Before I start talking about Tangerine itself, let me take a moment to expound on how difficult it is to review a mix CD by a DJ. Because the sounds and/or songs in the mix are not creations of the DJ it’s nearly impossible to critically evaluate them, except in terms of the DJ’s sound choices. Because a good mix album is one that creates an overall piece of work and not necessarily a collection of songs it’s hard to pick out high points and low points since they tend to blur into one another. Instead you wind up evaluating the transitions. Because a DJ is less a musician than a sound manipulator, working with tools and not instruments, technique and talent lie in the ability to create pastiche and not necessarily in the ability to play.
I’m starting this review this way because in all the areas that it’s truly possible to critically, and maybe even fairly, judge a DJ, Heather is one of the tops in her game. Her sound choices and beat selections are prime slices of the right elements to create a masterful techno-funk-house mix. Her transitions are generally so subtle and smooth that you move from one “song” to the next seamlessly, making the album an almost trance-inducing epic journey. And her pastiche is both danceable and creative.
But beyond that cursory description, what else is there to say? Albums like this should be experienced and not described. Sure, I could say: “DJ Heather’s Tangerine is a house party in a plastic jewel box. Its sonic textures will be sure to grab hold of your booty and force it to wiggle on the dance floor. You’ll roll on an ocean of beats from one peaking wave to the next,” and it would all be true. But does it really explain anything about the album itself? Do you really understand the subtle nuances that make one DJ distinct from another?
If I were to say that the mix of Nick Holder’s “Inside Your Soul” is one of the highlights because of the overt sexuality of the sampled vocal track, would that make any sense outside the context of the album? If I were to tell the reader that the lulling effect of the level beats and oddly harmonious changes in tempo make the album seem like an extended jam that only peaks and then cascades with the last two songs, DJ D’s “Shake It For Me” and The Rurals’ “Window Pain,” would that tell the reader anything about the songs themselves or what they sound like? Not really. The DJ in the confines of the review is like a ship in a bottle. You wonder how something so complex and so much bigger than the little opening got in there.