Slam on the CDJ: The Best DJ Sets of February 2020

Slam on the CDJ returns with new sets from Ash Lauryn, DJ Warzone, and more.
By    March 3, 2020

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After an unusually calm January, a number of relatively new-school DJs released sets to light up dancefloors. Atlanta-via-Detroit deep-house don Ash Lauryn turned in a set of slick and joyous house rhythms; CCL and Physical Therapy went long, assembling three hours of breaks and techno in a blistering back-to-back. Elsewhere, modern club sounds continue eating the world: DJ Plead’s hand-drum tornadoes keep getting better, The Large keeps refining her argument for pairing dancehall and bass, and Dirty K makes yet another case for Japan as a mecca for shattered, propulsive, and forward-thinking electronic music.

If the club music got harder and faster this month, though, the ambient got weirder. In their latest mix, FANA’ sculpts indecipherable forms out of experimental Persian music, making for a beguiling and alien set of clicks and rattles. Elsewhere, Ondness uses field recordings, choral music, and stumbling jazz freakouts to explore uncertain times; Keith Fullerton Whitman turns prog-rock records into a slowly moving cloud of drone and chopped-and-screwed sounds; and Ambient Babestation Meltdown crafts an ambient mix that is sensual, delirious, and unsettling.

Here are some of the best DJ mixes February had to offer.

Ambient Babestation Meltdown – LT Podcast 114

As Ambient Babestation Meltdown, Rachael Williams blends ambient, drone, and futuristic electronics to create wholly unrecognizable forms. Her entry in Lobster Theremin’s long-running podcast series adds something else into the mix: unnervingly straight-ahead vocal clips, some of them a decade old, either pulled from or inspired by adult entertainment ads. The come-ons about lobster monogamy might be a joke, but the mixing isn’t: this is an unsettling and queasy trip, toeing the line between alien beauty and discomfort in impressive ways. The slowly shuffling drums, displaced crowd hollers, lonely drones, and purring sci-fi synthesizers all add up to an entirely new world, but the air is so foggy that it’s tough to make anything out.

Ash Lauryn – Underground & Black

Even though Ash Lauryn currently lives in Atlanta, her Detroit upbringing shines through in her DJing. Both her blog and NTS show—each titled “Underground & Black”—make no bones about their focus. Between the two, she’s slowly turned herself into one of America’s great house selectors and commentators. Her latest set is yet another argument in her favor, and it might just be her most full-throated yet: opening with a Mr. Fingers edit of a Martin Luther King, Jr. clip is tough to back down from. She doesn’t have to, though. The rest of the set is effortlessly groovy deep house that lives up to its name.

CCL x Physical Therapy – CCL X Physical Therapy [Live @ High & Tight 12/13/19]

Physical Therapy and CCL are, currently, two of the preeminent mixers of zonked-out breakbeat and techno. So it only makes sense that the four-armed squid would form for a nine-hour back-to-back session, a third of which has been put online; it also only makes sense that it’s effortlessly funky and consistently seamless. Low-key ambient-techno head-nodders gradually give way to steamrolling breaks, and as the temperature rises the grooves only get trippier. The best back-to-back sets, often, come from DJs pushing each other to dig ever further into their record collections. That’s what happens here: they find a groove, pull at its fringes, and sink deeper and deeper into it.


As part of CHEMICALMONSTERS, one of the parties helping push Japanese electronic music into the future, Dirty K blends techno, trance, grime, and dance-music sounds from anywhere on the planet into an eye-catching stew. CHEMICALMONSTERS MIX VOL. 4 is a continuation of this approach, with impeccable mixing and wide-ranging selections. It’s all high-energy dance music: piercing synth stabs and grime emcees serve as the throughlines, but gqom, shattered dancefloor rhythms, and Jersey club all show up as well. Almost every track here is actually three or more blended together, but it never comes off as a collage or a feat of early-2010s mashup gimmickry. Instead, it’s a half-hour of dance-music firestarters.

DJ Plead – Dekmantel Podcast 271

In his latest offering for Dekmantel’s podcast series, DJ Plead sticks to his wheelhouse. It’s fortunate that his comfort zone is so cluttered, then; this is an hour of whirlwinding hand drums and off-kilter house rhythms. The mix is defined by unexpected and elegant transitions, but with a fast-paced and thrilling vocabulary. At one point, Pharrell production is covered in piles of snares and staggering tom-toms; elsewhere, deep-house synth walls give way to off-kilter and woozy drum programming. The set demonstrates DJ Plead’s modus operandi: globe-spanning club music with excitingly lopsided drums, all pulled off with exacting precision.

