7 must-hear mixes from February 2018: Ambient exotica and a love letter to Baltimore

It’s almost impossible to keep on top of everything that SoundCloud, Mixcloud and online radio has to offer. In our monthly column, FACT guides you through the must-hear mixes of the last 30 days, whether you want a club session to warm you up for the weekend, ambient soothers or a set of vinyl-only obscurities.

Beyond the big-room bonanzas and show-off selections that make up most of the internet’s monthly GMO (gross mix output), you’ll occasionally stumble across a few outsider treasures: mixes of music so niche, or on themes so obscure, that they probably didn’t need to exist. They’re certainly not boosting any DJ fees, anyway – but really, this kind of narrowband exuberance is the stuff the internet was made for, and we are endlessly grateful to the likes of Zilla Rocca and Earoh, the Wu-Tang obsessives who this month made a whole new album out of Ghostface Killah’s shortest songs. Likewise, big up gaming buddies Straw and Geng, who dropped a haunting ambient mix made entirely from save room and title screen music.

We should also applaud London-based mix series Shock World Service, a provider of collage-heavy, loosely hauntological soundscapes, whose latest installment is a 50-minute brain-dunking of found sound, disembodied voices, awkward grooves and ambient levitation by Dublin’s Sias & Lumigraph, which you can even own on cassette.

Those are the worthy outliers, then – onto the finalists. This month we hammered Jay Simon’s dusty trove of rarely heard Baltimore club music and a techno juggernaut from Anastasia Kristensen; we heard global bass mutations and exclusive edits from The Knife’s Olof Dreijer; we zoned out to Freerotation resident Leif; and we became acquainted with a piss-taker in a Kim Jong-Un mask who thinks it’s cool to bring Ivor Cutler to the rave. (It is.)


Abyss X for i-D
A thrilling psychic voyage from Stravinsky to Cardi B

Cretan artist Abyss X doesn’t often make mixes, but when she does “they are like collages,” she explains, “a tsunami of different ideas and feelings.” Accordingly, in this richly detailed mix for i-D, the Danse Noire signee takes us on a thrilling psychic voyage, building up cryptic, head-spinning moods that recall the mysterious soundscapes of her new EP, the ancient myth-inspired Pleasures of the Bull.

Drawing for charred techno (Szare, UVB), corroded club constructions (LEDEF), kooky speech samples (“Your own culture is an extremely repressive cult…”), radical classical (Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’) and the now-obligatory Cardi B insert, she pastes her source material together in extended blends that hum with narrative. A nerve-shredding mix from a very clever producer – listen out for a few of her own excellent tracks too.


Jay Simon – Charm City mix
A love letter to Baltimore from an ATL house DJ

The bountiful history of Baltimore club music has been rightly recognized and revered in recent years, as DJs from both sides of the Atlantic have delved into the city’s archive of bass and breaks while journalists have attempted to tell the story of a distinctly regional style and its ongoing influence. Outside of Baltimore, though, it’s still not easy to dig out the best records – in fact, plenty of the scene’s greatest tunes have never even made it online.

So we are grateful to Atlantan deep house DJ Jay Simon for this “love letter” to Baltimore, an hour of his favourite B’more cuts from the likes of DJ Technics, DJ Whizkid, Dukeyman and KW Griff. No tracklist, though: “I don’t want a bunch of trend hoppers to find all the tracks and act like they’re some crazy diggers [when it] took me years to track down enough dope shit for this mix,” he told FACT by way of explanation, saying he wanted to show off the “deeper, more soulful side” of the scene. “Lots of it doesn’t have much, if any, presence on the internet,” he adds. “Most of the records never made it out of Baltimore, and if they did they’re typically in bad shape.”

He’s not lying – this is some worn-to-shreds, skippy-ass shit, with vinyl crackle covering every surface like a snowdrift: just perfect. You don’t come across a mix like this every day.


Anastasia Kristensen – Fabric promo mix
Fast and furious 4/4 from the rising Danish export

Taking care of the Proper Techno fans this month is rapidly rising Copenhagen DJ Anastasia Kristensen, who marks her very first set at London’s Fabric with a session of fast and furious 4/4 with a side order of “WTF was that?” This promo mix perhaps comes off slightly slicker than a typical Kristensen set, with edges neatly chamfered for the big rooms of Fabric.

Kristensen gives her own succinct explanation in the accompanying blurb, emphasising her “tighter focus on rolling, groove-laden basslines” for this one. Expect to hear unreleased tracks from her Copenhagen pals and some “long-lost classics” – no tracklist, annoyingly, but MixesDB should be on the case shortly.


DJ Bus Replacement Service – Resident Advisor 610
Dancefloor banter from a comedy DJ – yep, that’s a good thing

February witnessed what was surely the first and last time we’ll hear a Resident Advisor podcast opening with Ivor Cutler chortling about bugs over a wheezing harmonium. The surreal storyteller isn’t even the weirdest selection among this refreshingly bonkers mix by DJ Replacement Bus Service, the mask-wearing piss-taker who you might want to think of as the Frank Sidebottom of techno.

From underneath her squidgy Kim Jong-un head, Doris Woo picks tracks from a motley selection of weirdos – Roxane, Queen Latifah, Shitmat, a high school marching band playing ‘Personal Jesus’ – and dusts them with bizarre samples of North Korean newsreaders and so forth, all to demonstrate “how I construct my sets more like how a comedian constructs a full-length routine.”

Her detail-oriented delivery and the accompanying meta-analysis (this is the first RA podcast to provide footnotes with the tracklist) also brings to mind the pomo antics of Stewart Lee, a noted fan of outsider music himself. It’s a veritable rabbit hole of obsolete treasures and medium-wave relics – genuinely inspiring.


Olof Dreijer – Truants 204
A global dance mix from the lesser-spotted half of The Knife

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any solo output from Olof Dreijer, AKA Oni Ayhun, AKA one half of the greatest synth-pop duo of the 21st century, The Knife – but trust Truants to lure him out from his Berlin lair for the 204th Truancy Volume.

Featuring artists from Portugal, Dominican Republic and Ghana, it’s a sweaty dance mix with a global reach, including DJ Lycox’s futuristic kuduro, Ata Kak’s skewed rap jam ‘Obaa Sima’, Dreijer’s own edits of Janet Jackson and Beyonce, and a welcome detour through The Knife’s ‘Silent Shout’ (in a new “Shaken Up” edit).

As he tells Truants, Dreijer has rediscovered his love of DJing recently – he’s been busy with migration activism in recent years, as well as producing with artists like Paula Temple – so this is a welcome return to the ‘floor.


Leif – Blowing Up The Workshop 85
The Freerotation resident selects ambient exotica and alien grooves

Adding a contrasting trim to this month’s rowdy selection, Welsh house producer and Freerotation resident DJ Leif contributes a spaced-out comedown session to the Blowing Up The Workshop series. The BUTW mixes usually tend towards the “home listening” category, with guest DJs (and non-DJs) selecting music that rewards close attention and, ideally, closed eyes.

Leif takes precisely that approach with a selection of cosmically aligned grooves and subtly levitating instrumentals that evoke extra-terrestrial horizons (and the fantasy of an ever-expanding Discogs wishlist). It’s a psychonautical voyage through imagined oceans and deserts, soundtracked by the swarming voices of a Hebridean choir, the heads-down marimboid loops of Mo Wax’s Midnight Funk Association, the astral conferencing of Cuban jazz pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita, and several levels of mind-altering ambient exotica. One for the solo voyagers.

Chal Ravens is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.

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