Round two showdown at the DMT Lab, flipping through some new tracks that touch on the bangin’ interface between dub & Detroit techno (with an acid taste on the tongue, of course). Thanks to DJ Test Pilot for filming the mix & providing the requisite shots of liquid fire, VJ Matsui808 for tripping me out (and upping the ante with the dark magus decahedron), and J. for stitching the whole ensemble together (a time consuming and thankless task). During this mix I blew a screw out of the crossfader, experimented with some Traktor Beatmasher & Delay efx, and switched over to a few slabs of actual vinyl at the end… as always, nothing prepared, and of course no auto sync.
A chance encounter with the DMT Lab — while writing an article on the world drumming & trance crew for Pique — led me to throw down this unprepared set on the 29th June 2012. I ran out of time to organise newer material, but what you are hearing is a slice from several (digital) crates that bear titles like “the electrik technik” and “showroom.” At points, this mix encapsulates the moment where techno meets deep trance, and where psychedelia overwhelms all sound, lost in swirling and deep rhythms, a motion and a feeling irrespective of the semantic tags of genre and style. It’s the driving rhythm, a becoming slave to the rhythm, that defines the core experience of electronic (dance) music.
Which is why this mix is called slave to the rhythm. The Afrofuturist acid roller is buried within — a remix of the Grace Jones 1985 classic — alongside a few other modern throwbacks including a wickedly dark spanking of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus by Heartthrob (1989; 2006) and Mathew Jonson’s remix of Inner City’s Good Life (1988; 2009).
*Of note, though the Livestream has poorer quality video, it doesn’t have the editing glitches of the Youtube video above. Apples & oranges.
Vancouver is a peculiar place: its geography offers many different kinds of spaces for intervention and occupation. While warehouses dot its ports and industrial outlands, the city itself is surrounded by ocean, forest, and mountains. Logging roads snake up through thickly forested valleys. Waterbars and potholes bar access. Forging on means losing site of urban civilization. In these curious pockets, rave culture thrived. Many of the best raves were held far up these dirt roads, among trees and glacier-fed rivers. Occasionally, curious locals would arrive, drunk and confrontational, in pick-ups and ATVs. The best trick was to seduce them with Colt .45, spiked with a bit of pharmacology designed to endear the mind to new experiences. Conversions happened. People’s lives were changed.
This set was recorded at one such event in July, 1997. A small, but intense affair, a nameless event. I felt I had not yet mastered my skills, which was true: I could not yet replicate in live situations the consistency of mixing I was able to sustain in the studio. Sets were hit or miss; but either way, they were inspired, and a certain kind of raver — one given over to wild abandon, to giving oneself up to the noise — liked what I was doing. Unlike many other DJs of the era, I was fearless — or some would say, ignorant of the dancefloor. It was not that I didn’t care whether my experiments failed or not — I most certainly did care — but I felt that the passion of the mix, its intensity, mattered more than its perfection. I was interested in quarter-beats and chaotic, helicopter mixes; I desired speed and fury, and I rarely, if ever, planned out the order of my records beyond a track or two. These were techniques and strategies which also interested Mills and Hawtin. But I hadn’t yet trained myself to moderate headphone and monitoring volume — it took years to focus upon lower-volume mixing — so my ears fatigued quickly. These were all lessons learned, over time. But what remains is my first duplicated mix, part of a series I called Not-So-Perfect Mixtapes, of which this is volume 2. On the front cover is a clip-art GIF of a red Coleman lantern — a common source of light for backcountry endeavours of acid-fuelled stargazing and ritual dance debauchery.
