Tuesday, 17 January 2012

When is a mix not a mix?

Odd question isn't it?  Or it would have been 10 years ago when things were so much simpler - take two turntables or early CDJs, press record on the computer or cd recorder and play whatever came to you mind for 80 minutes or so.  With technology moving on so fast now and the lines blurring between producer and disc jockey performances its time to examine the DJ mix again - so when is a performance a mix or something more?

The easy answer to this is a equipment query - a performance using records or CDs on CDJs and recorded live is a mix.  Provided it hasn't been retrospectively touched up using Ableton or any other program it can sit back and enjoy the title of a 'mix'.  An interesting thread on RA came up some time ago claiming that people were using the 'live' and 'physical media' excuses for bad performances - aka trainwrecking.  Using physical media does not give you any excuse for letting the basic skills of beatmatching and blending lax!  It may look more authentic - the frantic hand gestures and panicked face as opposed to the cool click of 'sync' but I know what I'd rather hear...

So what is not a mix?  This might be controversial but I believe any musical performance by a DJ that has NOT been recorded live - the act of stringing a chain of records together and recorded then and there is not a mix.  How can it be?  How can you describe hours and hours slaving over a computer using Ableton to get every blend perfect for a 70/80 minute CD a mix?  Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking the effort put in, I even think its admirable, and yes I have Richie Hawtin's Transitions and its fantastic - I just don't believe it deserves the title of a DJ mix.  I am proposing we separate out the live mix CDs from the performance CDs that often contain multiple tracks layered on top of each other or elements of tracks extracted.

A person should have the right to know if it was recorded in one take live or it took days to put together on a computer, I'd feel kind of cheated if I found out my favourite DJ (who has the talent to do it live) used a computer to put the mix CD together.  Before anyone points out that all the tracks have to be licenced so it can't be a spontaneous performance can I point you towards this:

Mixed live in Sankey's for the 10th Anniversary this was released and is a great live mix from both Greg and Krysko, all tracks were cleared post mix.

So next time you listen to a mix CD just have a think - is this really a mix?  Or is it something else now?  Has the artist recorded it from the bottom of their heart, got in a mood and performed to the best of their abilities.  Or have they sat in front of a computer and clinically segued the tracks to achieve something else...?

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