Pearsall presents 94 Hardcore Big (Carl) Cox [A tribute to Carl Cox’s rave-era sets!]

Carl Cox

Pearsall presents 94 Hardcore Big (Carl) Cox

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Mixed in Berlin, February 2018
100% Vinyl
(115:49, 265 MB, 320 kbps MP3)

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Style: Rave Music

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01. DJ SS & EQ – DJ’s Anthem (Carl Cox Remix) (Formation)
02. Tango & Ratty – Final Conflict (’93 Dubplate Mix) (Steel Fingers Heritage)
03. Smith Inc. feat. Simon Bassline Smith – Jungle (Remix) (Absolute 2)
04. DJ Rap & Aston – Vertigo (QBass Dark Mix) (Suburban Base)
05. DJ SS – Don’t Come No Ruffer (Ruff Mix) (Formation)
06. DJ Spice – The Groove (Soapbar)
07. Force Mass Motion – Panic (Rabbit City)
08. Rainforest – Mania (Rainforest)
09. The Subjects vs Jeff Mills – Dark Matter (Underground Level)
10. Subwoofer Agte – Hymn (Underground Level)
11. Sulfurex – Point Break (Extortion)
12. Frankie Bones – We Can Do This (Brooklyn Stormrave Mix) (Groove World)
13. The Prodigy – One Love (XL Recordings)
14. 20 Hurts – Hornz (Sound Entity)
15. Essence Of Aura – Destiny (Sublogic)
16. Scott & Keith – Get Busy Cru (Reinforced)
17. Overdubb – Ruffplate (Ruffmix) (Impact)
18. Nookie – Gonna Be Alright (Cloud 9 Remix) (Reinforced)
19. DJ Red Alert & Mike Slammer – In Effect (Slammin Vinyl)
20. DJ Vibes – Obsession (Music So Wonderful) (Asylum)
21. Conquer – Warpath (MMR Productions)
22. Visa – Let Me See Ya Move (Carl Cox Militant March Mix) (MMR Productions)
23. DJ Scott – Do You Wanna Techno (Carl Cox Hard Mix) (Steppin’ Out)
24. Bass Impulse – Technophobia (Shoop!)
25. Bass-X – Hardcore Disco (Shoop!)
26. Ramos & Supreme – Crowd Control (Hectic)
27. Tango & Dom – My Mind Is Going (Tango ’93 Dubplate Mix) (Steel Fingers Heritage)
28. Naughty Naughty – Mentasm (Naughty Naughty)
29. DJ’s Unknown – Volume One (Side A) (Homegrown)
30. Dougal & Vibes – Dance For Me (DAV)
31. SMD – SMD2 (A) (SMD)
32. Frantic & Impulse – Homegrown Vol. 1 (Side A) (Homegrown)
33. The Dentist – Silver Remix (Boscaland)
34. Coda – We Can Control Technology (MMR Productions)
35. Aurora Borealis – The Milky Way (Lunatic Acid Mix) (F Communications)
36. Analogue – Frequencies (Evolution)
37. Smooth But Hazzardous – Made You Dance (Carl Cox Remix) (Sound Entity)
38. DJ Edge – Edge Test (Edge)
39. Dyewitness – Only If I Had One More (Remix) (Midtown)
40. The Scotchman – Happy Vibes (Baby Boom)
41. Marc Smith – The Mad One (Clubscene)
42. Conquer – Self Destruction (Lenny Is In USA & Carl’s MMR In UK Remix) (MMR Productions)
43. OTT – Raw (Carl Cox Remix) (Industrial Strength)
44. Brothers In Crime – Let Me Suck Your … (Dwarf)
45. Wedlock – I’m The Fuck You Man (Ruffneck)

Cover image: A still from Carl Cox live at Mayday 1994, run through the Prisma app

Carl Cox is, without a doubt, one of the biggest names in the world of electronic music. He’s taken techno to the masses and rocked superclubs, arenas, and festivals across the world, from random places you’d struggle to find on a map of to the most famous of Ibiza’s clubs.

As far as dance music goes, he is a very big deal, and has been for quite some time. He’s pretty much the embodiment of the ‘superstar dj’.

One interesting thing about Carl Cox, and something that is often forgotten, is that back in the early 90’s he was one of the biggest names in the UK hardcore rave scene, and he fucking rocked at it.

How many of his current fans know that he used to play, produce and release mental 160 bpm hardcore? Probably not many!

Yet he did, and he did it with great style.

This is maybe not so surprising, because to have heard him playing hardcore at a rave you would have to be around 40! Shit, I’m 37 and I didn’t start raving until 1996, by which time he had firmly made the switch over to playing techno full-time. Still, even though rave-era Coxy was a little before my time, I’ve been fascinated for years by what he was doing in 1993/1994. I’ve listened to rave set recordings, studio mixes, picked up records, and generally enjoyed his distinct take on rave mayhem.

Still, though, there were a LOT of rave dj’s at the time, so what makes him stand out for me?

I guess the specific thing is that he so effortlessly crossed boundaries; like a one-man cheering section for all the different styles of hard rave music. As I discussed in my post for Darkside Generation, this was basically the last hurrah for open-minded rave music, before the boundaries between different genres hardened into orthodoxy. This period from 1992 to 1996 was one of the fastest periods for musical evolution in recent times, and it has always fascinated me, but 1993 and 1994 were particularly accelerated – a time of dramatic change where so many of the tropes that are now utterly familiar (even in commercial music!) were born.

