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

Slam on the CDJ returns, complete with new sets by Clemency, Kush Jones, and more.
By    July 7, 2020

Our picks are always A-1 on the dance floor. Please support Passion of the Weiss by subscribing to our Patreon.

Michael McKinney has been practicing his dance moves on the hoods of police cars.

It’s easy to mythologize the club. A night out, framed right, can look like a space for minor salvation; there’s a special kind of escapism to be found in a few hours of peak-time raving if the tunes hit right. This worldbuilding around “dance music”—often naive and correct in equal measure—is nothing new. As parties start to resurface all too quickly, it’s hard not to run to the nearest floor, even if that floor’s made of asphalt. Street mosh pits, social-distanced parties, illegal raves in Manchester: collective yearning is a powerful thing, odds and medical practices be damned.

Several of this month’s heavier sets worked as a reminder of just how powerful a pummelling at the club can be. Clemency cooked up two hours of cragged and crackling stompers for Brooklyn’s Club Night Club; Osheyack showed off the wild-eyed intensity that makes SVBKVLT an essential force in Shanghai; Kush Jones repped Chicago’s history of fierce originals and New York’s anything-goes club-night sound with an hour of blazing footwork. Helena Hauff showed off her singular and corrosive style, blending electro and techno into a devastating whirlwind, while Objekt found similar force in breaks, bass, and slamming club rhythms. Sherelle, meanwhile, laid down a paranoid and downcast pile-up of jungle, drum and bass, and hardcore of all stripes.

The calmer sets went longer, trading gut-punch energy for longer-term balms. Madrid’s F-On assembled a six-hour mix of spacey and serene techno that went heavy on ambiance; DJ Sports went for five, weaving garage, house, breaks, ambient, and anything else into a strikingly beautiful fabric. Elias Mazian and Sofay both leaned into world-building, albeit in very different ways. The 53rd episode of Mazian’s radio show is playful, dreamy, and quiet; Sofay’s is, too, but its foundation is looser, resting somewhere between melancholia and joy without quite settling down. Gimmik pulled off a similar trick, folding genres, decades, and moods into a surprising and wide-ranging set for Bleep.

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

Clemency – CNCMIX010


In her set for Brooklyn’s Club Night Club, Clemency uses Dutch angles and scratched lenses to show just how disorienting the dancefloor can be. She starts slow, dimming the lights with foggy and glitched-out ambiance, but that doesn’t last for long. In the middle of a recitation of Sean Bonney’s Letter in Turmoil, foreign machinery sparks to life and starts moving in unknowable ways. For the rest of the set, she blends skittering dancefloor sounds until they mutate into entirely new forms; the longer she goes, the more limbs pop into the frame. Sometimes, this means low-end dubstep stormers; other times, it’s gleefully misshapen drum and bass or scorching jungle. The genres are almost beside the point, though. CNCMIX010 is thrilling because of the alchemy at play: regardless of style, Clemency piles drums on top of each other and makes uncanny and entrancing new forms.

DJ Sports – RBMIX21


The most satisfying part of RBMIX21 is how slowly it unfurls. Over the course of nearly five hours, DJ Sports weaves ambient washes, flurrying breakbeats, and intimate vocal cuts into a mix that slowly reveals new subtleties. His mixing, clean and quietly daring, holds it all together. At one point, he turns clattering-percussion ambiance, ever so slowly, into sizzling breaks; at another, he’s teasing the swing out of a house cut until he’s deep into his UK garage crates. This is mixing done at the microscopic level; he’s not grabbing new tracks so much as stretching out their similarities until they turn into one continuous fabric. To do this a few times in a set is impressive; to pull it off for this long is another thing entirely. There are a few hard cuts, but even then, Sports keeps it tightly wound thanks to his tonal control and subtle touch. RBMIX21 is a quiet joy: a carefully crafted tour through warm, colorful, and slightly left-of-center dance music.

