5 Lost and Found DJ Mixes by Chris Alker
While many have amassed sizable music libraries since the dawn of the mp3, DJs still hold something over the general populace, they have a knack for finding those rare “b-sides,” wacky remixes and strange oddities that the more casual music collectors never seem to come across while browsing the net or their local record store.On any given night throughout the city, hundreds of DJs broadcast their own personal music shows from the booths of their favorite watering holes.
The most seasoned spinners weave sound, often across time and genres; tracks enjoined in the mix alter, amplify and embellish the original production. When I spin, my set is an auditory fractal: one continuous song or journey with a beginning, a middle and an end. The resulting audio collages are works of art in their own right, but increasingly, DJs looking for serious distribution and notoriety will often cross over into production or hire a ghostwriter to create individual tracks of their own. DJ Francis Grasso brought the art of beat-matching and slip-cueing to the late night gender-bending dance mavens of the Big Apple when he began his residency at Salvation II in the late sixties. However, it wasn’t until the eighties, with the dawn of Hip Hop and the importation of rave culture, that the DJ became an accepted artist in his own right. Early pioneers, like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, recorded their DJ sets on reel-to-reel tape machines, but this was not an easily distributable format. A reel doesn’t exactly fit in your back pocket.The opportunity to record high-quality portable mixes came around 1979 when the the cassette tape was made available to the general public. Tapes were around earlier, but the sound quality wasn’t quite there yet. DIY mix tapes quickly became a major staple in the hip hop community as a way to introduce new artists.
Still, it was some time before music companies began selling DJ mixes. This is due, in large part, to the complicated legal ramifications of selling copyrighted content that isn’t authorized for distribution. DJ mixes are primarily assembled from pre-recorded material which, under the current law, is not recognized as original material.From 1976 until 1998, copyrights protected an author’s work from infringement for his or her life, plus 50 years (plus 75 years for corporate authorship). In 1998, this was extended to 70 and 120 years, respectively. This was due, in no small part, to Disney’s lobby.
Since there is not much demand for mashups from the 1920’s, ie. beyond the arm of the copyright law, DJs either have to give their work away via the blogs, have the capital to clear the samples or risk being sued into oblivion.Today, a quick online search yields hundreds of horribly cheesy Dance Music USA or Disco Inferno studio mixes put out by major record labels with enough money to secure the proper licenses, but with little taste. In order to find quality material, you have two options.You can spend hours trolling the blogs, or get a solid recommendation from someone in the know. Below you will find option number two incarnate. I thought I would save you a little trouble and point you in the direction of five great DJ mixes (in no particular order) that either have yet to be discovered, slipped under the radar or inspired me as a DJ over the years. The following mixes are sure to blow out the speakers of your mom’s station wagon.
1. The Music That Made Screamadelica, mixed by Andrew Weatherall (2010): A veteran DJ, producer and remixer who got his start as a DJ at the Shoom parties in England, Mr. Weatherall is responsible for producing such artists as Beth Orton and Primal Scream, and remixed Björk, Siouxsie Sioux, The Orb, The Future Sound of London, New Order, Manic Street Preachers and My Bloody Valentine, among others. Known as “the DJ with all those strange records,” he never seems to slow down; he just switches gears. This mix is a collection of oddities cobbled together by Weatherall, the producer of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica album as a hat tip to his inspiration, for the BBC Radio 6 Music Program. If you needed any assurance of this DJ’s influence, you need only to investigate the album it inspired. Screamadelica was Primal Scream’s third studio album, which received great commercial success and was considered by Allmusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine “an album that transcends its time and influence.”
2. Gold Teeth Thief, mixed by DJ Rupture (2001):These days it seems that turntablists fit into a cliché of crab scratches and beat juggles that belittle the wide range of possibilities a turntable as an instrument has to offer. DJ Rupture, aka Jace Clayton, is a New York DJ and producer who creates complicated DJs mixes that involve the use of three turntables (typically one for a cappella vocals, a second for breakbeats, and a third for ambient effects). More interested in the juxtaposition of urban world beats than seamless mixing, Rupture’s mix is raw and fun, with Dancehall rubbing up against Latin House, Dub and Trip Hop all in one go.
3. February Mix, by Walker & Royce (2012): It would be a damn shame only to include big name DJs who are known around the world and not shed some light on local talent. Being a hard working local myself, I know that there are a lot of overlooked DJs out there who are holding it down night after night. Enter Walker & Royce. This superb New York DJ/Producer duo represents the next wave of electronic musicians. Not only have these guys signed to Crosstown Rebels, but they are actively DJing, producing and working behind the scenes at Nervous Records’ highly successful sister label, Nurvous. Their latest mix, featured on Blisspop.com, is a dancefloor’s wet dream that begins dark and bassy, then pulls you back in time with an homage to the best of 90’s Deep House, Acid and sexy R&B Disco. Mark my words, these two will go far.
4. Collectors Series Pt.2 – Danse, Gravité Zéro, mixed by Sal P & Kaos (2006): Once in a while, a DJ mix will come along that sends me into a track-buying frenzy. This was the case with the resulting collaboration between Liquid Liquid frontman Sal P and Berlin-Munich-Disco-Machine, Kaos. The mix is a hyper-eclectic collection of Leftfield, House, Italo, Rock and New Wave with artists old and new including: Yello, Patrick Cowley, Daniel Wang, Arthur Russell and Juan Maclean. (Runners-up for this slot include Optimo’s Essential Mix 2006 and DJ Harvey’s Sarcastic Disco Vol. 2, both of which are superb).
5. Hip Hop vs Jungle, mixed by DJ Sikora (2000): Before going on hiatus, DJ Sikora was all the rage along the southeast coast for his unprecedented Breaks, Jungle and Hip Hop sets between 1998 and 2005. In that short time, he managed to release thirty mix CD’s and produced Kaleidoscope High with Lil’ Steven aka JackBot & The B-Side with Joe Galdo and Franco D. His Hip Hop vs Jungle mix brings together some of the most memorable Jungle remixes of Golden-Age Hip Hop tracks like Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” and The Luniz’s “I Got Five On It,” for a toe tapping head bobbing masterpiece. Thankfully, Sikora returned to the decks in 2010, and is currently a member of the Atlanta Bass Crew.