Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Umoja Soundsystem (DJ crew), Voltage Music (label) and ForwardEver

Technical Information:
Vestax PMC 17A Mixer
Technics 1200 MK II Turntables
Stanton 890 Needles
Sony MDR V500 Headphones
M-Audio Fast Track Audio Interface
Bias Peak Pro 5 Sound Editor
Human brain

Programming Note:

“Process” was track channel mixed, cross-fader-central. This refers to mixing by leaving the crossfader in the middle position, and sliding each channel’s individual volume control up or down to mix between tracks.

Form and Formats:
The process: Started by choosing records. That might sound simple, but it was a choice of quality and familiarity versus quantity and interface–a choice between vinyl and digital formats.

Like many other DJs, my record collection is split into three formats: vinyl, CD and MP3. However, my acquisition of hardware interfaces for the later two systems has not kept pace with the preponderance of digital music available. Although I own a copy of digital mixing program Traktor, I find it frustrating and awkward to use. The software interface is overly complex, the program doesn’t catalog iTunes folders accurately, and it requires a sound card that supports multiple “outs” so you can monitor using both headphones and speakers simultaneously. Additionally, running the program on my lowly Macintosh iBook G4 pushes the machine’s CPU power to about its limit. So digital music was out for now.

Sadly, my freshest, most exciting recent sounds are all on MP3. Burn CD’s and mix em’ along with your vinyl you say? That would be nice, but CDJ players are also cost-prohibitive; as such I don’t own a pair, or even a single unit. That brought me back to square one: vinyl.

Luckily, multiple sources (promos for review for various freelance outlets I contribute to, a small amount of purchased vinyl from Amoeba, Open Mind and Tweekin’ Records) have kept me somewhat current on vinyl releases. And this is important: I mainly collect certain specific genres on vinyl while other genres I collect solely on MP3. Broken beat, dubstep, reggae and most of my house collection is on wax; techno, hip-hop and global beats I collect digitally.

The mix I have compiled represents a tiny cross-section of not only the genres that I play out, but also the formats I mix between, and the latter often affects the overall process of the final mix. Mixing vinyl puts me in an entirely different space than mixing MP3’s or CDs. For instance, the mood or feeling of the vinyl records I chose, plus the tactile interface of moving and adjusting the pitch of the records (via the record player’s pitch controller or my fingers on the turntable spindle, etc.) contribute to the concentration or anxiety I afford to a mix, blend or transition. Vinyl mixing has an innate physicality.

Transition Tunings:

Throughout this mix I tried to place and emphasis on “just letting the record play,” while being conscious of the amount of time it would take to get through the set. As a result, I did a lot of editing on the fly to the track selection. I had the basic 14 or so singles chosen in advance, arranged via BPM (listed after the label in the song list), but I reshuffled certain choices, and nixed others. During the mix I raided my record closet for transition records, and the final the last two records were last minute additions.

Hence, I mixed 18 records, which, coincidently started off at 118 BPM with a broken beat track, and the mix is similarly bookended by a broken/2step-ish track. This performance is representative of the fact that I rarely play an entirely straight four/four (house or techno) set–gotta have those off-kilter polyrhythms in there. That being said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for DJs who mix minimal house, techno and other more rigid sound formats, and do so with a sense of style and soul. After 15 years of DJing, this is something that I still aspire to each time I play out.

I should also mention that this was my second attempt at this mix. The first attempt was smooth until a poor transition on the final record–over an hour into the mix. Additionally, the first mix suffered from some digital distortion in the recording process. Overall, I’m satisfied with this second pass. Most of the transitions and blends are in-key or at least complimentary to each other.

My major regret is that I recorded this from analog vinyl, through a marginally good premixer, into a digital audio interface, encoded as a mono AIFF file and then converted to MP3. All that makes for a less than stellar stereo experience. That’s why my next major purchase is going to be a DJ mixer with stereo XLR outs, as well as finding audio editing software that record in stereo.

Words About The Wax:
Domu – Quarantine (New Religion) 118–A song from The Electric Institute compilation put together by Kirk Degiorgio. Catch Kirk on his upcoming US tour in March. Domu has a new label called TrebleO, which is quite excellent.

DJ Spinna – We Can Change This World (Papa)–Spinna has a beautiful studio in Fort Greene Brooklyn, and has really come into his own as a house/nujazz producer. You should hear his ridiculous sets at New York’s Shelter club–off the hook house!

Listen To The Music – Reckless Woman (Out of the Loop)–This is Ewan Pearson in disguise.

Kahil El’Zabar – Running In The Streets-Charles Webster Remix (Deeper Soul)–Kahil El’Zabar is a major figure in the world of free jazz, and leads the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble based in Chicago. This is one of Charles Webster’s best remixes, and his other recent work has established him as one of the world’s finest producers. Bjork noticed, and he’s producing her next album.

Rockers Hi-Fi – Push Push (Different Drummer)–The massive original mix from 1995. Get Physical’s M.A.N.D.Y. recently remixed this track for Great Stuff. The “He can turn the tide…” sample is reggae singer Johnny Osbourne from his Channel One/Scientist era recordings.

Brooks – Clicks (Mantis)–Haunting!

