Slam on the CDJ: The Best DJ Sets of November 2022

Slam on the CDJ returns with the best DJ sets of the past month featuring CCL & Kiernan Laveaux, DJ Healthy, Maserati and more.
By    December 15, 2022

Image via Michael McKinney

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Some of November’s best mixes emerged from live events. This should come as little surprise—it’s a format frequently found on the dancefloor, with DJs and ravers in continuous conversation. In Brooklyn, CCL & Kiernan Laveaux, two wildly exciting and chameleonic selectors, pushed each other down all sorts of blind alleys in a four-hour back-to-back, moving from slinky ambience to firestarting breaks and back again; Ron Like Hell and Doctor Jeep did something similar, but they set their sights on speedy techno, dubstep, and 2-step. At Queens’s Nowadays, Huerco S. continued his club-music evangelism, offering up a session of fleet-footed techno, weirdo electronics, and deeply unpredictable dancefloor sounds. DJ Voices’s RA mix wasn’t recorded at Nowadays, but it might as well have been: it’s structured to mirror one of her nights out, full of high-octane blends and thrilling left turns. Slunty, a.k.a. Pontiac Streator, zoomed in on rip-roaring drum-and-bass, and T.Wan showed off her vision of slippery and propulsive dancefloor burners at Honcho Campout.

DJ Healthy, a mainstay of the New York dance-music scene, turned in a stomach-rattling mix of techno for Animalia; alongside Significant Other, he found a balance between disheveled ambience and chase-scene percussion tunes. ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U, recording live from the HÖR bathroom, focused on live-wire techno and hardcore of all stripes, while avant-dancefloor queen James K looked towards drum-and-bass, ambient music, and disorienting club records. Fio Fa showed off the results of his Discogs dives, grabbing from a seemingly endless crate of old-school trance and tech-house rollers. ΚΕΜΑΛ went further afield, creating a soundtrack to a forgotten Western flick with the sounds of spiritual jazz, surf-rock oddities, and dust-covered ambience.

Here are some of the best DJ sets November had to offer.

CCL & Kiernan Laveaux – Live @ Public Records

In retrospect, CCL and Kiernan Laveaux make a perfect combination. A typical set from either DJ runs deep and wide; broadly, they work in left-field electronic music, but that’s hardly a helpful distinction. Over the course of four hours at New York’s Public Records, they turned in a characteristically exploratory session, threading between all sorts of sounds with aplomb and a bit of a wink. They start things low and slow, reaching for dream-pop and zonked-out ambient, seemingly ignoring BPM entirely. After nearly an hour of no-grav electronics, they kick things into a higher gear, jackknifing into weirdo dubstep tools, all pattering kicks and chase-scene synths. From there, all bets are off: industrial neoperreo, laid-back trip-hop, marching-band electro, and bass-blasted breakbeat might as well be the same thing. Throughout, they move with an unmissable joie de vivre, diving down countless rabbit holes and finding all sorts of unusual connections along the way.

DJ Healthy – Animix One Hundred & Five

Maserati – Live From the Basement

There’s power to be found in a gut-punch kick drum. In Animix One Hundred & Five, NYC mainstay DJ Healthy rockets between all sorts of tectonic-plate techno burners, pairing slow-and-low bass tunes with a nimble and playful upper register. It’s a wide-ranging session centered around a slamming low-end, linking together breakbeat-inflected techno, dubbed-up dubstep, slinky tech house, and plenty of other club-music styles with panache. By comparison, Live From the Basement is downright weightless. Maserati—a.k.a. DJ Healthy and Significant Other—spend the first half of their back-to-back working with spine-tingling ambience, with drums that land like rainfall on a barely-present low-end. Eventually, that patter turns to a torrent as they crank up the bass, moving from eerie minimalism to a million-ton tour of left-field drum-and-bass. In either mix’s case, the effect is the same: a disorienting and wide-ranging survey of off-kilter club music.

DJ Voices – RA.858

Depending on who you ask, Nowadays is the best club in the world. Kristin Malossi, a.k.a. DJ Voices, is partially to thank for that: she works as a booker for the venue, and her residency there serves as a critical survey of NYC’s dance-music scene. RA.858 is something of a love letter to the place; it features music from every Nowadays resident, and it’s structured similarly to how she’d pace a night out. By doing so, she shows off the dynamism that makes New York one of the most exciting dance-music scenes in the world, balancing heads-down club tools with explosive drum breaks and mischievous synth runs. One moment, she’s neck-deep in wiggly footwork tunes; the next, it’s billion-ton dubstep and bass-grinder jazz. It’s a minor miracle that she keeps that kitchen-sink energy going for nearly three hours, rocketing between all sorts of white-hot club sounds in the process. If Nowadays has a sound, it’s this.

