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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Redefining my Sound.

When looking back at the last ten years that I have been DJ'ing, there are very clear 'stages' of  playing style that I went through followed by periods of creative growth. I imagine this is pretty typical for anyone with any long term hobby or skill.




When I started  DJ'ing- and I use the term DJ'ing loosely, it was in first year university with a room full of drunken first year pals playing whatever felt good. Anything from Modest Mouse' "Float On" ( which was the breakout hit of the summer in 2004)  to old school '90s hip hop, to the theme from "Clone High" ..and of course a slew of trance tracks (whatever, it was 2004. Trance was hip).



There were no rules then. Keys didn't matter, bpm didn't matter, genres didn't matter... as long as it sounded good, then it worked. Also, vast amounts of  tequila, vodka, whiskey and beer and whatever our 19 year old friends could procure, ensured even the most critical ears were immune to the trainwrecks and poor audio quality from clipping speakers.

Then you get better. You start to see the difference between the guys getting paid to DJ and yourself fooling around with  with equipment that is much too complicated for your skill level.  You hopefully rise to the occasion and your sound starts to mature into something reflective of your preferences.  I settled into a darker progressive house sound (the real stuff, not that anthemy crap you hear on the radio)

 My sets went from being a pot pourri of whatever I felt like, to a more consistent progressive vibe. Years of  gigging helped me learn to read crowds and how to create and maintain 'flow'. I still maintain that if I can get  a dance floor moving at my residency in Guelph, I can do it anywhere in the world.



I did partake in the electro sound of 2006 and of course my sound morphed to accommodate the tech house obsession of 2009-2010 and more recently the 'deep house' (or whatever you want to call it) sound of 2011-2013 .. however, I've always had a spot for proper deep brooding progressive house.  

The most consistent thing between  the aforementioned styles is that it's very easy to jump between these genres.  They're all generally 4:4 time and often keyed very similarly.  It was hardly a hurdle to blend them all.  

It was recently that I realized I  hit a plateau in my DJ'ing. I can hop behind any set of decks on a moments notice and whip up a cohesive blended set. I still love every moment of playing for a crowd.. but the challenge is somewhat diminished. Don't get me wrong,  I still have so much room to improve....but the initial technical challenge is gone. Or so I thought.

I was linked these sets by a good buddy of mine.


They spurred a sort of renaissance in my DJ'ing. Look at the tracklist. I didn't think it was possible to see "She sells Sanctuary" in the same list as  something as distant as Mutated Forms- Crowlin. Two starkly different sounds/genres.   Yet if you listen to this set, it flows beautifully.  Do yourself a favor and listen from the 46 minute mark into when it blends in to "She sells sanctuary".  Holy shit. How do you even conceive that mix? 
Blu Mar Ten- a trio from the UK, known more for their venerable drum&bass productions have effectively blown convention away with these sets. There's still incredible DJ technical merit in these sets, as they are keyed and the selection has to work.. it isn't just a list of the tracks they like. 

The challenge of fusing completely different sounds gets me excited.. and to be able to do it in away that's actually pleasing to the ears.  In an era where a bag of rocks could create a well blended set on traktor or similar, it's refreshing to see that track selection is still what separates the wheat from the chaff.  It also makes me realize how much more I need to learn behind the decks, and how little I actually know about DJ'ing.

Check out all of their podcasts. They're 'Genre Neutral' and just sound right.  I'd recommend these sets to my dad as well as my little sister. That should indicate how broadly pleasing these sets are. 



Anyways. that's all for now.  Bicycle time.















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