Elias Mazian – Private Hearts 53


Eight minutes into Private Hearts 53, Elias Mazian makes his approach for that week’s show clear. “Start very slow,” he says. “It’s a rainy day outside, a bit grey, and I got the right music for that.” He spends the following three hours playing slow, low, and supremely serene selections, offering quiet commentary but never getting in the way of the carefully curated atmosphere. His control over mood makes even the most curious pairings work: Eva Cassidy’s acoustic cover of “Time After Time” into Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence,” 2Pac acapellas into Rubén González’s playful Afro-Cuban jazz and the almost-blues of Can’s “She Brings the Rain.” Private Hearts 53 is a uniformly beautiful cruise through pastel-coated folk, soul, jazz, and lushly orchestrated pop music. “[This show] will be a bit dreamier than usual,” he says after half an hour of mixing. “It’s gonna be very relaxing. I think that’s just what we need.”

F-On – El continuo sonoro que nunca se acaba #1

It all starts with a voice, or two, gravelly and low. “You stayin’ out of trouble?” Alfonso Pomeda, better known as F-On, takes this snippet of conversation and slices it up for several minutes. He amplifies the intimacy by underlining its microscopic movements: the purrs, the rasps, the stretched syllables. He eventually works his way to pitch-black minimal techno and ambiance, but the aesthetic core remains. On El continuo sonoro que nunca se acaba #1—”the sound continuum that never ends”—Pomeda takes whispered cares and fears and blows them up to titanic scales. At some spots, the grooves harness stomach-churning unease and turn them cosmic, with synthesizers throbbing miles below barely present drums; elsewhere, bleary drones sound like stars exploding in slow motion. This is minimal techno imagined a thousand ways. There’s dubby cuts, spacious synth-and-click duets, anxious low-end, soothing and joyous ambiance, and countless alien forms in between. Six hours after he opens the set, Pomeda closes it with the conversation that opened it. The bookends and the yawning-chasm beats in between, different as they may seem, serve the same purpose. Both carve out liminal spaces: discomfort rubbing against intimacy, quiet horror gnawing at dumbstruck beauty. The bottomless pits in between, he suggests, are well worth exploring.

Gimmik – Bleep Mix #116

On his mix for Bleep, Martin Haidinger weaves several strands of knotty dance music into an hour that straddles genre lines without comfortably fitting into any. He selects a wide range of styles—bleary ambient techno, sputtering and spacious IDM, blistering breakbeats, orchestral drone—and blends them sharply, underlining just how disparate the picks are. This fills the set with a quiet sense of play that only grows as it moves on. Haidinger starts the set by fusing several shades of techno together, but he slowly fans outward into territories both manic and stilled. The choice works. By pushing the set’s foundational rhythms into faster and harder territory, or by jettisoning them entirely, he draws a direct line from modern classical to hardcore. Over the course of an hour, Gimmik collapses tempos, tones, and timelines without so much as a blink.

Helena Hauff – Kern, Vol. 5

Sometimes, all you need is a grimy enough kick drum. Helena Hauff has spent the past several years refining her style behind the decks: broken-machinery industrial techno, serrated electro, and steamrolling percussion. On her mix for Tresor’s Kern series, the seasoned producer and DJ goes long, turning in a blazing two hours that rarely dips below 150 BPM. She leans into her dominant sound here. Kern, Vol. 5 is bleak and apocalyptic, a take-no-prisoners pile-up of vinyl and gritted teeth. But it’s by no means a bad thing to play to her strengths. Once she grabs armfuls of industrial-din electro and slams on the gas, all the listener can do is strap in. She incorporates plenty of other sounds—Nasenbluten’s Gravediggaz-sampling gabber cut “Intellectual Killer,” the skyscraping acid techno of Umwelt’s “Starless Night,” DJ Godfather & DJ Starski’s throbbing ghettotech for “City of Boom”—but the set’s breakneck pacing and hair-raising intensity never let up. Kern, Vol. 5 is invigorating, overwhelming, and utterly thrilling.

