Behind The Beat: Staff Picks 2020

Behind The Beat: Staff Picks 2020

With Behind the Beat, we speak to the people behind Beatport. For our second installment, we hear from Beatport’s expert curation team, who talk staying sane in 2020, returning to the dance floor, and their top tracks of the year.

Name: Raph
Role: Head of Curation & Label Relations
Genre Curated: Minimal / Deep Tech

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

Firstly, I’m super thankful for having a job during the entire lockdown. It was a privilege, as the music industry took a gigantic hit. During lockdown, what has definitely kept me sane is the ability to go running and do sports as much as I could. Without that, I’m not sure I would have survived! But also, I’ve never written so much music in my life and had about 11 releases come out this year, so it’s been a record year, and having the space for being so creative has definitely helped me throughout this time. 

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

Definitely being able to travel to see my family and friends in different countries. It’s been hard not being able to see them this whole time as none of my family lives in Berlin. Also just being able to travel wherever you want will be great, and my first destination will be Spain where I can go and play some beach volley everyday! Lastly, being able to go see live events, shows and go to a proper rave will be on the immediate to-do list! I’m not really sure how realistic that is just now, but I’m praying that we can go back to some sort of normality with the clubbing experience. 

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

Well, having gone to a few parties this year and having to wear a mask and somewhat keep your distance is really a different and strange or surreal experience. You are kind of nervous the whole time, which is really defeating the purpose. I miss being able to dance without having to think, as well as feel the subwoofers and low frequencies! I also just miss the positive energy of the dancefloor when everyone is in their element and going with the music and letting go of everything else. I definitely miss that, as well as being able to dance with your friends and have a good laugh!

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

Having used it multiple times now in my curation show on Twitch, I am super excited about this technology. I love the fact that I can just create my playlist in Beatport and then have direct access to it in the turntables. As I am not a fan of laptop DJing, I am still waiting for the direct LINK integration into the Pioneer CDJs, but I have used LINK on the Denons. It’s so great that you don’t need a USB, and you can just access your music directly. Revolutionary! I think it will also give more insights to producers and labels about how their music is played, and it could be really useful to help them grow their brands and profiles across the world. I think that LINK is definitely the beginning of a paradigm shift in DJ culture, and you will see more and more DJs adhere to it, but I also know some DJs will always play vinyl or use their USBs. I am very curious to see how it will develop in the years to come. It’s definitely a huge step forward in terms of music management and access to content for any type of DJs.

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Elisa Elisa – Drum Love [Heat Up Music]

It’s a fusion of Afro / Deep House with some serious soul and groove. I’ve played a lot this year on streams and mixes, and it always fits perfectly. Love it! 

Alex Agore – Bae [Moment Of Truth Records]

I fell in love with this track the first time I heard it. It has so many emotions coming from various elements, like the percussion, the amazing keys, or the lead synth, which sounds like some sort of electronic flute. It’s a classic in the making, and I’ll continue playing it for a long time. 

Dam Swindle, Jitwam – Coffee in the Morning [Heist Recordings]

Dam Swindle, formerly known as Detroit Swindle, will remain as my favourite band, and they consistently raise the bar with everything they do. This track captures jazz, funk, soul, house, groove, sexy, etc. It has it all, and it’s a club banger. The saxophone riffs at the end just take you over the top. What a tune! 

Name: Jordan
Role: Curator
Genre: EDM

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

Staying busy! I’m so grateful for my job here at Beatport. On top of my day job, I decided to get my master’s degree in music business via Berklee College of Music’s online program while we’re stuck at home, and I’m loving the experience.

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

Hugging all of my friends. Tearing it up on the dance floor no matter the genre. Spending $30 on a single drink at a club in Los Angeles — who would have thought I’d miss that?

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

Beyond feeling nostalgic for that freedom as I dance the night away, I truly miss the sense of community. I’m grateful to live in Los Angeles where I can (normally) attend so many different types of events across the genre spectrum and meet up with friends within each community on the dance floor.

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

I started using Beatport LINK as we went into lockdown to brush up on my DJ skills — the entire platform is a godsend for those of us who love to bounce between different styles of dance music. I’m excited to see how LINK evolves once we’re back to live events; it would be incredible to show up to a club and use LINK to perform a DJ set instead of bringing a USB.

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Tiesto, Vintage Culture – Coffee (Give Me Something) [Musical Freedom]

This track has everything I desire: seductive lyrics, a delicious melody, and a hazy, morning-after atmosphere. I haven’t stopped listening to this track since it came out over the summer — a legend like Tiesto collaborating with rising star Vintage Culture works so well.

