In the liner notes to Profound Sounds Volume 3, Josh Wink expounds at length on the difficulty of identifying tracks on DJ mixes now. With the traditional DJ setup of two turntables and a mixer, ID’ing tracks is easy—the simple left-right sequence of records that the DJ plays. But the evolution of DJ skills and technology has complicated things. When a DJ mixes three records at once along with custom-made loops from a laptop, how does one name that moment in time—and who’s the artist? Richie Hawtin, the most cutting-edge techno DJ, has addressed these issues in various ways, from a bar graph depicting when records enter and exit their respective turntables, to DVD visuals showing when records fade in and out, to flat-out giving his layered mixes his own track names.
But DJ mixes are for dancing to music, not writing about architecture. Meta-discussion aside, Josh Wink has established himself as a force in electronic music. As a DJ, he has earned a worldwide reputation for smooth, kinetic sets that straddle the line between house and techno. As a producer, he has built up a similarly-minded discography including remixes for Moby, Depeche Mode, FC Kahuna, and many others, as well as solo production, of which his Left Above the Clouds album (as Winx) is his most famous. Wink also heads Ovum Records, which since 1994 has consistently delivered dancefloor-friendly house and techno 12”‘s.
In his Profound Sounds series of mixes, Wink has reflected the evolution of DJ technology. Volume 1 was a straightforward mix of records, Volume 2 featured Wink editing tracks to suit his needs, and Volume 3 now finds him micro-editing tracks and layering them much like Hawtin did on his DE9 mixes. Thus, Wink now joins Hawtin, Sasha, and James Zabiela in releasing DJ mixes heavy on technology and studio time.
This desire to micro-manage each moment causes this mix to be technically flawless, but somewhat bloodless. Disc one of this set is called “Subconscious”, while disc two is called “Conscious”. That’s DJ-speak for “mellow” and “not mellow”. The first disc is indeed mellow, and takes quite a while to warm up. On this mix, Wink hews to the minimal techno sound currently in vogue, which features lean, clean synths over grooves that are funky at best and dainty at worst. Donnacha Costello’s “Colorseries Blue B” is indicative; it features the world’s quietest ride cymbal. In techno (and in pop music), the ride cymbal has traditionally heightened sonic intensity, but here the ride is pushed so low in the mix that it sounds meek.
However, there are nice tunes here. Anja Schneider and Sebo K’s “Rancho Relaxo” has bouncy, chewy house chords, while D5’s “Flotation Tank” swims through deep atmospherics. The mix gradually picks up, ending with some spectacular numbers. The most notable of these is Wink’s remix of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place”. Retaining much of the vocals, this rework is both spine-chillingly melancholy and propulsively epic. Mathew Jonson then steals the show, remixing Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness” into a rich stew of electro, acid techno, and Middle Eastern melodies. Jonson’s own “Love Letter to the Enemy” ends the disc on an eerie, hypnotic note.
Disc two wastes no time getting on the dancefloor. A few minutes in, the funky, Moroder-gone-minimal basslines of Loco Dice’s “Jacuzzi Games” drop, yielding to the ridiculously bouncy chords of John Tejada’s “Sucre”. Tejada has long been one of dance music’s best-kept secrets, and it’s nice to see him get airtime. While the mix smoothly weaves through a succession of floor-fillers, things don’t really get interesting until the menacing chimes of Jeff Mills’ “Expanded”. Wink’s “Swirl” picks up the pace with tweaky acid techno, leading to Richie Inkle’s decidedly old-school “Perspective”. Amidst abstract, dark chords, the ride cymbal finally steps out loud and proud. In a mix characterized by constant restraint, the release is a relief. Glove in hand, Mateo Murphy’s “Shadows” closes the set with warm basslines and a melodic Detroit techno feel. Never mind the hand-wringing about technology; in the end, Wink delivers what every DJ should—good music.
// Notes from the Road
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