Source: Resident Advisor 

RA’s readers pick the top live acts of the year.



What are the fundamentals of live electronic music performance? Exclusively playing your own music is the obvious one. Unlike lots of their record-spinning, beat-matching counterparts, most live acts would consider themselves producers first and performers second, so much of their craft is deciding how to best present their music to the world. Do you scale back and just use a laptop? Do you bring the studio to the stage? Or do you, like one of the artists in this year’s list, round up an 11-piece ensemble? That’s the beauty of performing live: there are no limits.As you scroll, you might notice that we’ve done things a little differently in 2015, doubling the number of acts from 20 to 40. We basically thought it was time to open up the field, shining a light on more of your favourites. It means that you’ve now got UK rave icons next to an Icelandic techno duo; a seasoned composer rubbing shoulders with a karate-chopping house-head; a hooded industrialist up against an acid maestro. As for the top 20, there are seven new entries, plenty of old faces and a brand new number one.
40.Kollektiv Turmstrasse
39.Headless Horseman
An anonymous techno artist in a veiled hoodie who speaks in the third person. How to stop that from being silly? Make the music totally badass, which is precisely what Headless Horseman does.
37.Marc Houle
36.Tin Man
35.Fatima Yamaha
34.Point G
Premiesku play live without computers, and they’re constantly adding new equipment to their arsenal to keep themselves challenged. It’s what keeps their minimalist house fresh, and what makes them one of Romania’s best exports.32.Gaiser
31.Rodriguez Jr.
30.Max Cooper
29.Planetary Assault
27.The Chemical Brothers
It may only be Tom Rowlands onstage these days, but 2015 was proof that the Chemical Brothers put on as show-stopping a performance today as they ever have.
25.Mr. G
24.Jon Hopkins
23.Agents Of Time
21.Todd Terje
In 2015, Todd Terje’s already great live show got better. With a back catalogue loaded with hits, the Norwegian artist showcased his tropical sound with the help of a band and dancers.
Gavin Lynch’s techno has global appeal. The Dubliner clocked up more air miles than most pilots in 2015, taking his brand of direct, catchy club music to Colombia, Luxembourg and Georgia to name a few. But there was more to Matador’s year than just a busy tour schedule: he also released an EP on Minus, remixed Disclosure and became a fixture at Jamie Jones’s Paradise parties. He’s versatile without compromising his sound, which might be why he’s made our top 20 for the fourth year running.19.Floating Points
At the time of writing, Floating Points has played live less than ten times, but anyone could have guessed his new show would quickly make a splash. It was an 11-piece ensemble with Sam Shepherd at the helm, using racks of keyboards and a Buchla synth to unspool wispy strands of his debut album, Elaenia. From the opening night at Dimensions festival to his recent dates in Europe and New York, his live act proved to be just like his records: bold, imaginative and utterly lovely.18.Paranoid London
« If you like your music melodic, deep, well-made & produced, jog on, » reads the press release for Paranoid London’s debut album. That should give you an idea of the no-fucks-given attitude driving the enigmatic UK outfit, and the kind of rugged acid tracks that form the core of their live show. This year, they hit the road harder than ever before, topping off appearances at Sónar, The Bunker and fabric with a debut entry on the RA poll.17.Vril
This may be the Giegling and Dystopian artist’s first showing on this poll, but his sets—heavy, dubby, dark—have long been pitch-perfect. What changed in 2015? It never hurts to begin your year with a Delsin LP. And with a couple of key swings through North America and more gigs outside his native Germany than ever before, Vril simply gave more brave souls the chance to plunge into the void.16.Nicolas Jaar
In 2015 we saw Nicolas Jaar the producer. We saw Nicolas Jaar the film scorer. Then there was Nicolas Jaar the label boss, and Nicolas Jaar the DJ. But Nicolas Jaar the live act? Well, he was teasingly scarce. But with DARKSIDE dissolved, Jaar embarked on a string of shows in Mexico where he introduced a new band. Footage of these gigs revealed a fresh live configuration for a performer who has always been willing to take risks—a quality that made him our top live act of 2011, 2012 and 2013. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in 2016.15.Bob Moses
A lot of people saw Bob Moses play this year, which might be a result of their two-pronged appeal. Their long-awaited debut album painted them as a rock band with a drum machine, but hear them live and those pounding rhythms steal the show. They’re a rare act who truly exist in between scenes, and no matter what kind of venue they were playing in there was usually a sold-out crowd to greet them.

Recording a hugely popular (and Grammy-nominated) album is one thing; taking it on the road is another. That’s precisely the challenge Caribou embraced in 2015. The four-piece outfit powered through a punishing world tour that took them through Australia, Asia, North America and Europe. Dan Snaith and co. cleverly retooled songs from Our Love (and its predecessor, Swim) for a show that had arms aloft at Coachella, Glastonbury, Sydney Opera House, and, well, pretty much everywhere they played in 2015.

13.Nils Frahm
A classically trained pianist with a love of synthesizers and drum machines, Nils Frahm is as gifted as he is unusual. Live performance has always been central to his art—Spaces, his breakthrough 2013 album, was a collection of concert recordings—so it’s no surprise he woos his crowds so easily. There are many transcendent experiences to be had in electronic music these days, but few match the thrall of Frahm’s celestial arpeggios.

