Slam on the CDJ: The Best DJ Sets of April, 2024

Michael McKinney highlights some of the best DJ sets from the past month for the latest edition of Slam on the CDJ – featuring DJ Plead, INVT, Matthew Kent and more.
By    May 6, 2024

Image via Michael McKinney

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There’s a joy to the extended DJ set. It gives a confident selector space to explore every facet of their crates, actualizing the old idea of selector-as-storyteller. In murmur, a critical listening bar in Amsterdam, So Wet’s Water Kingdom stretched out for a session of waterlogged rap, bleary ambient music, and fog-encrusted new-age; Fergus, on the other hand, tilted more towards nervy rock selections. Anton Pieete & Tracey, at another restaurant in the same city, grabbed a few hours of jazz fusion, yacht-rock, and laid-back funk for a session perfectly calibrated for kicking back. Across the globe, over in San Francisco, Bar Part Time offered up two different windows-down soundtrackers: sun-soaked hip-hop courtesy of Lorem Ipsum and 12manrambo; and Ibizan downtempo, freestyle, and rickety rap from Soos.

Over in London, 404 Eros looked towards Memphis in a gritty session of zonked-out rap for Truants, while Rosey Gold grabbed a selection of of-the-moment amapiano and gqom records. Lil Mofo, a crucial Japanese selector, vaulted between a million different styles of why-not dancefloor burners, and East-Coast dancefloor dons boxofbox and Nick Boyd turned in four hours of jubilant house and techno. DJ Plead—one of the best working percussion programmers, flat out—turned in a characteristically brain-bending session of folk musics and club-night heaters, and Eris Drew looked towards her bafflingly deep crates in a session of rock-and-rolling house music. Parisian selector Simo Cell took his all-at-once approach to the decks and turned it down a notch, while Italy’s Notte Infinita offered yet another refinement of his take on hyper-minimal drum-and-bass.

You’ll find a staggering amount of techno, too: old-school hypnotism from Setaoc Mass and Wata Igarashi, new-school shoulder-rollers from phpho, and two long-form free-improvisation sessions from a dozen critical names in the genre. Matthew Kent deconstructed dubstep in a real brain-bender of a session, while Miami duo INVT dug into the billion-limbed sound of their city’s current club circuit. U.K. selector georg-i offered a look into his white-hot take on jungle, techno, and breaks; elsewhere, Vrika and Serious Cut dug into black-hole techno and drum-and-bass. Alberto Iniesta and Iwamaki showed off their visions of cosmic ambient music, and Memotone conjured a deep fog out of slow-motion drones and live instrumentation. Over on NTS, Jen Monroe and Allie Avital dug into the skyscraping sounds of Soviet folk and choral music, and Jonathan Williger assembled a blistering hour of speedy—and heartrending—bluegrass.

404 Eros – Truancy Volume 326

404 Eros, the London duo of Alex Dique and Theo Fabunmi Stone, go deep. This isn’t new, precisely—plenty of DJs have a reputation for careful and in-depth excavation—but who else is putting out magazines alongside their mixes? Previous sets of theirs have gone in on Miami bass, head-nodding hip-hop, and rickety electro-boogie; with Truancy Volume 326, the duo turn their attention towards the skin-crawling sounds of Memphis rap. To hear them tell it, the set is simply a product of their love of the style; they didn’t so much dig as look up and realize they’d gone a million Discogs links deep. That enthusiasm runs through every selection on the mix, which showcases the sheer emotional and tonal range of Memphis hip-hop: smoked-out material that splits the difference between Memphis and Compton; no-fi almost-horrorcore; creeped-out soul loops and haunted Casio keyboards; and party-starting club rap. Thanks to the scuff marks on 404 Eros’s selections, a good chunk of the mix feels like a bit of a time capsule, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Truancy Volume 326 is a celebration of a critical hip-hop scene that too infrequently gets its flowers.