In 2010, I recorded a series of online broadcasts for net pirates & djs entitled the cydonia.sessions. Each set followed a thematic resonance through strains of techno, house, and electro, capturing the way in which I tend to construct and deconstruct sets around fragmented motifs and recurring signatures of sound. The sets were recorded by a third-party server; some came out alright, others had unfortunate gaps of several seconds that led to frustratingly incomplete recordings. The cydonia.sessions were also designed as tests of my Traktor Scratch platform, which I configured as a digital vinyl system that required manual beatmatching. With the Traktor Scratch (Pro) software combined with my Technics SL1200s and the Mackie d4.Pro mixer, all the parameters of techno-turntablism are still at play. The main difference is that the source of the music has shifted from the vinyl medium itself to digital files on the laptop. Vinyl has been divorced from its recording content, becoming a pure form, an instrument for performativity. Instead of selecting and manipulating analog vinyl, I work with digital vinyl, which offers similar tactile methods of control and play. Indeed this is all it is: a control/playback component of the turntable-mixer assemblage. Part of me appreciates this. Yet, the effect is not the same: the laptop screen is distracting, and I miss the aesthetics of crate-digging records and flipping on and off the vinyl. I don’t close my eyes as much. These are all things to be overcome, as I can no longer purchase vinyl where I live. DJ record stores — like movie theatres, indie book sellers, and movie rental outlets — are a thing of the past. Objects that combined content with functionality are obsolete; today’s objects channel content from elsewhere (a laptop, cloud, distributed network) while their form serves to manipulate this delocalized content. “Thick” objects have become “empty” containers. By splitting content from form, digital vinyl has opened up other possibilities (such as liberating the wear and tear of vinyl from the degradation of the music itself), even as it forms part of a trend of dismantling public space (I miss the Thursday nights at Bassix, when new vinyl would arrive; all the city’s DJs would be there, hunting through the fresh wax). With digital integration, I have certainly taken advantage of the effects and looping possibilities of Traktor with the addition of the X1 controller. I’ve often worked with effects in the mix, and Traktor’s selection is superb, with the X1 offering well-designed handling that bridges turntablism with performative remixing. The cydonia.sessions capture a few of the results, as well as forays into my ever growing digital collection of music.
This is a mix to drink absynthe too. Living in Whistler is an exercise in musical & cultural isolation. I should’ve realised that trying to play music such as this in a “dude? where’s my skis?” culture was a lost cause. Even as I held down a residency at the Savage Beagle (in Whistler Village), attracting European djs & househeads (and filling the upstairs bar with head-nodding patrons), I couldn’t convince management (nor other local DJs/promoters) that what I was doing was worthwhile—or even popular elsewhere. “It’s hot in Berlin!” I would say—but it would matter not. Whistler is not the place for risk-taking mixing, subtlety, or experimental approaches to dancefloor semantics. So I present to you my manifesto of house music, mixed with abandon, and without precision.
This mix dives deep into minimal house & abstract rhythms. The psychedelic, drifting effects of ketaminimal, held for long, drawn out mixes, warps the head. I can dance to shit like this for hours.
This was the first mix I released where I used a Digital Vinyl System (Traktor Scratch). All manual beatmatching, and no prepared records.
This mix gathers a few strains of my becomings as a DJ, namely minimalist strains of deep house and dub techno dating back to the mid’90s. Though my mixtapes from the late ’90s were hard as nails, I began by djing deep house @ Sugar Refinery (RIP), with Robby Luv Dub as my adopted mentor. I often mixed deep house with dub techno at the post-rave Sunday sessions and loft parties of the era. This mix touches upon a few of those records, though keeping this side of the techno aesthetic (a retro deep house mix is still to come). Still vinyl, still unprepared.
A two-part recording hammered out with longtime collaborator DJ Construct, over a long night of molasses beats, retro-new-wave, and modern deep techno and electro… nothing prepared, all improvised, with thick malts in the glass.
In honour of the events we’ve played together, I’ve posted a selection of images from the 2002 series at Video-In.
The second existential journey into ø, the state of nothingness, barred & slashed, desire denied, but throughout, with strange & redeeming forays into minimalist house, taking cues from Detroit’s unswerving faith in the redemption of techno. With vinyl from Hardwax. No prepared records.
Thrown down shortly after abandoning Montréal in the retreat to Whistler, BC, Tiergarten Years & Dreams reflects upon the passage of time through sound, with wax selected from the vaults of Hardwax, Berlin. As usual, no prepared records, all on vinyl, letting the flow find its own rhythm.
Yet another strange mix from 2006, this one collected the cut-and-paste microhouse aesthetic — doubles of minimal house, plenty of Perlon & Telegraph, as well as Logistic & Playhouse — that I began exploring at the tri.phonic series during the summer of 2003, and continued on with the UpgradeMTL series of media-arts events, both curated @ SAT.