Long before labels recognized the potential for making a buck via DJ Mix CDs (No studio time to shell out for, and song licensing fees rather than musicians? Cool ), there were DJ Mix tapes; mix tapes existed for practical reasons, at a time when the concept still made sense. These mix tapes were originally conceived of as calling cards, a means by which DJ’s might advertise skills to prospective promoters. Only later would their secondary purpose emerge within a burgeoning house/techno dance scene where few knew how or where to find the tracks that were changing their lives, as well as the face of music. The mix tape became an easy way of tapping directly into the source.
It’s especially ironic then, given a market flooded with discs released by practically anyone in possession of turntables, that the original DJ mix tapes were coveted by the early trainspotters, symbols of being in on this thing from the inside. Perhaps a DJ had passed a tape across the decks to some scally he recognized as “a face” at clubs and after-hours; or maybe a promoter had slipped one to him on the way out of a party. Regardless, for a long time they were scarce, harbored as a symbol of belonging in a hidden sub-culture. Back then, no one would have envisioned moving a quarter of a million units (see: Paul Oakenfold, Transport), but from such humble beginnings was a cottage industry born.
For several years now, the DJ mix disc has served as nothing more than aural postcards we send to ourselves, a reminiscence of epic nights out, of a specific time and place. Four years on from his last mix (unsurprisingly titled, Profound Sounds v), Josh Wink has recognized this, and attempted to re-style a tired genre. The bad news is, he’s failed. What he has created is certainly a superior mix disc, but ultimately it stands as no more nor less than that.
Before the sounds themselves, however, there is this: the Profound Sounds v2 package contains a second disc offering four Wink compositions previously available only on vinyl. Ok, well nothing wrong with that. However, the second disc also contains an audio-visual segment comprised of an extensive interview in which Wink (real name? Let’s hope not) details his working methods, along with studio footage showing him at work (briefly, each track is specifically re-mixed, contoured to the overall shape of the album).
The purpose of all this is to display how his mix disc is different from any other. Except that it isn’t any different. Regardless of how it was pieced together, the end product doesn’t sound different. Without the instructional video, I wouldn’t have recognized it as different. In which case, what difference does it make? Simply, the music must stand or fall by itself. Any art that seeks justification through its method has already fallen short of its stated purpose.
Which brings us, happily, to the music: the selections here are universally interesting, well mixed, and most importantly, possessed of a distinctive trajectory. Unlike so many contemporary mixes that begin at a high-pitch destination from which they seldom depart, Wink builds a landscape playing house and techno off one another. It suggests a specific time in the dance culture, around 1993 to be precise, shortly before the dance culture’s widespread suffocation in cheesy trance.
Swayzak’s “Form is Emptyness” opens the disc with a subdued house beat (the lyric itself is also Emptiness, but nonetheless ), and it begins a slow, steady progression through which Wink displays an attenuated patience. As with much good house, the methodology is almost tantric, staying with the beat, holding it, finding joy in repetition. We’re a third of the way through before the pace shows signs of lifting. Mindlab’s “Lick” offers the first suggestion of a techno presence. And, only two thirds of the way through, around track 11—“Rilis 6 Loop 2” (who names these things?) by Rino Cerrone—does the music reach full flow. From here on out though, subtle, progressive techno continues drives the train along, climaxing with Dave Clark’s “Compass”.
As we’ve noted, the DJ Mix disc has largely passed its expiration date. Few releases over the past several years (and this being one) have offered anything beyond a passing fancy. Can the DJ Mix disc be made new again? Personally I doubt it. What new is there to be done? Most likely, the best we can hope from both DJ’s and labels is an interest in more than simply releasing a disc every month until the cash cow runs dry. For the consumer, we can only attempt to discern the few diamonds among the rough.
// Notes from the Road
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