Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Drum & Bass - Two Worlds Collide

This mix is unavailable at present (please read my other posts for an explanation)

OK, time for the first D&B mix on this Blog. there will be a lot more to come I can promise you. Just check the "My Mixes" link to the right for a whole load of older ones.
This is one of my most recent constructions, from just a few weeks ago - 7th November. Based around my favourite recent tunes, with a few older ones thrown in for a bit of variety, this is an unashamedly commercial, populist mix that nevertheless keeps it underground. I like to think this mix keeps the musicality of the tunes running together; there is some key-matching in the first half of the mix that I was pleasantly surprised about, and while the harder tunes come in towards the end, I think there is still plenty of fun in the mix.

Here's the tracklist:

Quivver- Chasin A Feeling (Skanna Mix) [BozBoz]
Adele - Hometown Glory (High Contrast Mix) [XL]
Eric Prydz - Pjanoo (High Contrast Mix) [Data]
Shinichi Osawa - Star Guitar (Brookes Brothers Remix) [Data]
J Majik & Wickaman - Crazy World [Brookes Brothers Mix) [Data]
Chase & Status - Hurt U [Ram]
Blame - Stay Forever [Charge]
John B - Blue Eyeshadow [Nu Electro]
JB - The Smurf [Back2Basics]
Benny Page - Crazy Bal'headz
LAOS - Panda Style [Hospital]
Chase & Status - Brazil [Ram]
DJ Hazard - Mr Happy [Playaz]
The Choice - Kist [Cutterz Choice Graff Series]
Rhythm Beater - Babylon [Cutterz Choice]

track 1 "Chasin a Feelin" is a choice tune that I suspect has been a bit ignored on the D&B scene. Quivver is John Graham, who cut his teeth producing hardcore as Skanna back in the day, but has spent most of his career making prog/trance. This tune draws the two threads back together, and I love its eclectic yet commercial feel. In all honesty I find the drum patterns a bit basic, to me reflecting the fact that the producer has not beein immersing himself in Drum & Bass. It is worth noting that when accomplished D&B producers put there hand to other forms, such as house, breakbeat, or more recently dubstep, the results are almost always impeccable. It seems that the skills required to produce D&B are more than sufficient to create quality funky house, hip hop, trip hop etc. Back to the drift - I would say this tune could do with a light-touch makeover from the likes of High Contrast just to give it the edge and make it appeal more to D&B DJ's. I understand that Sasha has been ending his sets with this tune, so I like to think I am taking over where Sasha leaves off :-) ! It is worth noting that I pitched it up a fair bit too, it is just a tad too slow for mainstream D&B, again probably to make it appeal more to the house/trance crew.

Strangely, when pitched up, it is exactly in key with High Contrast's amazing mix of Adele's "hometown glory". this tune has been massive on the D&B scene and charts, and quite deservedly so. In spite of Adele's odd diction and pronunciation, I love this song, and it keeps going round my head. This mix is just so joyous and perfect, it is a real lift. High Contrast seems to have made a niche for himself in remixing tunes from other genres into top-notch crossover hits, while at the same time not losing any of his credibility within the scene.

So more from HC with his remix of Eric Prydz' "Pjanoo". Many probably though Prydz was another one-hit-wonder / one-trick pony after "Call On Me", but he is not! First Floyd, then this, all three tracks completely different. And he keeps it underground, producing huge quantities of stuff under several aliases. This is the key I think for producers who hit the big time - do not get sucked into producing exclusively commercially-led material, stay true to your roots and let the good stuff come naturally. this is what the major labels have traditionally got so wrong - they want "more of the same" and pressurise the musicians into producing it, usually with disappointing results. I think the scene is now mature enough that this lesson has, largely, been learnt, and both High Contrast and Eric Prydz are shining examples.