Alberto Iniesta – Hardcore Chillout 016 / Iwamaki – The Observatory

Hardcore Chillout’s SoundCloud page outlines their ethos succinctly: “When chilling hurts.” Their mix series is dedicated to a particularly serrated vision of ambient music, full of cragged synthesizers, bleary-eyed field recordings, and brain-bending mixing. Alberto Iniesta, a DJ hailing from Madrid, handled the latest episode, and it’s just as disorienting as the rest of them. Here, they conjure a particularly deep-space kind of ambience: It feels cosmic in scale, but its wide-open expanses harbor a bone-chilling sense of unease. Iniesta plays the role of world-builder here, using sonar-ping synthesizers, disembodied field recordings, and a stomach-churning low-end to take listeners to the cosmos. It’s disorienting, eerie, and calming in equal measure; that the balancing act works so seamlessly is all the more impressive.

Looking up from The Observatory is Makiko Iwaki, a Japanese DJ and multi-disciplinary artist. Their session has a similarly cosmic bent to it, but this one’s a fair bit more grounded. If nothing else, it has more obvious instruments: Pipe organs, chimes, feedback-wall guitars. Near the end of the session, she pulls out Kali Malone’s “Living Torch II,” a track which sounds like staring into the sun, or perhaps into an abyss—Beauty as a thing of Biblical awe. That sense of grandeur acts as a throughline for the rest of the session, which places blasts of noise, gurgling electronics, and blissed-out string sections into a similarly liturgical space. The Observatory is wide-ranging and aesthetically precise at once; it is an exploration of skyscraping sound design, each track reaching higher still than the previous.

boxofbox & Nick Boyd – Somersault 297: “Open the Boydbox! Close the Boydbox!”

Since its foundation in 2015, Sorry Records has become a critical outpost in New York’s dance-music scene. The label balances an unwavering commitment to the city’s dance-music history with a dead-serious approach to having a good time. Their best material seems like it could have come out in the ‘90s, were it not for the of-the-moment production techniques and references in the liner notes. Somersault 297 typifies this approach to joyous results: Durham selector boxofbox and Sorry Records co-founder Nick Boyd have maddeningly stacked USBs, their folders overflowing with ‘80s freestyle, ‘90s deep house, ‘00s techno, ‘10s pop music, and ‘20s TikToks. (Who else would loop Baltimore-club acapellas underneath inside-joke video clips?) The set, which was recorded last year at Brooklyn’s own Bossa Nova Civic Club, shows box and Boyd at their rowdiest and most playful, pushing each other—and the dancefloor—into increasingly delirious and out-there territories: vintage and jacking house music, raunchy electro-freestyle, Euro-house flips of ‘00s pop-radio cuts, stoned minimal-tech rollers, and anything else liable to turn the club inside out. As with so much of Sorry Records’s output, Somersault 297 is the sound of New York’s dance-music histories and futures crashing into one another.

DJ Plead – Sustain Release, Year 9

DJ Plead, a.k.a. Berlin-via-Sydney selector Jarred Beeler, has fostered a remarkable take on club music over the years: Tough and acrobatic, sitting somewhere between Lebanese folk-music traditions, U.K. dancefloor histories, and far-flung futures. Last September, deep in a forest in New York, he grabbed the decks at Sustain-Release, a critical dance-music festival. That set was never recorded due to technical difficulties, but he’s recreated it here, and with good reason. Sustain Release, Year 9 is archetypical DJ Plead, which makes it appointment listening for anyone interested in club music’s futures. The set is built around rough-and-tumble percussion tools, with hand-drums, MCs, and 808s locked in an arms race. The gap between apocalyptic trap, gut-twisting dubstep, traditional folk music, and billion-limbed hard-drum is far less than you might have thought. Again and again throughout the set, Beeler slips between traditions and timelines with ease, folding entire universes into each other along the way.

