7 must-hear mixes from February 2018: Ambient exotica and a love letter to Baltimore

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It’s almost impossible to keep on top everything that SoundCloud, Mixcloud and online radio has to fer. In our monthly column, FACT guides you through the must-hear mixes the last 30 days, whether you want a club session to warm you up for the weekend, ambient soothers or a set vinyl-only obscurities.

Beyond the big-room bonanzas and show-f selections that make up most the internet’s monthly GMO (gross mix output), you’ll occasionally stumble across a few outsider treasures: mixes music so niche, or on themes so obscure, that they probably didn’t need to exist. They’re certainly not boosting any DJ fees, anyway – but really, this kind narrowband exuberance is the stuff the internet was made for, and we are endlessly grateful to the likes Zilla Rocca and Earoh, the Wu-Tang obsessives who this month made a whole new album out Ghostface Killah’s shortest songs. Likewise, big up gaming buddies Straw and Geng, who dropped a haunting ambient mix made entirely from save room and title screen music.

We should also applaud London-based mix series Shock World Service, a provider collage-heavy, loosely hauntological soundscapes, whose latest installment is a 50-minute brain-dunking found sound, disembodied voices, awkward grooves and ambient levitation by Dublin’s Sias & Lumigraph, which you can even own on cassette.

Those are the worthy outliers, then – onto the finalists. This month we hammered Jay Simon’s dusty trove rarely heard Baltimore club music and a techno juggernaut from Anastasia Kristensen; we heard global bass mutations and exclusive edits from The Knife’s Ol Dreijer; we zoned out to Freerotation resident Leif; and we became acquainted with a piss-taker in a Kim Jong-Un mask who thinks it’s cool to bring Ivor Cutler to the rave. (It is.)


Abyss X for i-D
A thrilling psychic voyage from Stravinsky to Cardi B

Cretan artist Abyss X doesn’t ten make mixes, but when she does “they are like collages,” she explains, “a tsunami different ideas and feelings.” Accordingly, in this richly detailed mix for i-D, the Danse Noire signee takes us on a thrilling psychic voyage, building up cryptic, head-spinning moods that recall the mysterious soundscapes her new EP, the ancient myth-inspired Pleasures the Bull.

Drawing for charred techno (Szare, UVB), corroded club constructions (LEDEF), kooky speech samples (“Your own culture is an extremely repressive cult…”), radical classical (Stravinsky’s ‘Rite Spring’) and the now-obligatory Cardi B insert, she pastes her source material together in extended blends that hum with narrative. A nerve-shredding mix from a very clever producer – listen out for a few her own excellent tracks too.


Jay Simon – Charm City mix
A love letter to Baltimore from an ATL house DJ

The bountiful history Baltimore club music has been rightly recognized and revered in recent years, as DJs from both sides the Atlantic have delved into the city’s archive bass and breaks while journalists have attempted to tell the story a distinctly regional style and its ongoing influence. Outside Baltimore, though, it’s still not easy to dig out the best records – in fact, plenty the scene’s greatest tunes have never even made it online.

So we are grateful to Atlantan deep house DJ Jay Simon for this “love letter” to Baltimore, an hour his favourite B’more cuts from the likes DJ Technics, DJ Whizkid, Dukeyman and KW Griff. No tracklist, though: “I don’t want a bunch trend hoppers to find all the tracks and act like they’re some crazy diggers when it] took me years to track down enough dope shit for this mix,” he told FACT by way explanation, saying he wanted to show f the “deeper, more soulful side” the scene. “Lots it doesn’t have much, if any, presence on the internet,” he adds. “Most the records never made it out Baltimore, and if they did they’re typically in bad shape.”

He’s not lying – this is some worn-to-shreds, skippy-ass shit, with vinyl crackle covering every surface like a snowdrift: just perfect. You don’t come across a mix like this every day.


Anastasia Kristensen – Fabric promo mix
Fast and furious 4/4 from the rising Danish export

Taking care the Proper Techno fans this month is rapidly rising Copenhagen DJ Anastasia Kristensen, who marks her very first set at London’s Fabric with a session fast and furious 4/4 with a side order “WTF was that?” This promo mix perhaps comes f slightly slicker than a typical Kristensen set, with edges neatly chamfered for the big rooms Fabric.

