
. The closing
of his residency at Space Ibiza, followed by the club’s own finale
two weeks later, caused a furore rarely seen in our world. But Cox has always stood alone. Who else can light up a dance floor with a jig
? Or make you feel warm inside just by flashing a toothy grin?
As the jazz great Charlie Parker once said: “Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that shit and just play.” On a good night, no DJ channels that advice better than Ricardo Villalobos. Throwing the faders around, swerving unpredictably from one record to the next, framing a dazzling mosaic of different sounds—techno, electro, synth pop, jazz—within his classic style of tripped-out minimal house, his sets have a wild, mad scientist quality that entrances dance floors year after year after year.