One of my biggest regrets is not having learnt to play a musical instrument. I’m not dead yet, so I suppose there’s still time. However, I am very lazy and lacking motivation. What I can do though, is put records together in a coherent, imaginative sequence. I have been doing this for as long as I have been buying music, irrespective of genre; from the many random bedroom get togethers of my often misspent youth: starting with punk, but very quickly evolving into jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and everything in between, (these are but the planets around which many moons revolved), to my continuing fascination with the 4/4 beat, I like playing music. I have been the proud owner of a pair of 1210s since 1995. I have a huge amount of records, a collection that I am beginning to purposefully slim down; a situation triggered three years ago by a flood which wiped out up to 700 of them, as well as damaging untold sleeves and thus relieving a large quantity of their market value.
This catastrophic event made me more vigilant and concise so, even though I still buy stuff, it’s not as often and in smaller quantities. I have about 300 releases that I want to get rid of, but have been procrastinating about putting them on Discogs for some time now, but it will get done. The biggest change to my sonic outlook though, is my so far theoretical purchase of a pair of CDJs. I still get sent a reasonable amount of music, all as files, and I don’t mix it. I stopped playing CDs a while back, even though I still have two players, because they’re a pain to burn, and they’re obsolete. Do any DJs still use them? In any case, USB CDJs are the way forward. I’ve been really interested in the creative aspect of DJing, not merely mixing tracks but looping, editing and affecting them. Turntables work up to an extent, and I’ll always use them, but CDJs are next level, and you don’t need to splash out on new units to house your collection; it’s all in the ether.
And it’s obvious that a lot of DJs who seem to squeeze impossible numbers of tracks into their sets are using this type of hardware. It’s nothing new as it’s been the same since laptops and Ableton, but their use seems to have declined while that of CDJs has increased. Listening to a lot of mixes nowadays, it’s impossible to understand how certain tunes a=make it into the mix. I’m a track list scholar, and even though would often like more information regarding content, I enjoy the challenge of hunting down music which lives in the shadows. However, I doubt the credibility of a lot of sets from the standpoint of doubting sonic participation. There are often too many different pieces of music present in a track list compared to what can be clearly discerned. It really must be the case that all too often mere fragments of tracks are grafted onto others, and then given equal billing by the DJ in question. It’s possible to do the same on a pair of turntables, but the dexterity involved to maintain a smooth flow is something else. I’m not talking about turntablism here, but beat matching and sequencing, and it’s undeniable that a lot of what passes for the putting every track and the kitchen sink in approach in order to sculpt a smooth, flawless set is nothing of the sort. Some of these tunes air kiss each other before fading away again.
There’s a fine line between being considered a selector, and picking tracks merely to contribute a note or two to the overall sonic composition. I honestly couldn't care less regarding either approach. Each way is a means to an end with one having a more technical emphasis over the other. When it all comes together in the best possible way is when the two methods coalesce and blend, irrespective of the tools at the DJs’ disposal. I recently followed a Twitter thread in which, rightly or wrongly, the person who started the thread said this:
“The more I hear mixes from ppl like Batu, Aurora Halal etc. it makes me feel like the future of mixing techno and related genres is very much with CDJs. The scope for creativity and intriguing blends is something that you just can't achieve in the same way with a pair of 1210s.”
This was quickly followed by
“There is an art to being able to make magic happen with just a pair of 1210s and provide coherent genre defying sets, but that can only come with decades of experience and collecting and even then you still need a brain like Eris Drew's to pull it off”
The names have been hidden to protect the innocent:
“Different flavors of the same hearty salad”
“Yeah I guess if we're looking at the turntablism of someone like Titonton there's things he does you genuinely couldn't do on CDJs. My post was more to do with the speed and ease at which you can create loops, tempo switch ups etc”
“Totally, also Titonton is one of the only people who makes CDJs look super fun and invigorating besides Omar and other people. I just think there’s levels of creativity that both still help birth within people that are important”
“Yep was just thinking the same today”
I think about this stuff ALL THE TIME!
“Mixing on CDJs is genuinely so boring”
“So is hearing tech house played seamlessly for 24 hours on a pair of technics”
“These aren't the only 2 options”
“Was all doable for well over a decade on laptops and we all know what happened there. Ps, that Aurora Halal mix sounds very dope, no argument there”
“Doable but plugging in superfluous boxes + laptops made it phase out not what could be achieved with the software”
“I agree with u partially, in my opinion, the problem right now is that a pair of cdj 2000NX2 is not affordable for most of non-profesional djs. Back in the days, almost all had a pair of 1210s at home. So this fact makes u cannot train with cdjs regularly without public.”
“The concept is to buy one of theese Pioneer DJ controllers for home use.. it‘s a dilemma with the CDJs.. buying more vinyl again made me feel more comfortable with that”
To finish: I can’t help thinking back to a meeting I had with a certain Cambridge-based DJ back in the relatively early days of my ‘Machines Are Funky’ radio show on 209 Radio. I went to his house to collect a mix he’d prepared, and he was absolutely made up to give it to me because he’d managed to seamlessly blend more than twenty tracks together in exactly an hour. I constantly strive to do such things, not because I regard them as the pinnacle of perfection, but because I know I’ll feel great after having done so.