As I played "Pjanoo" in the mix, I could just hear this remix of Shinichi Osawa's cover of the Chemical Bros' "Star Guitar" in my head. Yes, they are in the same key. I think I have developed some kind of perfect pitch in the last year or two. I don't know what key I am in but I can spot more often not correctly that a tune I am hearing will match another tune in my head. So all I need is a set of reference points ("tune A" is in G Minor" for instance), and I may be able to have truly perfect pitch! I'm not expecting any miracles, but from a personal point of view this is a very interesting development, considering I have been musically trained from about the age of 7, and mixing on the decks now for nearly 20 years, yet this ability is only now manifesting itself at the ripe old age of 40! Anyway, Star Guitar is one of those tunes that works its way into your consciousness. The original Chemical Brothers tune is a classic, and has a great video to match, who can forget the trippy repetitive train journey that always has elements of scenery matching components of the music - a truly original multimedia composition that hits all the right buttons for me - I just LOVE it when visual and audible elements are co-ordinated and it is so very very rarely done well, if at all, even in electronic music videos where the opportunity presents itself in spades.

Moving on, "Crazy World" is another recent D&~B classic that hit the big time, and the link here is Brookes Brothers, another outfit with a devastatingly commercial and hooky take on the D&B theme, that again has not alienated the D&B massive in the way that say, Pendulum did, to judge by the success of the more recent "Tears You Down" is anything to go by. The pitch-corrected vocals that they added to this tune really work for me, in spite of some reservations I had when I first heard it. The original remains a classic, and J Majik is one of those artists with a very long back catalogue that is worth investigating, remember he remixed Hatiras' "Spaced Invader to dancefloor-melting effect, and also produced the stunning "Love Is Not A Game" that was a big hit back in 2001.

Chase and Status follow, with "Hurt U" a big vocal tune that can be found on, but originally precedes, their recetn "More Than Alot" long-player. These boys have been smashing it all over the D&B Scene and one of the most refreshing things has been the variety in their tunes. I cannot receommend the album enough to anyone who needs to hear what the current D&B scene can offer.

Another artist with a heck of a heritage (ref: J Majik above) is Blame. His remix of 2 Bad Mice's "Music Takes You" is an all-time hardcore / proto-jungle classic, and he produced a string of big tunes throughout the 90s and 00s, following his own path of lush strings, chilled vibes and rich production even when the rest of the D&B scene went dark and raw to the exclusion of almost all else. There is still a tough edge in the sound though, as "Stay Forever" exemplifies.

These two tunes have a similar vibe, but I wanted to move along, and I think I managed the transition OK with help from one of the scene's maverick's , John B. "Blue Eyeshadow" is an awesome trance/electro styled D&B monster with more than a hint of "Blue Monday" about it. I first heard this tune on the "Trance'n'Bass" cover-mount CD that mixmag presented back in late 2002, and I think it still sounds fresh today.

Taking a slightly different slant on the retro electro theme is "The Smurf" from Jason Ball's JB. Jason used be head honcho of a mini-D&B empire in Birmingham, with Dead Dred/Dred Bass his baby, he had Back2Basics and other smaller labels ,plus the Music First record shop and club night, and strong ties with the Kool FM Midlands pirate station. Back in the late 90s early 00s I was living in Brum, checking Kool each weekend, and buying tunes from the hands of JB himself and a young DJ Hazard down at Music First. The tune itself samples an all-time classic of the same title byt Tyrone Brunson, an electro tune that takes me right back to the school disco in 1982, where it was something of a theme tune at my school!

Once that tune gets into its heavy B-line, it's time to get headz down for some serious dancefloor action. Benny Page's Crazy Bal'headz is just a nutty bange that has an irresistible hook. It is a very fast tune but I pitched it down just a tiny bit to keep it in this mix.

LAOS "Panda Style" is a real wacky one - take a listen. But while it might put a smile on your face, the tune absolutely kicks form its jazzy stabs toa ruff bassline. Chase & Status return with "Brazil", an EP tune from earlier in the year, that has a similar feel. This tune was Huuuuge and deservedly so.