Nicky Romero, Timmy Trumpet – Falling [Protocol Recordings]

If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a fan of kicking up the tempo of any song: that’s why I fell in love with Nicky Romero and Timmy Trumpet’s “Falling,” a big room anthem at 138 BPM. I find myself singing along at the top of my lungs to this track’s hook and feel lighter than air when the beat drops.

D-Block & S-Te-Fan – Love On Fire [Rave Culture]

2020 was a bittersweet year for hard dance: those of us who love the harder styles have lived without festivals since the start of the pandemic, which is where the music thrives. Thankfully, D-Block & S-Te-Fan released a track that transcends the live experience and has made its way into my heart. “Love On Fire” builds from the first drop to a powerful, euphoric climax that reminds me of all the late nights spent on the dance floor.

Name: Michael
Role: Curation Coordinator
Genres: Tech House, Minimal / Deep Tech, Beatport LINK

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

It was a mixture of really loving my job, where I listen to great music on a daily basis, being in nature a lot, and spending more quality time with my family and close friends, who I consider family as well. I am an overall positive person and try to find positivity in anything. There is this saying my grandpa used to always tell me: “Be happy when it rains, because if you are not, it will still rain.”

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

To go on an excessive clubbing tour with all my friends, starting Friday and not coming back home before the last club in Berlin closes his doors some time on Monday. Oh, and open airs. I can’t wait for lots of summer open airs. 

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

I do miss the energy it provides me. Sometimes I need to relax at home after a long and hard work week. But sometimes, I need to get my energy from the good vibes people create on the dance floor. I miss those encounters with like-minded people during a nice DJ set a lot. 

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

To be honest, everything. As a part of the LINK product team I know what’s in the pipeline and to be announced in the near future. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you all about it! What excites me most about it though is that it makes our entire music catalogue, more than 9 million tracks, accessible to everyone for a really fair and affordable subscription price. 

Not everyone is or even wants to be a professional DJ and earn money playing out. So if you are ’’just’’ a music lover and want to play for yourself at home, staying up to date with your track collection can become a very expensive hobby, which unfortunately still causes a lot of people to download tracks illegally. It is my hope that LINK can close a gap here and get people to sign up and play millions of high-quality tracks without having to be worried about a letter from a lawyer. This would actually have such a positive impact, especially for artists, as we pay a 10 times higher royalty share then any other streaming platform. Obviously, there is much more about LINK that is amazing, but I particularly wanted to point this out. I happily invite everyone with more questions to join our weekly LINK Berlin live stream on Twitch, where we always invite some great artists and answer lots of questions too.

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Luca Donzelli – Kenny’s Ride (Original Mix) [Heavy House Society]

For me one of the most outstanding Minimal / Deep Tech productions in 2020 with its futuristic theme. This track easily could be on the movie soundtrack of “Tron: Legacy” or “Drive.” “Kenny’s Ride” has this remarkable signature sound and becomes an earworm from the second one. The vocal work seems so simple yet is done perfectly and I am sure took a lot of time to shape. Luca Donzelli to me is one of the most talented producers for that kind of modern House out there.

Josh Butler & SOHMI – Sunday Sunset (Original Mix) [ORIGINS RCRDS]

This track just hit me on an emotional level the very first time I listened. It was during my weekly curation for Tech House. Luckily we have stand up desks, so I started dancing in the office. In my mind I pictured a warm summer day, dancing at an open air party during a beautiful sunset, as “Sunday Sunset” implies. Funny enough, one week later some friends and I got permission to host an open air for 600 people in Leipzig — of course with a hygiene concept and everyone following the local Covid-19 rules. It was sold out and happened two days after this one was released, so I actually had the chance to drop this song in the situation I pictured back at the office. A very late summer day, around 20°C, 600 people, sunset atmosphere and this even on a SUNDAY. How good is that?! I still get goosebumps. This track is deep but very positive and super sexy. So special to see the crowd dive deep into it with me! I feel very blessed to have had this moment in 2020!

Andrew Azara – Onyx (Original Mix) [Domus Music LTD]

The lad from Dublin, Ireland, produced a belter here! I love everything about this one. The lead melody, vocal, and bassline harmonize so well together and combine their energy to form this very uplifting, hands-in-the-air, peak-time Minimal House bomb. To me, this is a real secret weapon, as not many people are aware of it yet, which will hopefully change with this article. It deserves some spotlight! If we would have had a regular festival and clubbing season, “Onyx” would have smashed dance floors in Ibiza, the UK, in the Netherlands, Germany, and a lot more all around the world. Well done Andrew, more of those in 2021, please.

