As I mentioned in the post to accompany Electro Beats for Murky Streets, one thing that I managed to achieve in 2020 was to finally hit my (totally arbitrary, sure) goal of getting 60,000 listens on Soundcloud. This was a goal that I had had in mind for a few years and at last I achieved it.
But then, what next?
I guess I could have kept going and tried to up the stakes again this year but honestly having hit that goal did actually leave me feeling a bit sated in terms of the ego boost component of getting people to listen to my stuff. Thus from that angle there was a temporary deflation in the compulsive need to churn out mixes. On the other side it’s also been an intense few months from a personal and professional perspective; here in Germany the schools and kitas (daycare) have been closed since mid-January and are only just reopening, so I’ve had to spend a lot of time helping out with the kids, and on the other front my work has been super busy and at times quite stressful, so basically at night I just have not had the mental energy or time to focus on making new mixes.
Hence an unusually fallow period by my standards. I’ve been pretty productive over the last few years!
But this has not been ideal because I always like having new mixes to listen to, so since we are now in March (omg!) I decided enough with the excuses … it’s time to do a proper mix! Sure, I did a mini-mix for Begrime last month, but that’s not enough.
Clearly, it was time to go big.
50 tracks big.
Why so many tunes? Well, I have a lot of records that have never made it on to any of my mixes, and I wanted to listen to them in an easier, more practical, and more fun way. This is especially the case with my collection of modern (post-2010, but even more so post-2015) drum n’ bass / jungle … I have tons of the stuff and have only done a few mixes with it, and none at all for Sonicrampage since Get It 003: Get Ruff, Tuff, Dangerous two years ago. Obviously, the moment was ripe for a nice leisurely dig through my shelves to find a bunch of cool tunes to weld together.
When I started thinking about doing a mix of new drum n’ bass / jungle, one of my key criteria was to do something a bit different from last year’s focus: themes. As I discussed in my blog post to accompany Super Rhythmic Facts my plan for 2020 was to focus (mostly!) on doing tribute mixes of various types, whether that meant focusing on labels, artists, clubs, or concepts. This was fun and quite creatively fulfilling, but the flipside of having such a focus meant that I was working with certain self-imposed restrictions when I made each mix; or at least that was the case for most of the mixes.
Therefore when it came time to start putting this one together, one thing that was quite clear to me was that the mix should provide a broad representation of the kind of stuff that I’ve been enjoying in the world of 160-170 bpm music in recent years. The result is not definitive, sure, but it’s a pretty good go.
It’s one thing to say that I want to make a mix that properly represents the diversity of this part of my record collection, but actually putting such a mix together is another thing, hence my approach was to use a concept that I’ve been playing with over the last couple years. Basically, instead of thinking that I am making ‘a mix’, I approach it like I am making a series of small(er) mixes that are coherent mixes in and of themselves, which are connected to each other at certain logical switch points. Sonic Lego, basically!
I have previously written about the thought process involved in such mixes in the posts to accompany Fake Berghain in My Spare Room and Get It 010: Get Everything, but in this specific case I started from the idea that there were certain sounds that I wanted to represent: dubby halftime, soulful rollers, frenetic juke-influenced stuff, chrome-plated hardsteppers, and Amen tearouts. With this in mind I pulled out a huge stack of records and then set about separating them into the relevant piles.
What this meant in practice is that I did not need to make a single 50 track mix, but instead I made six smaller mixes that I snapped together in the aforementioned sonic Lego stylee, with the goal being that the connections not be too jarring, or at least if they were a bit unexpected then they were also kind of fun.
I guess you can be the judge of how well I’ve succeeded – I know there are one or two slightly wonky moments in the mix, but given the time constraints that I live with at the moment, where I rarely have much time for my hobbies, I decided that I can live with them and I would not do more than one take. Overall, though, I think this is a pretty sick mix, it’s definitely not upfront or whatever, but I think there’s a lot of great music in here, and I really enjoy the way that the sounds and vibe switches throughout the mix.
So, yeah, that’s it!
Now that I have the taste again, I’m hoping to start dropping mixes more regularly throughout 2021.
I guess there’s not much point in rehashing what a crazy and turbulent year this was for pretty much everyone on the planet – you lived through it too, you know what it was like.