DJ Hazard''s "Mr Happy" is an in-your-face jump-up tune that should need no introduction. Personally I prefer the earlier "Busted", but I think this one was bigger, and anyway that one is in an older mix...

the last 2 tunes are from Cutterz Choive. Rhythm Beater's "Babylon" uses a good old sample that will be familiar to old-skool junglists. I hear this tune on a pair of consecutive cover discs from Knowledge/kmag from last summer 2007, And I just had to track it down. On checking the label's web site I found the tune available to download, so I checked a few more tunes for purchase, including "Kist" and the earlier Benny Page tune. "Babylon" just has such a sweet rolling vibe with a ruff bassline and a subtle skank, that I think I could keep this one "in my box" for years.

I think I have rambled on enough now, so enjoy the mix!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Techno Pressure!

Gotta keep up the pressure.
Been a busy week at work, but it's also been a busy month (damn is November nearly over already!) on the decks and back on the 10th I threw down a selection of techno tunes from axross the last decade.

Back between about 95-2000 I bought a lot (and mean a real lot) of US and European techno, much of it in the Mills/Surgeon/Beltram/Advent vein; I was clubbing a lot at the time, primarily and House of God and Atomic Jam in Birmingham, my home town at the time. I still have all these tunes of course, and every now and then the pile gets supplemented.

That is how this mix came about, first I picked up some bargain tunes from DJ Punisher, who runs Seismic records, Detroit. Two 4-track EPs from the early 2000's. Secondly, a rather surprising track turned up in the shape of Oliver Klein's remix of James Holden's "One For You", a £1 record fair purchase, I love Holden's style, but would normally count him as edgy progressive-trance, not techno, but this mix more than creeps into techno territory. So here I had some quality "new" material (new in my collection if not to the world at large) , and I felt the need to dig out some quality tunes to join it all up.

The results are here, tracklisting as follows:

Joel Mull - The Mole (Ben Sims "Just Don't Understand" Remix) [Primevil]
Wind's - Detention (D'Jedi Rmx) [Calme]
Greg Gow - Chemical Compounds A2 [Seismic]
Simon Digby - Bottom Line (G Flame's I Want Remix) [Strive]
Joey Beltram - The Infinite Wisdom [STX]
Ken Ishii - Misprogrammed Day [R&S]
James Holden - One For You (Oliver Klein Remix) [Direction / Silver Planet]
Grudge - Pneumonia [Seismic]
Marco Lenzi - Who Cares B2 [Who Cares]
Virulent - Hive Minded [Seismic]
Electric Deluxe - Electric Deluxe (Cristian Varela Remix 1.0) [Additive]
Electric Deluxe - Electric Deluxe [Plus 8]
Steve Bicknell - Why? And For Whom? (Surgeon Definition) [Cosmic]
Mark Williams - Drum Generation Prt 2 [Drumworks]
Cozmic Spore & Fanon flowers - Chemical Compounds B1 [Seismic]
Cozmic Spore - IT [Seismic]
Cozmic Spore - Chemical Compounds A1 [Seismic]
Punisher - Dilated [Seismic]
Alenia - Chemical Compounds B2 [Seismic]
Dean Rodell - Dissolved Distance [Drumcode]
Bandulu - Running Time [Blanco Y Negro]

And download it here!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Return and Revenge of Dubstep

Back again.
Things are coming thick and fast. I hope I can keep up the pace. I have loads of mixes to upload and publicise as I have said, And right now I want to get my latest efforts online as quickly as possible!

So first up this week is my newest dubstep mix, which was recorded earlier in the month - 7th Nov to be precise.

Now of course dubstep is the sound du jour and everyone is putting out dubstep mixes at the moment, and I have to confess to climbing on the bandwagon a bit late. That said, I have liked the sound of the music since I first encountered it, before the dubstep name had become unequivocal, and terms like grime, eski and niche were also still being used if not interchangeably, then at least overlapping- although many would no doubt still argue the distinctions!

The sad thing is that I don't own much dubstep, the main reason being a shortage of funds. I actually heard a new style of music I really liked, and rather fearing it could become a money pit, almost deliberately avoided getting "into" it. 10 years ago or so I was spending literally hundreds a month on music, as a single person with small outgoings this was possible. Now that is no longer true, the mortgage is over twice the size, there are extra mouths to feed etc etc.