Name: Yann B.
Role: Curator
Genre: Bass, Drum & Bass

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

Producing music, playing tunes and a fridge full of French cheese!

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

I bought some CDJs just before the lockdown and I got a lot of time to practice, so I’m just looking for gigs now!

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

To listen to bass music with a good sound system!

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

I like to use LINK to create new playlists with recent tracks. And It’s a good way to test them and to know if I really want to buy them (I spend a lot of money on music)!

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Clipz ft. Ms. Dynamite, Ms. Banks, Jaykae – Again [RCA Records]

After putting the Clipz alias on ice for 10 years in favor of his work as Redlight, Bristol’s Hugh Pescod returned to releasing drum & bass in 2019 with a scorching bootleg of Koffee’s “Toast,” and the Brandy-sampling “Down 4.” “Again” is his first single of 2020, a soundsystem-ready stepper featuring bass-heavy, underground sounds with a killer earworm of a hook; a formula that has worked time and again for Pescod both as Redlight and Clipz. Taking cues from classic jungle without relying on throwback tropes, “Again” boasts an all-star lineup, with UK legend Ms. Dynamite on the hook, backed up by verses from Ms. Banks and Jaykae. 

Idle Mind Workshop, Rider Shafique – Take Time (Murder He Wrote Remix) [Plasma Audio]

Check out Murder He Wrote’s remix of the big collaboration between Idle Minds Workshop and Rider Shafique, “Take Time.” As expected, Murder He Wrote brings a UK funky beat supported by the cool and calm flow from Rider Shafique and a heavy bass synth to test the subwoofers.

DJ Earl – Wrk Dat Body [Moveltraxx]

Coming soon via the Paris-born, London-based imprint Moveltraxx, “Wrk Dat Body” is the first single from DJ Earl’s sophomore album Bass + Funk & Soul. This one’s a classic tune in the Teklife tradition with a smart alternation of choirs and vocals.

Name: Ross
Role: Curator
Genre: Techno

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

Cycling, NTS and cooking.

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal?

Going to restaurants and bars, seeing my family and friends. Traveling! 

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

Hearing good music at a loud volume and cutting some sick shapes.

What excites you most about LINK? 

Having the entire Beatport catalogue integrated into your decks is pretty damn cool.

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Pearson Sound – Everything Is Inside Out [Hessle Audio]

With a spooky hook and great drums, the ever-brilliant Pearson Sound really hit it out of the park for me with this one. 

Linkwood, Greg Foat – Pressure [Athens Of The North]

Linkwood teaming up with Greg Float on Athens Of The North was always going to be good and this is just one particular highlight from their killer album. There’s a new album out with Linkwood & Other Lands too that just dropped that’s pretty sick.

Gesellschaft Zur Emanzipation Des Samples – IONLYCLOSEEYESTOYOU [Faitiche]

Lovely ambient from Gesellschaft Zur Emanzipation Des Samples (AKA Jan Jelinek). Lockdown had me listening to more ambient than usual, and this really stood out for me.

Name: Steve
Role: Curator
Genre: House, Deep House, Nu Disco / Disco, Afro House

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

My family, my parents’ dog, good House music, book reading, and some video games! 

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

Clubbing, beer pong with friends, pub night outs, and a huge BBQ with everyone I love, if possible! 

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

Interacting with people while the 40Hz frequency gives me heart arrhythmia.

What excites you most about Beatport LINK?  

That I can explore the Beatport catalog, store tracks offline, and play on-demand! 

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Risk Assessment – One More [Midnight Riot]

It’s an absolute tune! A get-down groover with a modern touch! The sample is Chic, if I’m not mistaken. I love everything about it! 

Magnifik & MCKY – Let It Go (Soledrifter Extended Remix) [Bobbin Head Music]

Soledrifter put his magic touch in a beautiful pop original. He chopped the vocals in a way I loved, giving the whole tune a very groovy syncopation, and added a simple yet effective drumline and some complimenting deep chords. It works, and will always do it for me.

Right to Life – Sweet Delight (Micky More & Andy Tee Extended Mix) [Groove Culture]

The vocal is an absolute hook — it stuck in my mind from the very first play. All the rest is a pure bliss making the tune a winner! It probably will stay in my playlist forever.