Kush Jones – RA.732

Near the end of his podcast for Resident Advisor, Kush Jones pulls off something remarkable. After an hour of high-energy footwork, he moves to Ron Trent’s “Ori Space,” a slow-burning nu-jazz jam session. Along the way, there’s a chopped-up drum solo and a close-harmony choir reaching skyward. As a way out, it’s both perfectly assembled—every blend is exactingly assembled—and wholly unexpected. It’s fitting, though. Kush Jones’s best material blends decades of dance music into exhilaratingly new forms. On RA.732, he hones in on his style’s most obvious starting point—the frenzied pacing and icy precision of footwork and juke. In a style akin to forebearer RP Boo, Jones selects tracks with cheeky vocal samples and crisp drums, combining the unpredictable and the quantized in a hypnotic balancing act. It’s mixed hard and fast—he packs nearly thirty tracks into fifty-five minutes—but with a veteran’s elegance. RA.732, a bass-blasted and polyrhythm-laden set of frenetic floor-fillers, plays like a love letter to the music that blew Jones’s mind in 2008.

Objekt – Essential Mix

In a 2016 feature with Resident Advisor, Objekt went into great depth about how he organizes his USBs: recency, tempo, genre, hardness, how they’d play in the club. For his debut on BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix series, his meticulous nature comes through in remarkable and unexpected ways. Here, his guiding focus is hard and fast club sounds; it’s tough as nails, filled with screaming blends and livewire energy. Beyond that, anything goes. After a quiet start with unmoored synthesizer washes and skittering hi-hats, a wave of sizzling breakbeats blows the doors open. This sort of unexpected and playful mixing runs through Objekt’s Essential Mix. Give him a few minutes and the Berlin DJ is bound to toss in a grime instrumental, scorching slabs of bass, acidic techno, apocalyptic gabber, or anything else that hits hard and messy. His selections vary wildly, but his blends are consistently smooth and surprising. The result, both playful and brick-to-the-face intense, sounds like an expertly controlled series of contained explosions.

Osheyack – RA.734

Osheyack doesn’t DJ much, but when he does, it’s worth tuning in. In his latest mix, he applies his omnivorous taste to the kind of rhythms that make Shanghai’s contemporary club scene so exciting. This is grimy and powerful dance music: the drums carry a satisfying crunch and pack plenty of weight, moving from overdriven kicks to acrobatic hard-drum workouts and jacking techno pulled from the American underground. It’s this constant reconfiguration that makes the set so thrilling; he pulls from a wide range of sounds but connects them seamlessly, tying wild-eyed drum patterns to white-hot synth blasts and jumping oceans in the process. On RA.734, Osheyack shows off the exacting construction, amp-busting energy, and anything-goes attitude that make his city’s clubs so essential.

Sherelle – Dekmantel Podcast 285

Sherelle, one of the most exciting DJs on the planet, described her Dekmantel podcast entry as “a massive fuck you to the people who didn’t want to see me on their fave ‘techno’ festival.” For the set, Sherelle takes her winning style—dizzyingly fast mixing bridging jungle, footwork, drum and bass, and a hundred styles in between—and laces it with white-knuckle tension and a touch of melancholy. It’s seamlessly mixed and full of belters, but that’s more or less a given with her material; it’s that complicated mess of emotions that makes the set really tick. It’s filled with menacing synth tones, bittersweet melodies, and murmured conversations. Even when Sherelle’s selections threaten to melt the decks, Dekmantel Podcast 285 is fueled by a blend of paranoia and sun-kissed sadness.

Sofay – SANPO 160

SANPO 160, Sofay’s entry into Sanpo Disco’s long-running mix series, is most captivating at its loosest. Her selections—spectral folk music, wispy ambiance, rustling electronics, plaintive piano—contribute to the set’s curious mood, landing somewhere between joy and mourning without settling down. She moves from delicate solo piano to righteous folk, or a duet for drum machine and jam-band guitar to dank almost-techno. The mix is defined by these oddly intuitive left turns, spots where she links genres and styles through ephemera rather than sonic details. The result is a loosely blended set whose picks are firmly linked by a feeling that is harder to pin down; it serves as a showcase for Sofay’s laser-sharp command over barely visible emotive notes. Its slow, collage-like nature works to its benefit. As she blends more and more seemingly disparate ideas, they start to form something else with an entirely different kind of beauty.

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