Baseline Road – You Will Find It (Nordic Trax)–Cats from Colorado on a Canadian label. John “Community Recordings” Nedza and Mathew “Deep House Soldiers” Brandy make weightless dance music in mile-high clouds.

Theo Parish – Solitary Flight (Sound Signature) This track from 2002 started an avalanche of interest in this cat’s production. And you can hear why: intentionally off-track kick and snare inflections, like J-Dilla doing house. And the soul is undeniable. I heard this track for the first time in LA at an afterhours art gallery club. It was 3 a.m.; there were about 12 of us in an empty gallery with a huge soundsystem and this record. I nearly cried it was so perfect.

Agora Rhythm – Circles (Nite Grooves) Don’t sleep on New York’s Nite Grooves. They’re always slipping these moody gems out of the woodwork when you least expect them! Tetsu Shibuya & DJ Shingo are doing tracks for Sonar Kollektiv as well.

Harold Heath – One More Try (Groove Pleasure)–One of the better tracky dubs I’ve heard in a while. This is a real “L.A.” underground record. If you go there, check out sets by Raul Campos, Tony Watson or Marques Wyatt.

Parov Stellar – Primavera (Auris) This label is also home to dubby goods by Lars Behrenroth and Frankman. Parov Stellar also does nujazz and jazz house for Sunshine Enterprises and his own label.

Vincenzo – Can You Feel What I Feel (Dessous) That’s the voice of The Temptations’ David Ruffin from The Motown Story on the breakdown.

Soda Inc. – Flight SU 118 (Shayan) About the closest thing to trance I’d ever play. But this reminds me of Jam & Spoon, and early Sven Vath stuff. German producers have been going back to this sound of late.

Total Science – Sugar Sweet (Head To Toe) Head To Toe was the Irma Records offshoot founded by Fabrizio Carrerr. It only lasted 13 releases before folding, but all 13 were killer.

Iz & Diz – Happy (Hudd Traxx) SF/Chicago stalwarts get dubby for us. A great single from 2006.

Nubian Mindz – Casablanca (Irma Unlimited) This is Collin “AlphaOmega” Lindo from Reinforced Records, a drum & bass producer by trade. I’ll be damned if this isn’t the essence of Chicago house inna speed garage-type format. Oddly, Professor Smith and myself used these same Rhodes chords for a midtempo track we released as Live & Direkt on Ubiquity. Check the similarities! Eerie.

Cio D’or – 4 Men Terror (Treibstoff) Awesome track from the Cologne-based producer and DJette.

Maddslinky – Dark Swing (Sirkus) Call him Zed Bias or Dave Jones, this producer goes left when the scene goes right. No “electro house” DJ is he; Jones is continually rewriting the rules of broken, jazz, garage and future rhythms.

Ending Process:
Thank you to Modifyer for providing the forum and idea for this mix. Restriction is the absence of freedom; Pharoah Sanders sings “you’ve got to have freedom,” and I agree. Here’s to freeing up the mix. To stepping out of minimal, maximal or whatever genre box we wall ourselves inside of, and, through a process of personal and community evolution, chart new freedoms in our music and our dance culture.

01. Domu–Quarantine (New Religion) 118
02. DJ Spinna–We Can Change This World (Papa) 118
03. Listen To The Music–Reckless Woman (Out of the Loop) 120
04. Kahil El’Zabar–Running In The Streets-Charles Webster Remix (Deeper Soul)
05. Rockers Hi-Fi–Push Push (Different Drummer) 120
06. Brooks–Clicks (Mantis) 121
07. Baseline Road–You Will Find It (Nordic Trax) 120
08. Theo Parish–Solitary Flight (Sound Signature) 122
09. Agora Rhythm–Circles (Nite Grooves) 123
10. Harold Heath–One More Try (Groove Pleasure) 124
11. Parov Stellar–Primavera (Auris) 125
12. Vincenzo–Can You Feel What I Feel (Dessous) 126
13. Soda Inc.–Flight SU 118 (Shayan) 126
14. Total Science–Sugar Sweet (Head To Toe) 127
15. Iz & Diz–Happy (Hudd Traxx) 127
16. Nubian Mindz–Casablanca (Irma Unlimited) 128
17. Cio d’Or–4 Men Terror (Treibstoff) 128
18. Maddslinky–Dark Swing (Sirkus) 130


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Mix

12:09 PM  
Blogger modyfier said...

ain't it though! rich and textural and full of movement...

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D/L'ing now... however whattup with Bias Peak Pro not recording in stereo??? Of course it does! Hell, you could record in stereo into GarageBand, then export the file for maximization/editing in Peak if you had to. If I still lived in SF I'd drop by and troubleshoot yer setup.

BTW I have similar frustrations with digital/CD/vinyl situations, so what I did was drop $100 on a crappy American DJ CD player. It doesn't loop, doesn't have instant start, doesn't play MP3 files, doesn't scratch: but it does have pitch control and so it certainly helps bridge my divides. I can't play two digital tracks in a row, but at least being able to drop that stuff in is a real boon.

Thanks hugely for this mix, and especially for your elucidations on the value of each track. Not to mention for pointing me to a this blog!

10:46 AM  
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