So with this being my final mix of the year (I think!) I thought I would instead drop something a little bit fun and not too serious.
One of the goals I set for myself for this year was to hit 60,000 listens on Soundcloud for the year … and I hit that goal last weekend (see above)!
So that was nice!
Why 60k, though?
In practical terms this is, of course, totally pointless. It’s meaningless internet points in one sense. It doesn’t make any real difference to my life or to my family.
But it’s fun to set yourself a goal and try to hit it. Plus 60 is a nice round number (also meaning an average of 5k listens per month) and I hadn’t hit it yet – the highest I had previously gone was 2018 when I got 59k, and last year when I got 57k.
So just a fun little thing, but it’s cool that I achieved it.
Also, I had a lot of fun making mixes this year – as time has gone on I’ve refined the process so that I can be even quicker and more productive when putting together mixes. Since I just don’t have anywhere near as much free time as I used to, I’ve totally abandoned doing mixes over and over and over again until I am close to 100% happy with them. If I can do it once and I am reasonably happy, then we’re good to go.
So this has meant that, really against all the odds, this has ended up being a really musically productive year for me!
I’ve now recorded a pretty damn impressive 17 mixes so far this year – 14 for Sonicrampage and three guest mixes for various music platforms (including one for a Berlin-based techno podcast that’s not been released yet).
Actually that’s another thing that’s been nice this year, that more and more people have been asking me for guest mixes, and they’ve been such different people asking for such different styles – so far this year I did techno, hard dance, and drum n’ bass mixes (plus was asked to join the grime crew Begrime), and I still have to do a jungle mix and a breakbeat hardcore mix for some other people who have asked me; should have those ready sometime early 2021. It’s nice that people are interested in and enjoying my mixes!
Broken down by genre I’ve done the following mixes this year:
Unquestionably Fake Berghain in My Spare Room. It’s four hours long, and putting it together was an incredible undertaking. I really poured a ton of thought and effort into making it an interesting and cohesive listening experience, including getting an awesome cover made for it, as well as writing what I think of as one of my best essays that I’ve done for this blog – part photo essay, part musical discussion, part travelogue, and part love letter to Berlin. It’s not been my most popular mix this year, but it is undoubtedly the one that I am happiest with, and I am so proud of it.
As I mentioned when I did the first mix of the year, Super Rhythmic Facts, the plan for 2020 was to focus on tribute mixes – tributes to artists, to labels, to events, to clubs, and so on.
This was the path that I mostly followed – eleven of the year’s mixes were tributes of one type or another – but it wasn’t an ironclad rule. Along the way I also took the opportunity to step outside the tribute plan and just do a mix that I was interested in doing, of tunes that I wanted to listen to more closely and more often.
Like with this mix!
What’s going on here?
Nothing much really … just that I’ve been enjoying electro quite a bit again over the last few years, and I started buying new tunes on vinyl (which is both a good and a bad idea), and I wanted to throw some into a mix together. I mean, I already did my Mechatronica mix a few months ago, and there was an electro section in Fake Berghain in My Spare Room, but clearly that wasn’t enough.
I’ve got the itch, and it needs to be scratched.
Which my daughter describes as ‘farting robots fighting music’. Which is a good description, no?
So this is that mix. Anyone who has been listening to my mixes for a while knows that I like fast music, and always have, and I’ve been enjoying the revival of properly fast, ravetastic electro over the last few years. High speed bassy beats are and always have been my jam. Therefore, last weekend I pulled out a stack of electro records, flipped through them to find only the ones that could be pitched up to at least 142 bpm, hit record and just improvised my way through 25 tracks of high-intensity pumpers, cranking it up all the way to 155 bpm by the end.
It’s a rump-shaking apocalypse!
I hope you enjoy it.
This is also the first mix where I really tried to master it after recording, by adjusting the levels so that the tracks are roughly equal (I mean I always try to do this while recording but it’s not always so easy), plus I also tweaked the bass up. Let me know if it sounds ok.
So that’s it for 2020! I hope you enjoyed the mixes.
What’s coming up next year?
Plenty more mixes and, just to mention this, I’ve made a four track EP and will be getting it pressed to vinyl in 2021. Really! Will drop some previews in a couple months.
Vast warm caverns of bass emanating from a dub soundystem in a South London community center. 1980’s.
