7 must-hear mixes from November 2017: Björk, rave voyeurism and ambient bliss
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.
What better protection against the chill north winds and seasonal misery than a bath of steaming hot ambient synthscapes? Not much, really, and so the odd one out in this month’s best mixes is a stunning live set by Jo Johnson, a British modular manipulator (and former riot grrrl) whose soothing tones are like Radox (or something stronger) for the soul.
Elsewhere in November’s selections, we’ve got a stack of sky-dancing flutes and electronic weirdness from the Icelandic legend herself (well, there is only one, really), plus a peaktime kuduro set from Paris’ DJ Lycox that shows why he’s a low-key crown jewel in Príncipe’s roster.
Plus, pointillist influences (and, er, The Who) from trance revivalist Lorenzo Senni, a freeform rummage from a Haitian-American DJ who’s got tunes in her crate for days, chaotic and eclectic dreamscapes from Gang Fatale’s Basile and more.
Björk for Mixmag
The first ever studio mix from a true electronic legend
One of the great mysteries of the universe deigned to grace us with a SoundCloud mix this month, her first ever, apparently – and the whole 47-minute shebang is just further proof, if it were needed, that we are very lucky to have Björk. The Mixmag session dropped ahead of the new album Utopia, a record she described as her “Tinder album”, replacing the gloomy heartbreak of Vulnicura with an airy lightness imparted by Björk’s first instrument, the flute.
This set is “most definitely flute and air themed,” she explains in a brief note, with Icelandic birdsong, sacred flutes from New Guinea, and Russian wind instruments layered between avant electronics – Lanark Artefax, SD Laika, regular collaborator Arca – and a string of emotional smackdowns courtesy of Yves Tumor, Kelela and the absolutely heart-breaking voice of Kuwaiti singer Meshary Alaradah, which will have any fan of spiritual vocal music going weak at the knees. Crown her in cirrus clouds and acknowledge her as the G.O.A.T..
DJ Lycox for Crack
A streamlined dose of Lisbon’s off-the-wall kuduro sound
Toasting his absolutely stellar debut album on Príncipe Records, Portugal-via-Paris producer DJ Lycox slams down a tightly engineered, middle-of-the-dancefloor mix for Crack magazine. This is garish get-down music, bringing the googly-eyed kuduromania of peers like DJ Marfox and DJ Nigga Fox into more functional, hypnotic territory; sometimes a full batida set can be wearying in its endless wonk and wobble, but Lycox provides vital ballast to keep you trucking on and on and on. Meet you front left.
Lorenzo Senni’s The Shape of Lorenzo to Come mix
A synapse-frying rollercoaster of influences from Warp’s rave voyeur
Lorenzo Senni is the kind of artist who wants you to see things from his perspective, to really get on board with what he’s trying to do. Sometimes, that’s easy – you’d need a heart of cold marble not to be delighted by the jittery video game melodies and trance-dance peaks of last year’s ‘Win in the Flat World’. But Senni goes deeper than that, and on this cheekily titled mix he carves an unlikely pathway from hands-in-the-air rave ecstasy (including Moby, LOL) to adrenalin-pumping punk rock (an inevitable nod to Refused).
He calls it a “rave-voyeuristic journey into the pointillistic side of all my different influences,” which is a neat way to make sense of his genre-crossing taste – but it can’t quite prepare you for hearing The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ dissolve into sludge only to be reborn as Martin Garrix & Tiësto’s ‘The Only Way Is Up’. Bonkers, brilliant.
Sybil Jason for The FADER
Tunes upon tunes from the Haitian-American DJ’s “freeform” crate
Haitian-American DJ Sybil Jason may be a new name to most eyes but she’s been a staple of the NYC underground for over a decade, whose blog grew into radio shows on Berlin Community Radio and Dublab BCN, a station in her adopted city of Barcelona.
Her self-described “freeform” DJing style finds her swerving from jackin’ classics like ‘The Ha Dance’ to vicious post-punk from Australia’s Severed Heads to weird NYC techno from Bergsonist (surely one of the most-spotted names in 2017’s best mix tracklists). There’s even a Haitian Creole version of ‘Bad and Boujee’ by a rapper called ASAP Fresh (good luck with that name). It’s not all smooth mixing, and really, who gives two shits? Tunes are what this life is made for, boy – tunes!!
Seldom Seen, Often Heard mix
Acid-munching electro-techno from a master of hi-tech funk
This mix comes recommended by no less an authority than TJ Hertz, the Rekordbox organiser extraordinaire and widely revered DJ known as Objekt. And if TJ likes it, you can bet it’s worth a spin. Seldom Seen is an alias of one Santiago Salazar, a lifelong techno trouper who got his start under the wing of Underground Resistance’s Mike Banks: anything he casually drops onto SoundCloud is worth savoring.
The first track on the mix sounds like he’s performing open-heart surgery on his machines, and it only gets more slippery and defibrillating from then on – it’s acid-munching, hi-hat crushing electro-techno with a grit and an attitude that cannot be faked.
Basile mix for DJ Seansa
The Gang Fatale DJ finds a path between chaos and romance
French DJ Basile is best known as a co-founder of club crew Gang Fatale, but he steps back from the dancefloor on this delightfully mixed-up mix, which he describes as “sometimes romantic, sometimes chaotic… it’s all about the portal, like a transition between several emotional/psychological states.” It’s hard to grasp how he’s traced a route from ambient PAN dreamscapes through to narcotic homegrown rap and into the bloody Cocteau Twins, but it all makes perfect sense. (Tip: check out Triplego for if you ever wanted to hear France’s answer to 21 Savage.)
It’s not all smooth corners, mind – he allows the dirgey ambient to take over in more awkward transitions, but that just adds to the dreamlike nature of this carefully hand-stitched mix. Oh yeah, and there’s an ambient version of Robert Miles’ uber-anthem ‘Children’ that you will want to stick around for.
Jo Johnson on Hessle Audio, November 9
The finest flotation tank material from an ambient vibe-builder
The Hessle Audio show on Rinse FM remains one of the best quality weekly broadcasts in the universe – you can always be sure you’ll find a new favorite tune among the eclectic selections from Ben, Kev and Dave.
This month, Ben UFO welcomed a special guest mix from minimalist vibe-builder (and former Huggy Bear member!) Jo Johnson, which, okay, wasn’t exactly new – it’s a recording of her live set inside the “ambient yurt” at last year’s annoyingly exclusive, heads-only dance festival Freerotation. But chances are it’s new to you, and for fans of the finest flotation tank material, this ambient synth session doesn’t disappoint. Fine, it’s not strictly speaking a mix. Guess what: we don’t care. Johnson gets going at 46:30 in the stream.
Chal Ravens is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.