Anyway enough of that, what about the music. Well, a mixture across the last 3 years or so and varying styles in dubstep. The four Planet-Mu tunes are all off the same compilation. Planet Mu was set up by Mike Paradinas a decade or so ago. He is a long-time Aphex Twin cohort and I was into his stuff as Mu-Ziq from the mid-90s, and he helped introduce many other artists such as Jega and Shitmat to the world. More recently his label has diversified and released dubstepalongside the other styles of experimental electronica. I think its a good fit - Dubstep is a return to the dancefloor for experimental sounds, as it has a wide span of styles that encompasses electronic tweaking as much as dancehall stylings.

A few other notable tunes in the mix:

Breakage - Dharma ("Lost" references anyone?) is a great dubstep tune from this Drum & Bass producer, really dark and deep, and available free from the Digital Soundboy website! Rossi B & Luca brought the fantastic UB40 "One In Ten" based "Nobody Knows" that I used in my earlier dubstep mix (two B-side tracks are in this mix here), and on checking their back catalog I discovered this wicked rework of the Specials' "Ghost Town".

J:Kenzo brings "Tekno Bass" to the party, a tune that references my love for Aux 88, a wicked Detroit Electro-Bass outfit, while the D&B Contingent return towards the end with TC and Chase & Status representing big-style. That TC remix by Caspa absolutely rips, and has been tearing up D&B dancefloors so much that it was in the official 1Xtra & Radio 1 D&B Top 10! Chase & Status are one of the artists of 2008 for me - their capability in producing not just D&B, but dubstep and also hip-hop/funk (check "Against All Odds" on their debut LP More Than Alot) is astounding. Burial's "U Hurt Me" rounds things off, just chilling the mood slightly.

Finally listen up for Burial - Archangel in the mix, it might not appear to be well placed in the tracklist order, but I hope you enjoy my indulgence.

Vex'd - 3rd Choice [Planet Mu]
Skream - Stagger [Tempa]
Breakage - Dharma [Digital Soundboy]
Skream - Rutten [Tempa]
Benga & Coki - Emotions [Tempa]
Pinch - Punisher [Planet Mu]
Boxcutter - Chiral [Planet Mu]
Distance - Traffic [Planet Mu]
Rossi B & Luca - Optimus Prime [Heavy Artillery]
Slaughter Mob - Break Out [Urban Graffiti]
Rossi B & Luca - Pull Up [Heavy Artillery]
Rossi B & Luca - Ghost Town [A.R.M.Y.]
J.Kenzo - Tekno Bass [Soul Shakerz]
Burial - Archangel [Hyperdub]
TC - Where's My Money [D-Style]
Rusko - Cockney Thug [Sub Soldiers]
Chase & Status - Eastern Jam [Ram]
Burial - U Hurt Me [Hyperdub]

Oh and you'll need the link!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Buckle Up!

My next mix doesn't come with such a long story. This is a mix I did at the start of September, of "breaks" material, you know, Thursday Club, Y3K, that kinda style. Not a scene I follow closely, and one which sometimes seems to me to get into a rut all-too easily, some of my pet peeves being:
  • samey beats - even a simple boom-tsh-boom-tsh half-step being an excuse for a "breakbeat" on all too many tracks, the ones where you get two kicks to a bar but no syncopation anywhere
  • over reliance on re-edits of classics and remixes of well-known tunes from the mainstream house scene.
But that is not to say there is not some stonking stuff and some excellent, innovative labels, and after all dance music is about having fun, and if it makes you dance, then that is what matters.

I can hardly claim this mix to be a showcase of carefully selected tunes or anything like that. I just had a big pile of CDs knocking about, picked up cheap from record fairs etc, and eventually enough breaks tracks built up for a decent mix.

