For fans of the 4/4 beat, summer is defined by DJ mixes that go from the car to the beach to the patio with ease. Such versatility isn’t easy to come by, since most mixes are for the party or for the headphones — they’re meant to get you fired up or to soothe your soul, but not both. In Europe, and increasingly here in the States, the season is defined by huge music festivals filled with the rhythm. And it’s always a party in Barcelona, Ibiza, and Santorini. You may not be able to make it to the Greek isles, but here are four mixes that will put you in the right state of mind regardless of the particular summer environment, indoors or out.
FABRIC 34: ELLEN ALLIEN | Fabric | The Fabric label is the reigning champ of DJ mixes, and the current kingmaker of the DJ scene — once you’ve been called on by Fabric, you know you’ve made it. Berlin techno queen Ellen Allien, the owner of German electro label BPitch Control, may not need Fabric to legitimize her throne, but it doesn’t hurt. Always known as a champion of minimal sounds, Allien reps bleepy sound and sine-wave soul from all corners of the world, from Chicago house legend Larry Heard’s newest discovery, Mr. White, to the staunch minimal rhythms of Finland’s Sähkö label. As with most mixes, the arc here begins slow, but the beat picks up with Don Williams’s “Orderly Kaos.” The live jazzy techno of Canadians Cobblestone Jazz sounds a wee bit misplaced among the machines, but the ghostly sound of Melodyboy 2000 and the subdued sensuality of Michigan’s Heartthrob more than compensate for any distractions (which include a Thom Yorke track). Allien’s labelmate Ben Klock is well represented, and there’s also her own “Just a Woman.” A propulsive, hovering 70-minute mix, Fabric 34 is great for the ride to the shore, the walk to the beach, or the trip back home — just as long as you’re moving.
BEN WATT | BUZZIN’ FLY VOL. 4 | Buzzin’ Fly UK | Best known as half of the superduo Everything But the Girl, Ben Watt has been DJing and producing deep house and techno for more than a decade, first under the Lazy Dog banner and most recently as Buzzin’ Fly. The fourth edition of his summer-mix series also shows off his gift for A&R. Buzzin’ Fly started out as a mostly deep-house label but under Watt has become a home for all things light and breezy — whether it’s bleepy techno, percussive house, or light stabs of trance, if it suggests sitting beneath cabana canopies and watching a summer sunset, it’s Buzzin’ Fly. Every track on Vol. 4 is from the label’s vaults, from the lucid and swooning strings of Abyss’s “Mind Games” to Watt’s sensual dub of Denmark’s Figurines. Other highlights include “Blink” from Green Men (Berlin’s Sasse, a recent Boston visitor, and NYC’s Nick Chacona) and Manno & François A’s lovely “Magnetic,” which manipulates minimal synth stabs. There’s rarely a shift in the dreamy mood, but that’s what keeps it stuck in car stereos and on MP3 playlists.
DIXON: BODY LANGUAGE 4 | Get Physical | Get Physical is one of club music’s vanguard labels, with the likes of Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y. (both part owners) capable of crossing over from technophiles to Ibiza-worshipping elite and back again. Body Language 4 is a delicate take on deep, soulful house, Dixon (a/k/a Steffen Berkhahn) pacing it with lovely vocal tracks from the mysterious Chromatics and Danes Owusu & Hannibal and using a few of his own remixes to create a velvet smoothie of neo-soul that balances love and affection. The only mismatch here is — once again — Thom Yorke, who’s always had a soft spot for Berlin techno; after lilting female vocals and urban Detroit sounds, his muppet-like moan (“Eraser”) is a big distraction. Yorke might call Herr Berkhahn for a remix, but that doesn’t mean the DJ has to return the favor. No matter: the 12 tracks here flow as inexorably as the tide, making for one of the mix CDs of the season.
OPTIMO | WALKABOUT | Endless Flight | DJ mixes come and go, but Optimo are forever, two Glasgow DJs (JD Twitch and Johnnie Wilkes) who are renowned both on CD and at optimo.co.uk. They draw parallel lines and arcs from genre to genre in mixes that can last 60 minutes or four hours. Walkabout focuses on the darker side of dance culture, folding Finnish noise artisans Pan Sonic into Italian house obscurity Databrain and German avant-house duo Smith ’N Hack into Brooklyn noise group Black Dice. They keep the mix popping, so you don’t have to know who’s who — it simply flows in serpentine fashion. Halfway through, we get a full stop from Japanese doom-metalists Boris, and then, just four tracks later, they bring on the thrill of house experimenter Thomas Brinkmann. The result is a 73-minute mix for all seasons.