Is Cercle the new Essential Mix?

This blog post is an excuse to share some good music and thoughts. Essential Mix aka EM is a super famous radio show on BBC 1 featuring artists (DJs/producers) that deliver a two-hour mix of electronic dance music. I haven’t listened all weekly essential mix since 1993, but I’ve been lucky to hear many, thanks to Internet. Essential Mix is incredible because of the diversity of artists and quality of the shows. Here is an annotated list of my 10 best essential mix (you can easily find them on Youtube or soundcloud):

  • Sasha and Digweed 2002: The iconic duo delivers a master piece, a legendary mix. It’s Renaissance on rocket and progressive house/trance at its best.
  • Gabriel & Dresden 2003: The duo was not that famous in 2003 (this mix in 2002 was a nice alarm). This EM revealed Gabriel & Dresden to the world. They’re never as good as in combining their own creations/remixes with other music (not necessarily “pure” electronic music).
  • Gabriel & Dresden (07-05-2006): same comments as in 2003, I admire their own creations and their ability to select the right other tracks, at the right time of the mix. A fantastic journey
  • Above and Beyond 2004: The UK trio is having a great carreer and the year 2004 was one of the best period for trance music. This EM starts and ends with vocal recommendations and is full of now classics.
  • Sasha 2005: essential mix of the year 2005, the second hour is unbeatable. Sasha uses quite sophisticated software (Ableton) on top of an excellent selection and remixes.
  • Hernan Cattaneo 2008: The Argentinian is one of the most regular DJ: His own radio show Resident has up to 400 episodes. This EM reflects his capacity to select unique tracks, assemble them into a coherent set, and produces an incredible atmosphere.
  • James Zabiela (Moon theme, 2010): Inspired by the sci-fi Moon movie, JZ delivers an unique journey. It’s not a mix, it’s a film.
  • Tiesto in 2014: quite strange to see this EM in the list. Let me explain. Tiesto was incredible in 2000’s and was/is continuously declining quality-wise (in profit to mainstream music and business $$$). This essential mix in 2014 is neither his brilliant 2000’s style nor his commercial 2020’s style: it’s in-between, I would say in a middle of nowhere (as he said, “chill outs” and music he loves). I think Tiesto wanted to show that he’s still capable of doing great music – he totally succeeded in this unique mix.
  • Mo Shic 2003 02 23: The ambient, dark and psychedelic, is quite unique and some tracks are simply georgous. I’m not a usual fan of this kind of music, and it’s one of the key strenght of essential mix: you can discover the multiple facets of eletronic music.
  • Trentemoller (2006.10.15): this mix is better than his incredible album: nothing to add (oh yes: elected essential mix of the year 2006)

I always had the impression DJs give their very best at EM for delivering an unique story and putting their stamp on the history of music. It’s not just about concatenating (their famous) tracks: Essential Mix deserves much respect and sounds a key opportunity for these artists to share their overall vision of music.
EM was and is an opportunity to discover different music (from trance to progressive to deep house to whatever) and talents (or confirms exceptionnal artists!).

The way we listen to music has largely evolved during the last decade. It’s more streaming services and Youtube than classical radio and mp3 found in Napster or torrents. Now there are tons of mixes/shows/mixtapes/emissions/… available. Cercle is one of them and broadcasts live electronic music concerts from unusual locations (you can find all shows on Youtube). By unusual, I mean: a headlight, a tour, a strange cup with no public, or a rooftop landing, moutains at 10000 feet, and a fortress with thousands people. What’s incredible with Cercle is the selection of artists together with the selection of locations. Like EM, the diversity of shows is mind-blowing with international artists (some are well-known, but some are great surprises, at least to me), different kind of electronic music (from pure house to deep techno), in different places and atmosphere. Like EM, I have impression artists give their best and build a story with their music and the place. It sounds and looks like a movie, a visual journey (like the best EMs). The difference with EM is mainly visual, but I think it adds an incredible value and pushes artists. EM used to have “live” shows, with Cercle it’s by construction.
It’s hard to beat Essential Mix, but Cercle has certainly more freedom to attract new talents and a richer format that better emphasizes the power of electronic music. Here is a list of my 10 best Cercle:

So is Cercle the new Essential Mix? It’s too early and fresh, but I found many similarities (quality and diversity-wise) and I see Cercle as a powerful evolution of EM. Both magnify artists and music. If Cercle wants to definitely win the game, I have a suggestion: invite Gabriel And Dresden as well as Hernan Cattaneo in unusual locations of France ;)

Written on March 18, 2020
[ music | electronic | media ]