And even compared to other rave dj’s, Carl Cox was particularly open-minded. In a single set you could hear anything from British breakbeat hardcore to Dutch gabber, with Scottish bouncy techno, hard American acid and European hard trance all thrown in his trademark three-deck blender.

In my opinion, then, Carl Cox is the avatar of this whole period, because his selections were so eclectic and he was able to draw on so many different styles of this fast-evolving world of music. And it’s weird to write this, because I don’t think he is generally given credit for being such an amazing hardcore dj, precisely because he soon after became so commercially successful with a different style of dance music. Plus of course he (mostly) cut his ties to the hardcore rave scene along the way.

Which brings me to the subject of this mix.

As I mentioned, I’ve listened to loads of his old sets and really really enjoyed them. They’re great! Well worth checking out. However, I always felt that there was scope to do a mix that boiled down two years worth of musical selections into a single mix, with nice and crisp audio quality and no shitty mc’s.

This is especially so because it’s not so easy (read: impossible) to find old skool mixes that cover so much musical territory. You can find mixes of 1993-style dark breakbeat hardcore (I did one), or of 1994-style early happy hardcore with lots of breakbeats and pianos (I did one of those too) or mixes of old acid techno (yes, that too) or older hard trance (of course) or gabba (ok, only at the end of this one). But usually not in one mix!

So consider this my attempt at creating a kind of ‘platonic ideal of rave-era Carl Cox’ mix.

How did I do this?

I’m not going to lie here – my process was seriously geeky. I’m a total fucking nerd sometimes.

Since I’ve been interested in doing this mix for a while, I spent some time thinking about different ways to approach it, and in the end I settled on building up my own database of Carl Cox tracklistings from 1993 and 1994, so that I could have a clearer idea of the specific tracks he was playing at the time. This meant trawling through sources like Discogs, RollDaBeats, BackToTheOldSkool, NI Oldskool, the Liveset Database (LSDB), and random Google results – over time I built a collection of 25 different tracklists totaling 481 tracks, or about 375 unique tracks (I will admit it’s probably fewer than that but I didn’t clean the data by manually). That’s a pretty good amount of tracks to build a mix from! With each tracklist stored to a separate text file, I then used the R programming language to clean them up and combine them into a single data set which I then wrote to a single CSV file.

If you want to check out the final data set, I’ve uploaded it to Google Sheets here. If for some reason you would like to replicate the process yourself, I’ve written up a Medium post, where I explain the technical process involved and where you can get links to a zip file of all of the individual tracklistings as well as the actual R code involved.

So once I had a coherent data set covering 25 different events, I began to comb through it to look for those tracks that I already owned, pulling them aside for future use. I noted their style and bpm and started to think about how I wanted to structure the mix. At the same time, looking through the list, I also started thinking about which tracks would also make sense in the mix, so I began to make some judicious purchases via Discogs.

Yes, I am that sad that I will buy records specifically to use in a mix!

So within a few months I had an excellent selection of tunes ready, and what had become apparent through this process was that doing this idea justice would mean using a lot of tunes. A typical 15-20 track mix just wouldn’t cut it – I would need to go long!

And once it became clear that I needed to make an epic mix, I then had to carefully plan out the tracklisting, as I wanted this to be a singular encapsulation of Carl’s style as a rave dj. This is where keeping note of speeds helped; with a detailed inventory of the bpm’s of potential inclusions I was able to plan out a route from 150 to 185 bpm in just two hours. This also saved getting halfway through a mix only to discover that a particular track was simply too slow to feature! I was trying very consciously to create a logical sonic narrative from start to finish, one where the speed increased regularly and the sound changed over time in a clear flow, but also where each track made sense in the context of the tracks before and after.

In this way I was able to start with UK breakbeat hardcore and then move through a whole variety of styles, from hard techno and acid to bouncy Tartan techno, happy hardcore and hard trance before accelerating through to a frenzied gabber finish. Along the way I’ve played my share of all-time rave anthems, but I’ve also tried to select some lesser-known monsters as well. Pure anthem bashing is boring, don’t you think? In these 45 tracks, there are also eight tracks and remixes by the man himself; besides the obvious ones featuring his name these also include the tracks by Conquer (an alias he used for a number of releases on his own MMR label) and Coda (a collaboration between Carl Cox and M-Zone).

I will also admit that there are two tracks used here that don’t appear anywhere in the 25 tracklistings – they are the Naughty Naughty version of ‘Mentasm’ and ‘Happy Vibes’ by The Scotchman (aka Scott Brown, many of whose tunes were played by Carl Cox in this period). I included them because they fit perfectly with the overall vibe of the mix. Allow me this indulgence!

The last piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting together the mix was the actual mixing of it. Those of you who have been listening to my mixes for a while know that I have always favored a more ‘live’ sound, one that tries to capture the energy dj’s put across in clubs/raves. So, expect plenty of cuts, spinbacks, and other little tricks, as mixes both quick and long. This is obviously in keeping with the man’s own style! Obviously I am not as skilled a dj as Carl Cox, but I have my moments (hehe), and I really wanted to capture that wild energy that comes across in all those old live rave recordings. So if you’re the kind of person who only likes to listen to mixes with polite segues every five minutes, then honestly you’re better off skipping this one.

Hopefully you don’t, though! I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did making it (from concept to development to the actual mixing of it)! I’m really pleased with this one, and I think you will be to.

And finally, big respect to the man like Carl Cox, for being such an inspirational dj for so long!