Here's the tracklist:

FX: Alan Key - Get Ready Keyhole
Mylo - Muscle Car (Tiga's Nightmare Chords Mix)
Deep Dish - Stranded (Brother Brown B-Mix)
The Doors - Hello, I Love You (Adam Freeland Remix)
Stanton Warriors - Blue
Ferry Corsten - Watch Out (Lee Coombs Remix)
The Egg - Work (Atomic Hooligan Remix)
Freestylers - Push Up (Steady J re-edit)
Stanton Warriors - Still Here
Freq Nasty - Sil Num Tao (Plastic Pervert Remix)
Merka - Mystic Man (Retro re Dub)
ILS - Next Level
Splitloop - Electric Fence
ILS - Cherish (ILS Instrumental)
Backdraft - Labrat
Freq Nasty - Brooklyn to Brixton (Freestylers Raw as Fuck Mix)
S.C.A.M. - Killer
Pendulum vs Freestylers - Fasten Your Seatbelt

That intro is from a sample disc that came with iDJ Mag (I think), while several (Splitloop, Backdraft and S.C.A.M.) are off another iDJ disc, "Premium Breaks" which really is an excellent compilation. The Deep Dish tune is perhaps not what would be expected, but this mix has a wicked old-skool beat sampled under it; this is pretty much the oldest track on there (not counting the original of the Doors of course!). The "Steady J Re-Edit") of Freestylers "Push Up" is nothing so grand in reality - just live use of the looping and other features on the CDJ-400s to extend this excellent track, because I only have the short version of this mix. In my usual style, I worked the tempo and the intensity of the tunes towards the end. I didn't even have the Pendulum track lined up for the mix until I dropped the S.C.A.M. tune and realised I had a good fit and a real stonker to finish off the set!

Enjoy the Mix!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Summer Love - Winter Chill?

The second mix I am posting is entitled "Summer Love". Rather unseasonal? Well yes, but I think while we often associate the sort of music in this mix with lazing on beaches, it could equally be appreciated while sitting by the fire with a good book, snuggled up in bed, or anywhere else - your choice. It was actually recorded in August so the title was appropriate.

This one all began when my friend Matt told me his girlfriend kept going on about a Ministry chill-out ad she was seeing on TV - "I Love these tunes, can James do me a mix with these tunes"? It took me a while and of the tunes featured in the ad, only one or two found their way into the mix, but in the end I don't think that mattered, the feedback has been excellent!

So anyway, I approached this one rather differently from my usual beatmixed sessions. I guess I usually behave like a warm-up DJ, starting with some good grooves and building up the tempo and the atmosphere, never dropping a beat if I can help it. This was different. Most of the tunes have a beat, and many of the tempos are compatible, but keeping in key was just as important for that smooth mellow chillout vibe, so quite a bit of preparation was required. My recently acquired CDJ-400s with their pitch-lock were also very useful for some of the transitions!

These tunes spread back over the last decade and beyond, some are very well known, others more obscure.

FC Kahuna - Hayling
Stef Pako & Frederik - Magic Shop (Forth's Shopping Trolley)
Electrotete - I Love You (Original)
Moby - Go (Jam & Spoon In Dub Mix)
Salt Tank - Sargasso Sea (Eugina)
Mark Snow - X-Files
Accadia - Into The Dawn (Accadia Ambient Mix)
Art Of Noise - Moments In Love
Groove Armada - At The River
Stef Pako & Frederik - Seaside Atmosphere (Evolution's Ambient Seagull)
William Orbit - Barber's adagio for Strings
Coldcut - Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force Mix)

I started with FC Kahuna because it is just the perfect intro, it sets the tone. My original choice was Electrotete, but this was just a bit obscure and at times too "electronic", I just felt it set off on the wrong foot slightly. "I Love You" works perfectly with "Go" however, as it seems to sample some of the synths from the original version of Moby's 1991 classic. I made use of Jam & Spoon's awesome dub mix of "Go" for this chillout mix though. I was amazed when I found how many of these tunes all seemed to be in the same or related keys, running easily through the classic Salt Tank into Mark Snow's original version of the X-Files theme. For one mix I must admit to some major "influence". I first heard Art of Noise blended with Groove Armada in this way on a "Sunset Ibiza" compilation. But I hope the use of the loop function on my CDJs has enhanced the anticipation in this mix!