Fio Fa – Truancy Volume 297

In his interview with Truants, Fio Fa laid out his approach to digging: an unending search for records that are “rolling, fun, evil, playful, and [have] lots of energy.” As Truancy Volume 297 demonstrates, it’s a winning approach. In showing off the results of his Discogs dives, Fio Fa nails a proggy and limber sound, landing somewhere between old-school tech-house, new-school tech-trance, and timeless breaks. You could point to countless blends here if looking for standouts, but the real star is how seamlessly he puts it all together, turning in a long-form set that stays at a carefully calibrated simmer throughout. Even if his selections vary dramatically—a piano-house stomper here, an acid-flecked vocal tune there—it’s all held together thanks to a focus on low-key rollers that prize groove above all else. In terms of craft, selection, and curation, Truancy Volume 297 is quietly masterful.

Huerco S. – Nowadays Nonstop

At this point, Huerco S.’s new arc is well documented: after growing dissatisfied with the state—and use—of ambient music, he pulled a near-complete U-turn, ditching the spaced-out psychedelia and grabbing a Pioneer CDJ. (Recent mixes from him have included bitcrushed trap and soundsystem-melting dubstep.) Nowadays Nonstop, recorded live at the NYC club’s monthly 24-hour party, sees the producer-DJ move into parts unknown yet again: steamrolling techno and white-hot hard-drum, teeth-gnashing acid and chopped-and-garbled dubstep, light-speed breakbeats and sun-kissed trance. The whole thing plays like a bit of a fever dream, full of tracks that land off-center and double back on themselves. In one of umpteen incisive bits, he grabs a barnburning acid cut, all scraped-metal drums and firestarting quick synth stabs, and blends it into an ambient-dubstep retooling of Missy Elliott’s “Lose Control.” It’s wildly unpredictable and aimed squarely at the most curious ravers: a neat encapsulation of Huerco S.’s heel-turn.

James K – Crack Mix 475

If there’s a throughline to James K’s work, it’s disorientation. She makes as much clear in her description of Crack Mix 475: “Go on a trip to get lost,” she writes. Here, it’s neither the destination nor the journey, exactly—it’s the unknowable rabbit holes and switchbacks along the way. On her latest offering, James conjures up a thick haze and fills it with barely-recognizable silhouettes. It is at once hyperreal and thoroughly alien. In one moment, she’s working with minimal drum-and-bass idioms, tangling quick-and-precise drums with deep-sigh ambience; in another, it’s billion-ton grime records and industrial-machinery techno. As the set runs on, it takes on its own foreign logic, with even the strangest blends making a kind of sense; even when she’s mixing hot and quick, James honors her outré sensibilities, threatening to make a hard left at any given moment. Sometimes, a great DJ set can send listeners to another world. Here, James flips our legible one inside out.

ΚΕΜΑΛ – The Loneliness of the Red Bull Academy Alumni

The Loneliness of the Red Bull Academy Alumni opens with a thrown gauntlet. “Blue Oasis,” an early-’60s surf-rock song by Chuck (Big Guitar) Ernest and The Satellite Band, sounds of a piece with bygone Wild-West iconography: tumbleweeds and clattering percussion, a lonely guitar offering a processional for broken-down towns. It feels both highly particular and thoroughly out of time. That combination fuels the rest of the set, which piles up all sorts of ancient-sounding styles without falling into the traps of nostalgia. Even the relatively modern stuff—the surf-and garage-rock, the wild-eyed jazz—sounds a bit muddied here, not so much sepia-toned as simply worn down. It’s a commendably strong aesthetic throughline, and it gives ΚΕΜΑΛ plenty of wiggle room, letting Pharoah Sanders and Shackleton make sense together. With The Loneliness of the Red Bull Academy Alumni, ΚΕΜΑΛ cracks open a time capsule, assembling an elegy for a time and place long gone.