Name: Tom
Role: Curator
Genre: Indie Dance, Melodic House & Techno, Organic House / Downtempo

What’s kept you sane during lockdown? 

Working on the Beatport x Dessert TV Tower Stream kept me motivated and excited throughout the early lockdown. Finding new talent like Argia, Mala Inka, Tony Y Not and seeing the development of artists like Marino Canal, Upercent, and Coeus, excites me and keeps me going. Those tracks that make you jump out of your chair and you just wanna dance.

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

Once there is some normality back I am most looking forward to returning to ://about blank with my night called Dessert. I’m starting a Dessert label for early 2021 and can’t wait to hear the tracks being played out LOUD! I am currently in Berlin and really looking forward to flying back to NYC and playing at LeBain On Top of TheStandard as I miss all the colorful club kids that Susanne Bartsch gets together every Tuesday in the summer.

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

The energy, the smiles, and exchanges. Feeling the bass go through your body, leaving daily life behind by dancing the night away, and to just hang out with friends, and time flies by. 

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

I’ve been using LINK a lot at home and at the curation streams with the new Denon SC6000 or Prime 4. It’s amazing having endless opportunities with the whole library available to play with, and I usually create playlists to give it a personal experience. Once LINK is directly integrated into the Pioneer CDJs it’s going to be a game-changer.  

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Glowal – Behind Us [Afterlife]

In April, we were in lockdown in Berlin, and everything was very uncertain. This whole Afterlife compilation was incredible, and it’s very hard to choose my favorite out of Glowal, Tale Of Us, Marino Canal, Kevin de Vries, Fideles, and many more. A lot of labels were afraid to release music in those uncertain times but not Tale Of Us. They curated Unity as a symbol of togetherness. All profits were donated to the Coronavirus medical relief fund for Lombardy in Italy. 

Argia – Where We (Instrumental) [Trampoliner] 

The Spanish artist Argia is one of my favorite artists of 2020, I am beyond excited to work with her in 2021 and can’t wait to see what else she will release next year. She’s studied piano and double bass at a conservatory and evolved into more electronic rhythms with time, which you can hear in her music. It has depth, tension, and is filled with emotions. The title track ‘Where Were We” is a powerful and hypnotic one that surely will set crowds into ecstasy. 

Tom Peters – Spieglein (Biesmans Remix) [Studio Kreuzberg]

Last but not least, I couldn’t be happier with the remix Biesmans did for me to finish 2020 on a high note. We met at Watergate where Joris was working as a technician — little did I know that he was this incredible producer and synth lover. Anyone who has seen him perform live, watched his POV videos, or simply listened to his tracks knows this man is pure fire.

Name: Elef
Role: Curator
Genre: Trance

What’s kept you sane during lockdown?

I enjoyed working without using headphones, practicing my cooking skills, doing lots of outdoor workouts, and finally started to work on our VAN Project.

What are you most looking forward to doing when things finally go back to normal? 

Dancing my ass off in the clubs, back to martial arts lessons, traveling, and visiting restaurants with friends.

What do you miss most about the dance floor? 

Unexpectedly good talks with random people, the smell of a club, the bouncers, and of course the magical energy of dancing people. Oh lord, please bring us back ASAP.

What excites you most about Beatport LINK? 

I love to have millions of tracks available anytime. It makes the life of the DJ much easier.

And what are your three favorites tracks of 2020?

Ferry Corsten & Ciaran McAuley – Mo Chara [Flashover Recordings]

It has been a great year for Trance with endless superb productions, but my personal favourite comes from a Trance pioneer, Ferry Corsten, who’s teamed up with Ciaran McAuley to create this beautiful track, which can be already called timeless classic. I can’t get enough of this melody.

Menkee – Black Butterfly (Mattim Remix) [BC2]

When you press play, that beefy kick drum serves as the perfect foundation for muted melodies and harmonizing vocals to come. Anyone who misses the feeling of experiencing live music should hear this tune to feel nostalgic for the clock striking 5 a.m. on the dance floor: it’s a fitting end to a long, memorable evening.

Ace Ventura & Outsiders – Free Your Soul [Future Music Records]

Two heavyweights of the psy-trance world teaming up for the most memorable “full on” track in 2020. You can’t escape this trippy journey through mushroom land.

Check out the rest of our curators’ favourite selections in our Staff Picks 2020 campaign.

Sign up for a free Beatport LINK account here.



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