Friday, September 04, 2015

The Little Things

When the dust settles then it’s time to take stock. Unfortunately the conclusions drawn aren’t always the most pleasant. What bothers me more than anything at the moment is what an increasingly unpleasant and petty environment I’m living in. The UK can currently go and fuck itself. From returning from holiday and encountering the warm welcome of stoney-faced immigration, to the constant emphasis on repression and the dehumanization of those unlucky not to have been born into relative security. Then you’re unlucky not to be thinking we live in some post-ironic Dickensian parallel world when you hear of the deaths of those “passed fit to work”. To top it all off, I’ve just seen an ad promoting having an online shares portfolio from Atletico De Madrid’s shirt sponsors. What a load of cunts.

So where does that leave me? Why seeking refuge in escapism of course, namely the faculties of cycling, food and music, specifically electronic and even more specifically self-evolving, off-the-cuff relaxed turntablism. The type that needs little planning but is allowed to spontaneously develop at its own pace. Sounds like I can’t be arsed, but nothing could be further from the truth. However, to say that I’m still finding my way as a DJ after spinning for twenty years wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

You see, I’m not one of those who regards their first gig as playing a bunch of post-punk singles and some reggae to their mates in their bedroom. I could add years of experience if I so wished and in doing so publicly announce myself as a great, under-the-radar musicologist. Nope, I didn’t properly start playing until I bought my current set up, only upgraded as far as cartridges and the addition of some cheap CDJ200s are concerned, in Kentish Town while over on a visit in 1995. I dragged them over to Paris and got busy.

I don't think I produced a set I was happy with for nearly two years, and by happy I mean a complete C90 cassette flawlessly mixed and sequenced throughout. I was one of the idiotic number who initially thought anything would go with anything, (see “That’s How It Is” era James Lavelle), and took far too long to realize that this wasn’t the case. There are always certain records that, no matter how great they are, have no business as part of a sequentially beat-matched selection. This then puts one under pressure to shoe horn them in somehow, or just abandon all hope of their participation in the hope that the holistic approach will prevail. It nearly always does in my experience. Whatever may be sacrificed for the greater good is almost always forgotten about when the ends justify the means.

Having said that I’ve never done things the easy way while seeking out balance according to the tracks I use. It’s the old adage regarding the distinction between planned sets made at home and the spontaneity of a gig. I must open and close with tunes of a similar tempo. There must be some sort of sonic fulcrum around the mid point and, either side of that, a similar quantity of peaks and troughs/darkness and light. My turntablism repertoire is limited, but spinbacks, filtering , manic cross-fading and sundry other embellishments also come imbued with the stress of symmetry.

And the tracks. Always start at zero and work the tempo up from it. If the first track is given four minutes, the final one must have the same. Something down tempo or ambient to start, never anything more than a relatively relaxed piece of house, but not with vocals. The groove shall have been got by around the twenty minute mark and from then it’s onwards and upwards, until the midpoint which represents a bridge back to the finish, with compositions that correspond on either side. This is the peak of peaks, but not the only peak. Viewed as a graph this would look like a line which fluctuates constantly, but uniformly.

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