Kiernan Laveaux / T.Wan – Campout Mix Series

Honcho Campout, an annual festival celebrating queer dance music, has become a critical who’s-who of the U.S. scene. In the latest drop of live recordings from this year’s event, two stand out: Kiernan Laveaux and T.Wan. It helps that they’re for wildly different reasons: Laveaux goes long and trippy, opting for slow-motion trip-hop, garbled-up breaks, and pitched-down dream-pop, while T.Wan’s offering is decidedly manic, rocketing between speedy techno, post-post dubstep, and rave-ready house tunes. But each set is defined by total precision, with plenty of head-turning blends and miles-deep crates for the Discogs heads. Some particularly impressive moments demonstrate their approaches: Laveaux, deep into her session, snags a bit of slow-motion dubstep before tripling the tempo and cranking up the high-end, only to work her way back down to dubbed-up almost-pop records; it’s thoroughly disorienting and, somehow, totally congruent. At a similar spot in her offering, T.Wan takes chopped-and-scattered garage-house and tosses it into space with just a few synthesizers, only to slam on the ground with some white-knuckle techno. Each set shows a singular DJ weaving between styles with ease, blending all sorts of sounds into something that feels wholly new.

Ron Like Hell & Doctor Jeep – SORRYMIX19

Sorry Records, a New York dance-music label run by column favorite Nick Boyd, is a critical hub for the city’s club culture, with releases ranging from heads-down techno to jubilant freestyle and back again. It’s fitting, then, that they grabbed Ron Like Hell and Doctor Jeep for the latest installment of their mix series: each DJ is a staple of the city’s modern dance-music scene, and their sets are reliably unpredictable, with each DJ thumbing their nose at genre traditionalism. SORRYMIX19, recorded live a Sorry Records Good Room takeover, shows the DJs in top form, pushing each other into ever stranger corners of their collections. It starts at a breathless pace thanks to some high-octane techno, and it only ramps up from there as they vault through bass-blasted 2-step, riotous “Ha Dance” flips, retro futuristic electro, and umpteen styles in between. At its best, SORRYMIX19 feels like a celebration of New York’s omnivorous club-music culture.

Slunty – Mix November (2)

Early into Mix November (2), Slunty—a.k.a. electronic-music polyglot Pontiac Streator—throws a curveball. The mix opens with a pitched-down edit of Black Balloons’s “Drift Away,” a dreamy drum-and-bass number fueled by starry-eyed synthesizers and snare drums laid just so. But then Slunty pulls the rug out, tossing a pile of dirt into the percussion section and turning the whole thing substantially murkier; any sensuality has been swapped out for twisted-metal serration. That contrast is indicative. Throughout Mix November (2), Slunty tangles up those poles, gracefully sliding between beauty and disorder. He largely sticks to the sounds of drum-and-bass, which offer the mix a solid foundation, but he throws all sorts of sounds on top, too: a bit of high-speed plugg functions as something of a lullaby even as the drums move at a hundred miles an hour; teeth-rattling basslines recall the sheer heft of the best riddim tunes; and the drums sometimes pick up the kind of ragged intensity you’d find in vintage jungle. It’s a wild-eyed race through fast-and-loose dance music that finds quiet beauty in countless unexpected corners.

¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U – Midnight Shift

According to a certain section of dance-music fans, Tokyo’s ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U is the best DJ in the world. They’ve got a point. His mixes are reliably pan-genre without coming off as unfocused; his work blasts between stylistic barriers and comes out all the stronger for it. Coming off of a remarkable set for RA, Yukimatsu took over the HÖR decks for another madcap hour. While his RA set split the difference between breathless club tools and vertiginous ambience, his latest mix is aimed squarely at the peak-time ravers. That might not be totally clear from the jump: it opens spaced-out kind-of-techno, each new kick drum threatening to be the last. But it’s not long before the low-end locks in for good, and from there, Yukimatsu spends an hour ratcheting up the intensity bit by bit. The resultant hour is characteristic to his brand of controlled mania, with rubbernecking blends—hard trance into 2-step into modern-classical techno, anyone?—that work perhaps despite themselves, each new selection underlining what made the previous so propulsive. It’s a kind of sonic alchemy that demands to be felt, and heard, to be believed. Fortunately, it’s not hard to miss here, thanks to the sheer heft of his selections—jump to any given spot and you’re likely to be hit with a windstorm of kicks. Midnight Shift is primed for the dancefloor, taking Yukimatsu’s everything-at-once approach and pushing it into the red.

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