Global Sound System: A DJ Mix Roundup
I've taken a week to absorb a fine set of DJ mixes. Normally, I spend most of my free time seeking out and collecting new music, but sometimes it gets to be too much. What with the holidays and a nagging flu, I've been in the mood to just listen. Why take the trouble to put on your own records when a skilled selector has already planned out your listening for you? Here are some brief reviews of the blocks of tunes that have kept my ears happy over the last week:
Heatwave Mix 2005
This one has been a revelation for me. I'd been looking for a way into the world of reggaeton for a while now (for a better definition than I could manage, see Wayne&Wax's nuanced piece on the subject), and this set provides just that, mixing hot reggaeton tracks in with some of the biggest dancehall and hip-hop tracks of the last year. The result is an international dancefloor killer, hands down. I swear that I will not miss the Heatwave crew when (hopefully) they come to San Francisco. From their site: "Heatwave's sets take in a wide range of Jamaican-oriented sounds, all of which are featured on this mix: dancehall/bashment, reggaeton, R'n'B/hip hop/crunk, soca, reggae and ragga jungle from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Senegal, France, USA, UK, South Asia and St Vincent." Apparently they are great producers as well, as evidenced by the huge, striding, swung groove that kicks off the mix, their Kelis/Beenie Man/TOK remix on Punchline Records (anyone know how much of this is original Heatwave material?). This track joins several others from the Heatwave mix on my new must-have list. The whole thing may be a little too jiggy for some of our readers, but I'd recommend it all the same, for educational purposes -- just skip over the Snoop and Ying Yang Twins tracks. More information, tracklist, and artwork available here.
Big Bamboo, Calypso 'Picong' Classics (1914-2002)
Bam Bam (Jamaican Mento Mixxx), A Collection of Mento Classics
These two mixes by the fabulous Dr. Auratheft are pretty unusual. I recognize a few songs from the Trojan Calypso Box Set and other compilations, but in general this music is pretty hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for. The lyrical content of these calypso and mento songs is bawdy and hilarious, the melodies are joyous and almost maddeningly catchy, the rhythms are the very definition of toe-tapping, and some of the musicianship on display (especially among the vocalists) is breathtaking. I recommend the Big Bamboo mix to start with, if you dig that one go back and grab Bam Bam. For extra credit, listen for the obscured but undeniably present elements of ska and reggae that bubble out of this older Carribean music.
King Tubby's Home Town HiFi Sound System
King Tubby's Home Town HiFi Sound System (Part 2)
Another couple of Dr. Auratheft mixes (he's got a bunch more that are in my queue for listening this week). These sets cover King Tubby's classic, pre-digital period -- the best of the best of the best of dub, in my humble opinion. The mixing is straightforward and unobtrusive, the tunes are top shelf. If you don't know King Tubby or dub music, these would make a great introduction. If you do, then you'll be happy to have them.