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Monday, August 16, 2004

I recently added a link to a blog called Kon-tent, after Philip Sherburne didn't get around to, then by all appearances forgot about, publishing his review of this year's Sonar festival. Following a link from Philip's site and reading the Kon-tent review caught me completely unprepared for the immediacy of the memories it brought back. Even the light in the accompanying photos transported me to the two Junes most previous, spent by turns having ridiculous amounts of fun under the auspices of work, and wandering about trying to summon the energy to sort life out.
It's sunny outside as I write and while Winter sun here is nothing to be moaned about, it's not shining on the city I am currently, in another life that exists concurrent to this one in a part of two people's heads in which they spend little time, living in.

Less cryptically, the new Choice compilation that recently graced my rusting letterbox also brought back memories of nights spent in cavernous Spanish hangars with 12000 close friends. I've enjoyed the previous couple of Choice releases more than any other recent commercially released mix CDs for a few reasons; partly because the DJs they've commissioned are people whose idea of what constitutes a 'classic' (the auspice of the series being 'a choice collection of classics') is one I'm actually interested in, but also because said DJs have taken the job seriously. Reverentially, even. I'm sure blokes like Francois K, Tony Humphries et al get asked to helm more compilations than they could be bothered with, but for some reason Choice has struck a chord - maybe Azuli is just paying them more, or has a bigger budget for licensing the tracks they really want to use - who knows.

So anyway; good comps. The new one by Jeff Mills; below-par. Sub-par, if you will.
While on the first CD he sticks to the general genre-blueprint mapped out by Derrick Carter and Louie Vega's excellent efforts - that being disco and proto-house - it just doesn't sit right. Louie's release was a rare example of a DJ delivering the sort of mix you'd always hoped they would - a coherently (at times fantastically) mixed selection that illustrates and encompasses his influences and inspiration. Louie's are amazing tracks that you can feel his enthusiasm for, but Jeff's selection is an odd one, partly because it doesn't gel with the myth that (with his careful guidance) has grown around him. The Jeff Mills of popular legend began DJ life as the Wizard, furiously quick-mixing up to 70 songs in his hour-long hip hop show on Detroit radio before founding Underground Resistance with Mad Mike and going on to worldwide superduperstar techno dj status, writing pompous treatises about the state of the world through his label-notes and having photographic exhibitions devoted to his hands (seriously. This happened). He gets asked to weigh in on the most relevant DJ mix series in current circulation, and what does he choose to represent the foundations of his sound?

Teddy Pendergrass and Chas Jankel.
I know Chasanova cut some funky ass songs and left an indelible imprint on dance music, but Jeff; are these really your roots?
For sure, he includes many great artists - Deodato, Gerardo Frisina - but despite the fact that there are some genuinely funky songs, it makes for a curiously funkless whole. It doesn't help that he choses to fade tracks in and out or just bump them up against one another, which I guess is his way of making some statement or other, but when he does it on the second CD too, which is mostly techno, it just seems odd. Having a review copy with no liner notes I'd be really interested to read the reasons behind including each track, but based purely on aural merits, I'm not sold.
Partly this is because I've never bought the Jeff Mills hype. I don't have an irrational hatred of techno, I like a lot of it, but the sets of his I've heard have never seemed particularly vibrant or surprising, just calculated and even somehow soulless.

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