DJ Warzone – Hard Dance 043

Sometimes, all you need is a slamming kick drum. One of the best entries yet in Boiler Room’s consistently excellent Hard Dance series, DJ Warzone’s entry is an hour-plus of storming techno and trance music that starts fast and accelerates as it goes on. In theory, it’s straight-ahead—it’s four-on-the-four hardcore mixing top to bottom—but in practice, it’s disorienting and overpowering. Its detuned keyboards, industrial-strength kicks, sheet-metal synthesizers, and walls of drums get better and better as DJ Warzone ratchets up the intensity and bleeds the whole room into the red.

FANA’ – W&F 022

In their career as DJ and multimedia artist, FANA’ has focused on their Kurdish heritage and the music of the Middle East. On their mix for Chicago-based DJ workshop Walking & Falling, their lens zeroes in on knotty and garbled Persian electronic music. Whenever a solid beat appears here, it feels like a small revelation; for most of its runtime, W&F 022 is a dreamy, or nightmarish, landscape populated with clicks, whistles, static-laced wind, and chasms filled with churning synthesizers.


Over the course of a very busy 2019, FAUZIA established herself as one of London’s most exciting 160-BPM DJs. Her first solo set of 2020 keeps the hype going. It’s only forty minutes but feels half that, given its blistering tempos and rapid-fire mixing. While the sounds run the gamut—there’s edits of Daft Punk, Dead or Alive, Khia, and La Roux on display—her ties to the skittering pulse of footwork make the self-produced mix work as a unit. This is dance music that looks back and honors the masters while charging forward, fusing footwork, jungle, dubstep, rap and breaks into something undeniable.

Flora FM – Hypnotic Groove Mix #290

When Seattle’s Taylor Hawkins Flora FM announced the release of Hypnotic Groove Mix #290, he Tweeted that it was “hands down the most fun” he’d ever had DJing. He went on to say that it “totally comes through in the recording,” and hearing just ten minutes of the set confirms it. After a brief smooth-jazz introduction, he gets right to lighting up the dancefloor. Expect pop and rock cuts from decades ago, disco and garage and house music piled sky-high, and the occasional rap acapella thrown in for good measure. The mixing is adventurous and never loses the pulse of the room; since the crowd’s cheers come through, you can hear DJ and dancers egging each on to higher and higher fervors.

Keith Fullerton Whitman – Kranky w/ Keith Fullerton Whitman

The tracklist for Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Kranky mix is deceptive. While he does blend Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis here, it hardly plays like the snaky prog-rock pile-up you might expect. In fact, it’s tough to recognize any individual tracks at all. The mix plays out like a slowly evolving mass of chopped-and-screwed drone music, with guitar tones bleeding into each other as they play from miles away. Pay no mind to any studio trickery, no matter how impressive: as with the Tim Hecker records these smudged tones recall, the real draw is how quietly emotive the mix is, acting like a Rorschach test for despair, hope, and serenity.

The Large – FACT Mix 746

The Large has been bubbling under in New York City for a while, and with good reason: her fusion of bass music, dancehall, R&B, and rap is both impressive and inimitable. It’s no small feat, but FACT 746 might be her best yet. To put it simply, it’s stuffed with fantastic grooves, fueled by a globetrotter’s approach to dance music, and mixed with a clarity and elegance that belies the number of genres she’s working with. The drums are the throughline: they’re playful and constant, molting into unexpected new forms with every track and keep the grooves going. If you want a primer on what world music sounds like now, you could do a lot worse than this.

Ondness – XLR8R 631

XLR8R 631 opens in medias res. A reel whirls to live, and a number of people arrive, bearing fragments of stories: a man, disappeared after what sounds like an immigration mishap; Google creating mazes of fine print to facilitate surveillance capitalism; a missing-person hunt pulled from 2006’s Southland Tales. It’s a fittingly beguiling start to a mix oriented around looming unease and inevitable disquiet. The mix later touches on jungle, modern classical, dub poetry, spare guitars, and ambient synthesizer music, but its eerie and too-stilled mood never lifts.

Riz La Teef – Dummy Mix 576

Riz La Teef may be best known for the number of dubplate edits he cuts for his own sets, but his mix for Dummy makes the case on a much more conventional terms: his ear can’t be beat. For proof, check any of the thirty-odd cuts he blends here. The set is packed with midtempo garage rollers, and it’s got a piledriving energy from the jump. Strains of other contemporary UK club and street music pulse through its veins: dubstep, bass, and a healthy heaping of grime all help to make the selections pop. The mix underlines the vitality of modern UK garage and grime, but on a much more visceral level, it’s fantastic dance music powered by killer blends.

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