Rinsed: DJ Bus Replacement Service’s 8th April 2019

Michael McKinney takes a look at the slightly confrontational, innovative DJ.
By    December 12, 2019

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Your BPM don’t go as hard as Michael McKinney‘s.

For much of the 2010s, DJ Bus Replacement Service has been cultivating a very particular style. In its own way, it’s confrontational — coming from a world where all-vinyl mixes are often approached with a classicist reverence and straight-ahead tech-house mixing abound, it’s not hard to see a DJ in opposition when she plays hardcore EDM edits of Metallica cuts from behind a Kim Jong-un mask. She’s said that she treats her craft like a stand-up comedy act. As much comes through in her mixing, which revels in twisting tropes in unusual ways, poking at conventions, and blending via free-association and straight-up absurdist humor.

This can mean any number of things: taking ghettotech classics and censoring any vulgarity; opening a festival set with a BBC news segment about how to properly load a dishwasher; or closing a mix by slamming breakcore and show tunes into each other until the mix collapses in on itself.

But her DJing is fundamentally focused on the club; barring some aesthetic choices, what she does isn’t far from any number of the canonical greats. Whenever her sets threaten to veer too far off the cliff—and they frequently do, given her self-proclaimed love for playing “bad or incorrect music”—she’ll ground whatever she’s mixing in some brick-to-the-face electro or hard house. Her music is easy to dismiss for the absurdity of the pieces she mixes, but she executes with a veteran’s sensibility every time.

Her sets are towering feats of ridiculousness: novelty trance edits with a dozen YouTube views and rock songs rendered ironic and iconic a dozen times over are piled on top of TB-303 synth lines and overpowering kick drums pulled from Eastern Europe. Everything about her presentation says you shouldn’t take her seriously, but most of the time, she pulls it off through sheer strength of craft.

8th April 2019, her third set in a residency with Rinse FM, is one of her most uncompromising fusions of the dancefloor and comedy club yet. It’s not immediately obvious why – the set opens with Ruben Alonzo’s “2012 Remix” of “Ice Ice Baby,” a sped-up and hard-housed version of the 1990 Vanilla Ice single. That’s par for the course for a DJ who makes a point of spinning unexpected cuts for stupefied audiences, so it’s nothing terribly unusual. Instead, the surprise comes a few minutes later in the mix: Vanilla Ice never leaves. Over the course of twenty-seven tracks and sixty minutes, DJ Bus Replacement service crafts a mix containing “Ice Ice Baby” remixes and nothing else.

This really shouldn’t work. But, perhaps despite itself, it does. 8th April 2019 quickly turns into a ever-evolving mass of steamrolling rave-up electronic music: hard house, vocal trance, raging big-tent mid-2010s EDM, chopped-up and stuttering Jersey club. There’s a histrionically sung cover with piercing walls of synthesizers not long after a math student’s trigonometry-themed rewrite. At a late-period peak, the massive synths of Marc Reason’s big room remix give way to Matic808’s Baltimore club edit, which in turn moves to a Remix Factory edit whose drums recall, of all things, the modern hard-drum scene coming out of Paris’ Bérite club scene. Not long after, everything’s moving at warp speed and grounded with kicks pulled straight out of a gabber track.

If this all sounds exhausting, you’re probably right. 8th April 2019 is overwhelmingly single-minded: its sole focus is to test the limits of a single ‘90s pop-rap hit when tossed over a range of dance music styles defined by their four-on-the-floor kick drums. As with all of the best (and many of the worst) mixes DJ Bus Replacement Service has done, it’s categorically baffling. It’s selecting as spectacle, mixing defined by a queasy tightrope walk between being just committed enough and far, far too devoted to the joke.

But it’s also defined by the sheer craft on display. Whereas other mixes in her discography – Sheffield February 2018, her mix for Red Bull Music – have featured pointedly messy mixing based around thematic, sonic, or lyrical jokes, 8th April 2019 is all seamless beatmatching and track segues. That she’s able to make the set work cohesively is impressive, even if afforded the caveat that nearly every track’s working with the same four hundred words – it travels a wide range of genres, rarely showing its seams.

It helps, of course, that she’s dug up some great edits: the “Crew 7 Remix,” especially when sped up a bit, makes for an early-portion peak thanks to manic vocal edits and sampled emcees; the transition from Abel Romez’s room-filling bass-lines and Wunderbros’s Skrillex-indebted dubstep will blow speakers; and Matic808’s edit cuts the acapella up into an overpowering club track that furthers the set’s wild-eyed energy thanks to a crowd of screaming hypemen, spliced-up gunshots and chopped-up vocals, and what’s got to be a sample of “The “Ha” Dance.”

The individual tracks aren’t really the point here, though. It’s that the set works as a piledriver of rave music even with its absurd limitations. It’s that it’s paced remarkably well: the energy levels go into the red for just long enough just often enough, and she’s careful to make sure the listener gets a few times to catch their breath. It’s that the mixing is fast enough, fluid, and playful. It’s that the whole thing, somehow, works well and merits repeated listens long after the novelty has worn off. It’s the way that DJ Bus Replacement Service has – once again – taken a patently ridiculous idea and made it work through excellent selections and blends. If mixing is analogous to stand-up comedy – and hers certainly is – then this is an example of a well-executed callback: an old joke, spun right, still gets the crowd going.

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