12.Stephan Bodzin
Stephan Bodzin is a veteran German artist with a distinct sense of melody. It’s been there in his music since the ’90s, and in the current landscape, with melodically-minded labels like Innervisions and Life & Death ruling the roost, his first appearance on this list makes total sense. In « Singularity » he recorded one of Life & Death’s biggest tracks of 2015, but it was in front of a Moog synthesiser and a large audience where Bodzin really shined.

11.Voices From The Lake
It’s pretty hard to stroke your chin when your face has melted off. So although Voices From The Lake make extremely smart music drawing on a deep knowledge of their machines, they’re among the most visceral acts making techno in 2015. Be it a one-hour festival slot or the sort of five-hour epic they wrought at their spiritual home The Labyrinth this year, Donato Dozzy and Neel’s live sets shifted consciousness as only these masters can.

What’s not to like about Guti? The guy’s a workhorse, with a touring schedule that’d be full-on for most DJs, let alone a live performer. And his sound, a perfect blend of house uplift and jazzy nous, is a hit wherever his itinerary takes him. Following the release of a jazz record in 2014, Guti focused his energy on touring this year, giving the US, Australia and his native Argentina a dose of his good vibes.

9.Octave One
Techno acts don’t get much more live than Octave One. Bouncing their shoulders, furrowing their brows, wringing their steely sounds from heaving racks of gear, the Burden brothers always work up a sweat, for both themselves and the crowd. Then again, it would be hard not to when you’re drawing from their catalog. Whether they’re showcasing new ones like « The Forgotten » or rinsing classics like « Black Water, » the pressure never lets up while these two are on stage.

The modular synth has recently become Surgeon’s main squeeze—he even brings it with him when he’s DJing. As you might expect, he’s good with it, too. He casually patches classic-sounding Surgeon jams from scratch, as his RA Session this year showed. His vibe hasn’t changed dramatically, but there’s a new and inspired energy that has brought this techno lifer to the live act poll in 2015.

7.Henrik Schwarz
Henrik Schwarz is a musician with a capital M. Early in his career, the German producer helped shape the inimitable sound of Innervisions. Today, he’s as comfortable smashing it out for seas of people at festivals like Awakenings as he is jamming with modern jazz musicians like Dan Berglund and Bugge Wesseltoft. This year he did plenty of both, dazzling crowds around the world with the depth and variety of his talent.

6.Mathew Jonson
Mathew Jonson has jumped eight places in this year’s poll, and what a 12 months he’s had. His hands-on, hardware-heavy setup and boundless energy behind the mixing desk make him one of the most unique live performers on the circuit, and he has a sound that does as much damage on the terraces of Ibiza as it does in Berghain. For those who couldn’t catch the Canadian on the dance floor, there was the wonderful fabric 84, one of the long-running series’ most timeless mixes.

No matter your feelings on Pariah and Blawan’s live techno project, you’ll absolutely know if you’ve seen them. These two UK artists produce and perform music that demands attention. They do this by rigging up a modular system with drum machines and sequencers and letting it rip. The sound they create is harsh, mechanistic and unforgiving—and when it’s going well, as it often was in 2015, it’s also nuanced, expressive and electrifying.

4.David August
David August has become an exemplary live performer: he’s constantly making new stuff to test out on the road, and he has a way of working with unexpected source material, whether that’s Alfred Hitchcock voice snippets or edits of Madonna and Pink Floyd. His sets have become both more adventurous and more affecting over the years, which might explain how August held strong in the #4 spot for a second year.

3.Âme We’re used to seeing Âme in both the live act and DJ polls. In 2015 Frank Wiedemann has gone one better: he’s in the live poll twice, both as Âme (Kristian Beyer handles DJing) and as half of Howling alongside Ry X. And while Howling allows Wiedemann to flesh out his pop side, his Âme sets continue to pamper Innervisions fans with the kind of soaring deep house that forms the core of the label’s sound.

2.Recondite In his recent Exchange, Lorenz Brunner said he makes sure to leave time in his hectic touring schedule for at least six hours of sleep. That’s obviously good for his own health, but he’s not just snoozing for his own sake—his Ableton-driven live set, one of the tightest and most finely calibrated in the business, is the product of a clear mind that’s laser-focused on the dance floor. We really couldn’t be in better hands.

Strahil Velchev loves it, doesn’t he? Just look at him go. He can barely suppress a grin as he plays his basslines and furiously taps rhythms. When he drops the kick drum, his upper body seems to thrust involuntarily. He has the air of someone who’s been practicing in his bedroom for years, and is itching to show you what he’s got. Even when he’s not out on the road performing, he’s back at home performing: Velchev regularly tapes himself improvising on different setups and uploads the footage to YouTube. And check the image on his RA artist page—it’s as if he can’t get close enough to his machines. Velchev is very clearly a man who’s infatuated with his craft.

Why has he hit #1 in 2015? Well, it feels like word has finally reached everyone. Although he’s appeared on this list four times, with three consecutive top-five finishes, Velchev just isn’t what you’d call a stage-managed artist. He hops from label to label, and he’s never been associated with a fashionable scene or sound. In the excellent « Cloud Generator » he had a hit track this year, but then that’s the case most years for Velchev. The explanation is therefore quite simple: he’s extremely talented, and in 2015 more people than ever took notice.