Stef, Pako & Frederik make 2 appearances on this mix, a high incidence considering the size of their discography, but both these remixes make awesome chillout tunes. I first heard "Seaside Atmosphere" on a Muzik mag cover-disc back in 99, and was lucky enough to pickup the 12" cheaply some years later, only to find this awesome near-beatless version on the flip.

Barber's Adagio for strings is one of the tunes from the "inspirational" ministry advert, and should need no introduction, while Mixmaster Morris's take on Coldcut's version of Autumn Leaves has been a standard in chillout sets since it first appeared in 1993.

Having completed the "perfect" chillout mix I was then inspired to produce a "bangin" alternative, basically because every tune in the mix existed in my collection in a more uptempo form (sometimes by a different artist). The only exception was "Moments In Love" but I soon tracked down a decent trance version by Rob Searle, who has done excellent (imo) remixes of LFO and Frankie Goes to Hollywood among others.

I mixed this on 25th September. The tracklisting is all switched about, as matters of tempo came to the fore, but somehow I managed to keep things in key as well. I had to be a bit brutal with the time-stretching for Groove Armada and Moby into opposite ends of Electrotete at the start of this mix, but the CDJ400s cope admirably well with this, producing only minimal digital artifacts for a budget device operating in real-time. After that the tempo gradually progresses upwards, and in fact the track order was partly determined by bpm, with adjustments for continuity, flow and key considerations

The tracklisting goes:

Groove Armada - At The River (English Riviera Mix)
Electrotete - I Love You (Peter Ramson & Danny Van Wauwe Remix)
Moby - Go (Woodtick Mix)
FC Kahuna - Hayling (ILS Remix)
Accadia - Into The Dawn (James Holden Mix)
Way Out West - The Fall
Stef, Pako & Frederik - Seaside Atmosphere (Evolution's Donkey Derby)
Stef, Pako & Frederik - Magic Shop (Original)
DJ Dado - X-Files
Salt Tank - Eugina (Tiesto Remix)
The Art Of Noise - Moments In Love (Rob Searle Remix)
Tiesto - Adagio For Strings (Album Version)

Here are the links
Summer Love (Chillout Mix)
Summer Love (Pumped Mix)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Kicking Off

OK so now I've done the intros, I'll kick off with one of my mixes.
One I'm particularly proud of is my first attempt at a dubstep mix, which I did back in April
I don't have too many dubstep tunes, but I hope you'll agree those that I do have are pretty top notch. There is a fair variety in the mix, although it takes a while to really blow up.

download it here.

and here's the tracklist:

Burial - CD Intro
Loefah - Truly Dread
DJ Kudos - No Man's Land
Digital Mystikz - Give Jah Glory
Burial - Wounder
Vex'd - Bombardment Of Saturn
DJ Kudos - B-Town
Vex'd - Killing Floor
Alter Ego - Rocker (Plastician Remix)
Benga & Coki - Drumz West
Skream - Tortured Soul
Rossi B & Luca - Frequency 7
The Bug - Jah War (Loefah Remix)
DJ Kudos - There's A Party
Skream - Midnight Request Line
Rossi B & Luca - Nobody Knows
Slaughtermob - Pull Up
Benga & Coki - Night
Skream - Blue Eyez
Rusko - Jahova
More to come...

Opening the door

OK, so I'm in! My first blog (unless you count some posts on the "blog" section of myspace). right.

Well I'm not going for the blog as a big thing, this is really a place to link to my latest mixes in a more presentable format than the raw html I have uploaded to the host page (see link from the right-hand pane if you want to see my 1995-style homepage!).

In addition I may occasionally add my musings on the world of dance music and clubbing. I have over 20 years of record collecting and following the dance music scene to draw on, and I still go out occasionally, as well as keeping up with the scene as best I can from Radio 1 etc, with the limited time that a hectic family and business lifestyle can allow, all topped off with spending as much time as I can on the decks, as this is my main hobby and form of relaxation!

I have already uploaded a couple of dozen mixes, but I will post separate blog links to the best ones from here as it all looks a bit nicer.