Half-time depth charges underlying frantically spiraling jungle breakbeats in a crowded room, horns blaring and lighters flaring. Mid 90’s.
The soulful sounds of US house music reconstructed, sped up, toughened up, and underlaid with sticky webs of bass. Late 90’s.
Rough-hewn beats overlaid with frantic lyrics, underpinned with spiky, angular shocks of bass. Beamed from tower block antennas to bedrooms and car radios across London. Mid-00’s.
Twirling, swirling 808 slides riding under mournful chords and raw tales of London life, exploding on to the world stage via YouTube. Today.
And, of course, there was dubstep, which was and is purely about bass. Vast shockwaves of sub-bass. Giant ice sculptures of bass. Jagged cliffs of mid-range noise underpinned by oceans deep bass.
Perhaps the premium exponent of dubstep in its purest form is Loefah (or Peter Livingston to his parents) from Croydon, South London. One of the scene’s original creators, part of the legendary DMZ crew, his sound is simple, but effective.
Massive breezeblock beats
Juddering walls of bass
The odd reggae, dancehall or hip-hop vocal sample
Maybe (maybe!) a melody
It’s minimal, but it is deeply, deeply effective!
Also it makes it tricky to mix at times, because the tunes are so sparse and the rhythms are sometimes a bit off-kilter.
Listening to his music makes me think of giant lumbering robots slowly stomping their way across a landscape, devastating everything in their way with blasts of pure rumbling sub-bass.
This mix, then, is my summary of his sound, pulling together a whole bunch of his original productions, remixes, and collaborations. There are a few pretty obvious tunes that are missing, of course, but overall this should give you a flavor of Loefah’s sound, or at least what he was producing in his early years. More recently he’s been focused on working as a dj and on his label Swamp 81, which has featured a few of his more recent productions.
He also has a huge back catalogue of dubs that have never been released … maybe one day!
Here are a few personal favorites:
Man I would happily shell out for a proper vinyl box set of unreleased Loefah dubs!
Obviously listening on a home stereo system does not give the full effect, but I was pretty excited to finally put together this mix after years of wanting to do it. The trigger was getting (at last!) my hands on a copy of the classic double-sider ‘Mud / Ruffage‘ courtesy of my good friend The Vinyl Pimp.
This mix also completes my series of DMZ tribute mixes, having already done mixes dedicated to Mala (including a second one) and Coki. One thing that I’ve always loved about the DMZ crew is how they each have such a unique personal take on dubstep – Coki’s hyped-up midrange madness, Mala’s throbbing dub energy, and Loefah’s minimalistic steppers. Given how samey so much electronic music production has become in recent decades, carving out a unique niche is quite an achievement!
To round things off, check out this interview with the man himself:
Gonna try to push out a lot of music in December, so keep your ears open …
On September 27, 1997 the One Nation crew held a big rave called The United Colours of One Nation at The Island in Ilford, East London, featuring a stellar lineup of some of the biggest dj’s in drum n’ bass:
Jumping Jack Frost
I wasn’t there, though.
I was only 16 and for us West/North-West London boys Ilford might as well have been on the other side of the moon. We’d only recently started going to clubs and raves and we weren’t even going regularly, maybe once every few months, and going to a big jump-up rave so far from home was just not happening, especially since most of my friends were into hard trance and not drum n’ bass.
And I listened to it. And listened to it. And listened to it some more.
Those tapes, along with other tapes from various raves, were on constant rotation in my Walkman and on my home stereo. Walking to and from school. Doing my homework. Taking the bus. Going to meet up with friends. Basically, whatever I was doing, if possible, I was listening to music (nothing has changed in that regard since then!)
1997 was probably the last year where drum n’ bass was the undisputed main street sound in London, so listening to these tapes again is something of an interesting historical document, of that last moment where drum n’ bass enjoyed total supremacy in London, right before UK Garage started to take over.