Kristensen gives her own succinct explanation in the accompanying blurb, emphasising her “tighter focus on rolling, groove-laden basslines” for this one. Expect to hear unreleased tracks from her Copenhagen pals and some “long-lost classics” – no tracklist, annoyingly, but MixesDB should be on the case shortly.


DJ Bus Replacement Service – Resident Advisor 610
Dancefloor banter from a comedy DJ – yep, that’s a good thing

February witnessed what was surely the first and last time we’ll hear a Resident Advisor podcast opening with Ivor Cutler chortling about bugs over a wheezing harmonium. The surreal storyteller isn’t even the weirdest selection among this refreshingly bonkers mix by DJ Replacement Bus Service, the mask-wearing piss-taker who you might want to think as the Frank Sidebottom techno.

From underneath her squidgy Kim Jong-un head, Doris Woo picks tracks from a motley selection weirdos – Roxane, Queen Latifah, Shitmat, a high school marching band playing ‘Personal Jesus’ – and dusts them with bizarre samples North Korean newsreaders and so forth, all to demonstrate “how I construct my sets more like how a comedian constructs a full-length routine.”

Her detail-oriented delivery and the accompanying meta-analysis (this is the first RA podcast to provide footnotes with the tracklist) also brings to mind the pomo antics Stewart Lee, a noted fan outsider music himself. It’s a veritable rabbit hole obsolete treasures and medium-wave relics – genuinely inspiring.


Ol Dreijer – Truants 204
A global dance mix from the lesser-spotted half The Knife

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any solo output from Ol Dreijer, AKA Oni Ayhun, AKA one half the greatest synth-pop duo the 21st century, The Knife – but trust Truants to lure him out from his Berlin lair for the 204th Truancy Volume.

Featuring artists from Portugal, Dominican Republic and Ghana, it’s a sweaty dance mix with a global reach, including DJ Lycox’s futuristic kuduro, Ata Kak’s skewed rap jam ‘Obaa Sima’, Dreijer’s own edits Janet Jackson and Beyonce, and a welcome detour through The Knife’s ‘Silent Shout’ (in a new “Shaken Up” edit).

As he tells Truants, Dreijer has rediscovered his love DJing recently – he’s been busy with migration activism in recent years, as well as producing with artists like Paula Temple – so this is a welcome return to the ‘floor.


AKANBI’s Growth is a Beautiful Thing mix – C
Bass-heavy ruffage and nonsense bangers from an omnivorous DJ

New York DJ and GROOVY GROOVY party boss Akanbi is an omnivorous listener with a particular ear for bass-heavy, UK-sourced ruffage. His mix for low-prile Kansas-based label and podcast series C-, titled ‘Growth is a Beautiful Thing’, sticks to that broad formula while maintaining a distance from any particular scene or sound.

Opening with a nightmarish sci-fi scene by Swedish gear-mangler Peder Mannerfelt, Akanbi takes his time with the exposition, drawing for grainy textures and deconstructed breaks before bringing out the big-room firepower, with twisted cuts from Bristol’s Hodge, rave duo Overmono (AKA Truss and Tessela) and German heavyweight Drax all popping up. Rather than settling into a groove, though, Akanbi continues to throw up his dice for the next half-hour, pulling out a couple gold-plated nonsense-bangers in the final third and winding up with Kode9’s in-the-red 150BPM take on Burial’s ‘Rodent’. Thrills and pills for all.


Leif – Blowing Up The Workshop 85
The Freerotation resident selects ambient exotica and alien grooves

Adding a contrasting trim to this month’s rowdy selection, Welsh house producer and Freerotation resident DJ Leif contributes an spaced-out comedown session to the Blowing Up The Workshop series. The BUTW mixes usually tend towards the “home listening” category, with guest DJs (and non-DJs) selecting music that rewards close attention and, ideally, closed eyes.

Leif takes precisely that approach with a selection cosmically aligned grooves and subtly levitating instrumentals that evoke extra-terrestrial horizons (and the fantasy an ever-expanding Discogs wishlist). It’s a psychonautical voyage through imagined oceans and deserts, soundtracked by the swarming voices a Hebridean choir, the heads-down marimboid loops Mo Wax’s Midnight Funk Association, the astral conferencing Cuban jazz pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita, and several levels mind-altering ambient exotica. One for the solo voyagers.

Chal Ravens is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.

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