Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
New series! The world is full to bursting with mixes, but from time to time, one comes along that’s worth celebrating. In honour of that, we decided to focus on the decisions and the tracks that a DJ sticks together. First one is Juan Maclean, whose DJ Kicks is out now. As a producer and musician, Juan has produced a sizable body of utterly brilliant dance tracks, spanning the DFA base of disco, piano house and techno, and in keeping with the mood of dance New York, he’s gone for a housier-than-house set which is more than worth getting hold of.
I grew up in the age of the mix tape. When I say mix ‘tape’ I truly mean tape; as it was before the advent of cd’s, we used cassettes. Because you had to do them in real time, people tended to put a lot of thought in them. There were very often themes to the mixes, or at least threads of themes that songs would follow, maybe evolving as they went along. For me, from the beginning, DJ’ing has been about cohesive themes. The theme does not have to be a literal, overt thing, it can simply be as simple as ‘this group of songs has female vocal samples,’ or ‘these records have a lot of swing to them.’ I made my DJ Kicks mix in real time using vinyl. So I had to listen to it from beginning to end in the same way the listener would, which kept me very focused on cohesiveness, on it ‘making sense.’
1. Juan MacLean – Feliz Casa (Ian Breno Dub)
I am a big fan of intro to mixes, and I wanted to set a somewhat moody tone. Basically, Ian took bits from Happy House and made this track specifically as an intro for the mix.
2. Still Going – Spaghetti Circus
I often open my DJ sets with this track by DFA brothers Still Going. It is a real attention grabber, with a sort of party feel like a classic Chic song. The vocals repeat this idea of ‘how you’re making me feel…,’ which I thought was a good way to set up the mix in general.
3. Andre Crom & Luca Doobie – Ebony
After the overt get-up-and-go nature of Spaghetti Circus, this track is something of a ‘mixer.’ I actually start mixing it in about a quarter of the way into Spaghetti Circus. After the overt get-up-and-go nature of the previous track, this pushes sets a little bit deeper tone with the African percussion and vocal snippets, little bursts of strings, etc.
4. 6th Burough Project – Planets (The Revenge Lost Groove)
Both 6th Burrough Project and The Revenge are mainstays in my record bag, so this was a way to get them both in there at once. Again, it has a vocal theme that I thought was good for the beginning of a mix, ‘in the groove’ is repeated over and over. There is something of a double entendre, both the ‘groove’ as in the feel of a bit of music and the literal ‘groove’ of a vinyl record.
5. A+O – Take Me
This is one of two tracks on the mix that were not commercially available at the time, though it probably is by now. I love making records ‘talk’ to each other, and when this is mixed with the Rick Wilhite track ‘Get on UP,’ it created this back and forth where this record is ‘saying’ “take me,” and the Wilhite record is responding ‘Get on up.’ The A+O track is new, but it sounds sort of timeless, which was another theme of the entire mix I was trying to create, this idea of a compilation of tracks that could not be easily placed as new or classic.
6. Rick Wilhite – Get On Up!! (Theo Parrish’ Late Dub)
This is an old track, and Theo Parrish gives it a classic rework that really sums up what he does. It has this very ‘off’ feel to it, like a super swing-y type thing. It’s all very classic Detroit, in the vein of Theo and Moodymann and all their Detroit peers operating in the House world. Very soulful, big emphasis on ‘feel.’
7. Florian Meindl – Here Today Gone Tomorrow
FLorian is a fairly young dude from Berlin who is part of this movement of producers who seem to be taking cues from the minimal techno world and applying the techniques to House productions. I thought it was interesting to mix this track with the Rick Wilhite song, as it is a melding of old and new, of something with a very ‘soulful’ feel with a track that has a more ‘tech-y’, locked-down feel. This is definitely more of a peak-time track, but I wanted to peak on the mix a bit and take it back down again, as opposed to doing a mix that just keeps building up in a linear fashion until peaking at the end.
8. Armando – Don’t Take It (Thomos Edit)
Again, another classic. The word has always been that this was a one-take production that was done after a night in the club, with the vocalist, Sharvette, using a bathroom as a vocal booth. I’ve always loved the feminist rant aspect of it. There is also a bit of an ironic wink on my part, as she announces in the beginning of the track “this is the 80’s.” A bid on my part to sort of confuse the listener as to what is old and what is new on the mix in general.