What were the dj’s playing that night? Well, firstly, you can listen for yourself:
As you can see from the tracklistings, the sets played at this rave give a really good indication of where drum n’ bass was in late 1997 – a mix of hip-hop influenced jump-up anthems, Bristol rollers, and darker, techier stuff. Also, since it was a time when the big name dj’s were traveling all over the country, playing multiple sets per night, it’s not too surprising that many of the same big tunes were played over and over – some even four times in the night! That was pretty typical at big raves in the 90’s, no matter what the genre – I remember going to a Slammin Vinyl night at Bagley’s in King’s Cross in February ’98 and hearing ‘Shooting Star‘ by Bang ever time I walked through the happy hardcore room, probably every dj played it that night!
Just a parenthetical, but that night at Bagley’s provides a nice example of how ubiquitous smartphones have changed our lives. At around 4am I lost my friends and after a bit of fruitless searching I decided to spend the end of the night in the fourth room, a tiny, out-of-the-way space with hard trance and techno dj’s. Anyways, when they threw us out at six I spent a while milling around, hoping to find them, but eventually I gave up hope, sighed, and made my way by myself back to West London to my friend Anno Birkin’s place, since we were all spending the night there. (RIP Anno). By the time I got there it was already 7:30 and I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t really want to wake up his parents, and I didn’t really want to go home, since I’d left some of my stuff there. Fortunately they lived on the ground floor, so I could hop the fence and then climb onto the ledge outside Anno’s bedroom window and knock on it until someone stirred and let me in. As it turned out, they had gotten tired at around 4:30 and had decided to take a mini-cab back after being unable to find me (they hadn’t checked the fourth room). Today, obviously, we would have just messaged or called and there would have been no issue.
So that’s a very long intro – what’s going on with this mix? Basically, as I mentioned at the beginning of the year when I dropped Super Rhythmic Facts my concept for 2020 was to focus on themed and tribute mixes, so when I was thinking of something to follow Fake Berghain in My Spare Room, I wanted to do something that would be as easy as that was complex (and mixing these mid-90’s jump-up tunes is super easy for me). I remembered how much I loved this tape pack back in the day, which led to the idea that it would be fun to use it as the inspiration for a mix, in a similar fashion to how I mined Carl Cox’s 1993/1994 sets for my 2018 mix 94 Hardcore (Big) Carl Cox.
Therefore what I decided to do with this mix was to go through all the tracklistings and pull together a 25 track mix that would (1) include at least three tracks from each dj, (2) capture the essence of a dj set at a big drum n’ bass rave in the mid-late 90’s, and (3) be simply, unabashedly fun to play and listen to.
And that’s the result!
Let’s be honest, this is not the world’s most creative tracklisting – this is a pretty shameless big tune fest. Most of the time I try to mix things up, intersperse obscurities with more obvious stuff, but this is pretty much wall-to-wall anthems, exactly like you would get at a big rave back in the day. Lots of Bristol rollers, lots of party bass, plenty of stepper’s delights, and even the odd Amen tearout feature.
With another lockdown looming here in Berlin, I thought it would be fun to put together a mix of tunes I love, and that I can guarantee will put a smile on my face when I listen to it.
The Berlin party crew CRUDE asked me to put together an old skool hard trance/hard nrg mix for them, so I’ve been very happy to oblige with this mix, which pulls together a bunch of different strands from my record collection, with rolling hypnotic trance, pounding acid, stomping hard house, and proper fast old skool hard trance all in the mix.
Some words I wrote to accompany the mix:
I’m originally from New York City but I spent my teenage years in London with my family, where I initially got into electronic music when I was 15, mainly from listening to Jungle / Drum n’ Bass on Pirate radio.
Bitten hard by the bug, I got my first set of decks a year later and started collecting vinyl and teaching myself how to mix. My first night at Escape from Samsara at the Fridge in Brixton, South London made me a convert from DnB to Hard and Acid Trance! Over the years I did all kinds of raving in London at Pendragon, Undertow, Frantic and Feva, stomping to pounding Acid at various warehouse squat parties around London.
Life has taken me in many directions since those initial raving years in London, first to Edinburgh, then back to New York, then back to London, and now in Berlin for the last seven years. But that love for hard, fast and euphoric music has never left me, so this mix is designed to give you an overview of where I’m coming from musically.
It has a pretty broad spectrum of tunes from both the UK and continental Europe, with sounds ranging from rolling hypnotic Trance to pounding Acid Techno to pumping UK Hard House and screaming Acid Trance before concluding with classic European Hard Trance pitched up to some seriously spicy BPMs!