The democratization of DJing by way of digital technology has had at least one unfortunate consequence. The DJ mix, once considered an art form in its own right, has been downgraded to such a degree that we wonder who bothers to listen to them anymore. Take a glance at our inbox on any given day of the week, and you'll find bagfuls of perfectly executed but totally boring Ableton-constructed sound collages. There's a card in Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies deck that reads "Humanize something free of error." With that in mind, this week's Signal to Noise takes a look at five DJ mixes recorded live from the board, warts-and-all, at recent parties in San Francisco.
Tyrel Williams at Delta Funk
This one's so fresh that it was just recorded last Saturday. Tyrel Williams is a recent San Francisco transplant from Chicago whose past includes a stint at the respected Gramaphone record store and a three-year residency at Smart Bar doing an all-vinyl party called Acid Test. Here he shows off his razor sharp Chicago-style mixing with a set of forgotten '80s house classics played on wax. Along the way he makes room for possibly the best hip-house track we've ever heard.
Masters at Work at 1015 Folsom
New York's Masters at Work hardly need an introduction. The duo has played an enormous role in the development of house music since the late '80s. Yet, though they're incredibly influential, it's rare that both Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez and "Little" Louie Vega get a chance to perform together. This mix, recorded from a rare recent gig at 1015 Folsom, shows off exactly why MAW is such a respected name among dance music heads. They create a blender of a soundscape where snippets of classics are torn through and mangled by hard isolation and old-school powermixing.
Slow Hands at As You Like It
Also from New York is Ryan Cavanagh. Recording and DJing under the name of Slow Hands, his style is more in line with the new school of East Coast house promoted by the likes of Soul Clap and the trendy Wolf + Lamb label. Through his productions he's developed a reputation as a figure aligned with (but not constrained by) the recent turn towards slower tempos in house music. In this mix, recorded from his performance at As You Like It, he drops a set of disco-influenced tracks that manage to sound laid-back while still keeping things squarely in dancefloor territory.
Mark E at Honey Soundsystem
U.K.-based producer Mark E doesn't make his way out to San Francisco that often, but when he does, it's an event. First popping on the scene in the mid-'00s with the now highly collectible "R+B Drunky" re-edit, he's since developed into one of the underground's most in-demand house producers. In this mix, recorded at Honey Soundsystem, he stretches out over the course of two hours to deliver a set that flies through underground disco rarities, obscure '90s house remixes, and looped-out contemporary fare.
Cole Medina at Go Bang!
Hailing from the same L.A. suburb that birthed The Carpenters (Downey, if you're wondering), Cole Medina is something of a modern re-edit guru. From his debut in 2002 with "Buffalo Bill" on up until now, Medina has cultivated a style that mixes vintage aesthetics with contemporary production chops. A regular fixture at Go Bang!, this mix sees him adopting the spirit of the long-running Deco Lounge party with a set that shows off an impressive collection of disco rarities and retro-tinged house cuts.