9. Jee Day – Like a Child
Jee Day is DJ McNany, who is a keyboardist in The Juan MacLean and old DFA studio guy, and Jee Young Sim, who provides vocals. This is the second unreleased track (though soon to be released on DFA Records) on the mix, and again, it has an older feel to it. I thought it was evocative of productions from the 90’s, especially the vocals. Also, I’m not really mixing this with the previous track, I wanted to have a moment of space, a section of the mix that could be something of a break.
10. Giom – I Know You Were Right
Everything has been fairly intense in terms of both the drive of the music and the tone in general up to this point in the mix. This track is a more upbeat, bubbly production that really serves to give the mix a bit of a breather. Also, I thought it followed the vocal idea of ‘like a child’ quite nicely with its repeated refrain of ‘baby, I’m ready, I know you were right…..’
11. Alex Niggemann & Superlounge – Chip Chip
After bringing the mix down a bit with the previous track, this sets it up again to ramp up the energy level. Like Florian Meindl, Alex Niggemann is making tech-y, groove-y tracks that seem to have a bit of minimal techno bits in them. Some people are trying to label it Minimal House, but whatever it is, he is one of my favorite producers at the moment. I love the unidentifiable vocal bit in this one. My kids say that she is saying “i love to shoot airplanes,” but I don’t agree. Whatever it is, this is one of those tracks that is driving without being ‘hard,’ which I thought was good for a bit of deepness to a DJ mix.
12. Manuel Sahagun – Pieces Of Me
Manuel is an amazing producer from Buenos Aires. This track features vocals by Jamie Lidell. It’s pretty funky in general. Typically, in a live DJ set, I would keep going for a period of time with the deep groove of the previous track ‘Chip Chip,’ but I figured for a mix that was meant to be listened to outside a club, it would be interesting to pull the listener out of that mode with something really funky like this.
13. Sonny Foderra – Everybody Get On The Decks
Even funkier than ‘Pieces of Me,’ this is straight up party music. I play this record out all the time, and it never fails to get people moving. It’s a sure-thing energy injector, and I thought it mixed well with Pieces of Me in terms of that sort of funky vibe.
*14. Danny Howells – Laid Out (Fully Horizontal Mix) : Danny is something of a superstar DJ, having played alongside John Digweed for years at Ministry Of SOund. He is the DJ’s DJ, super tasteful, an awesome command of feel and how to set a vibe. He became known as the ultimate warm-up DJ, as he had opened for Digweed for so many years, and to the pedestrian club goer, this might sound like a second-rate compliment, but in fact every DJ knows that it is one of the most difficult things to do properly and one of the most neglected. This track is super moody, and at the same time it is the only track on the mix to feature no human voice whatsoever.
15. Shit Robot – Simple Things (Todd Terje Version)
I tried to use the moodiness of Laid Out to set up the somewhat ominous tone of Simple Things. Todd Terje is one of my favorite remixers, and he really brings this track to a level that has always been more suitable for my style of DJ’ing than the original, which is amazing, but not as banging as this. A great set ender, it has a more urgent feel that I thought would be good for the end of a mix.
16. The Juan MacLean – Feel So Good (DJ-KiCKS)
I sort of custom made this track to fit into this mix. It’s long and has elements that are intended to make it a good ‘mixer’ as opposed to a shorter more direct type of track. Intentionally meant to mirror Spaghetti Circus, I liked the idea of opening and closing the mix in the same fashion. This features vocals, as usual, by Nancy Whang, who delivers a performance more reminiscent of her early career on tracks like You Can’t Have It Both Ways.
17. Rick Wilhite – Get On Up!! (Theo Parrish’ Late Dub)
I threw this in again because I was trying create an ending to the mix that mirrored the beginning. A pretty unorthadox thing to do, maybe I just wanted to throw people for a loop as well, so to speak.
18. Juan MacLean – Feliz Casa (Frankel’s Rhodes Workout)
Again, I made this to simply be an ending to the mix, and like Ian’s opening salvo, I used elements of Happy House. Mostly it’s an outtake of Alex Frankel’s Rhodes performance, and group vocals that we never ended up using.