Eris Drew – Raving Disco Breaks Vol. II: Rock the House

If DJing is the act of repurposing histories and reimagining timelines, then Eris Drew is a fierce devotee of the craft. The Chicago DJ made her name on the back of high-energy, audaciously joyful, and frequently decades-old house records, each kick drum and chunky piano line pushing listeners ever closer to elation. With Raving Disco Breaks Vol. II, Drew makes her dual interests in vintage vinyl and sweat-soaked CDJs clearer than ever before, pulling out a stack of dusty LPs and dancing between rock-and-roll and body-rocking house music. Again and again, she returns to high-voltage electric guitars, shoulder-rolling snare lines, criss-crossing dance-music idioms to consistently winning results: Injecting a bit of Chicago house-music history into Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin riffs; finding the intersection of ‘80s hip-hop and Kraftwerkian electro-boogie; and crashing old-school piano-house belters into organ-jazz freakouts. Raving Disco Breaks II shows a masterful house DJ taking old-school sounds and tangling them up in a way that sounds distinctively of the moment; it is a demonstration of careful historiography and unadulterated joy in equal measure.

georg-i – Knekelhuis # 112

Last May, georg-i made his approach to dance music clear. Rave Ballista, the Bristol DJ and producer’s rough-and-tumble EP for the reliably bananas YCO, made good on its title’s promise: Its tracks serve as cluster-bombs for the dancefloor, tangling up dubstep, breaks, dembow, and techno with aplomb. On Knekelhuis # 112, he pulls off the impressive trick of stretching that blast out for another forty-five minutes: This is U.K. bass imagined as a windstorm, with umpteen hyper-precise drum breaks and metallic synthesizers crashing into each other and splintering on impact. The set starts hot and fast, only to heat up as it runs on—Impressively, even as it gets quicker and denser, it never loses its laser-sharp precision. Like plenty of georg-i’s best material, this is a sprint through the center of a Venn diagram: Breaks and bass and techno and dembow and jungle and a million other things, all blended with a neck-snapping intensity and a whole-hearted commitment to fleet-footed delirium.

INVT – RA.930

One of the joys of Miami’s contemporary electronic-music scene lies in its sheer variety. The DNA of the city’s sound encompasses a huge range of ideas: Reggaetón, dubstep, IDM, Miami bass, Florida breaks. A quick look at Miami’s best DJs and producers—including, but by no means limited to, Danny Daze, Nick León, Jonny From Space, Pablo Arrangoiz—underlines this: Attempting to nail down a “Miami sound” is a bit of a fool’s errand. But if you were to try, you could do a whole lot worse than RA.930. Here, INVT—a.k.a. Miami mainstays Luca Medici & Delbert Perez—lock in on the intersection of dembow, techno, and raptor house, turning in an hour of rollicking percussion tools. More of than not, they’re working with four-four kicks, but they act as the foundation, not the forefront: This is about the whirlwinding hand-drums and chopped-and-scattered MCs jockeying for the spotlight, with triplets and swung eighths and stutter-stepping sixteenths keeping the whole thing dynamic. The duo contribute nearly half of the mix’s material here, folding in sounds from across the UK and US club circuits along the way; that it’s so deeply joyous and unpredictable only underlines their chops behind the boards. Miami’s club-music scene may be tough to encapsulate, but with RA.930, INVT have provided a solid start.

Jen Monroe & Allie Avital – Getting Warmer: Soviet Choral & Folk Special / Jonathan Williger – Smithsonian Folkways: Bluegrass Special

Seven minutes into the latest edition of Getting Warmer, a monthly radio show hosted by Brooklyn-based DJ and audio archivist Jen Monroe, the speakers break. “Dghe Pirveli, Dghe Ukanaskneli” isn’t designed for soundsystems, though—Instead, it sounds like it was written long before music was recorded at all. When it strains against the speakers, its tumbling piano and sky-scraping strings and choirs of sopranos and altos, it can’t help but crack things open: This is music straining for something greater through rudimentary technology. The rest of the hour’s selections—Liturgical choral music, fingerpicked folk tunes, vinyl-crackle pop records—have a shared history and genealogy, but it is this aesthetic continuity that rings truest; this is a session joined by a shared yearning. It’s that desire, rather than any obvious mixing tricks or historiography, that undergirds the set, allowing Poyuschie Gitary’s dimly-lit dream-pop to sit comfortably next to Georgian close-harmony selections, haunted-ballroom balladry, and glacial throat singing. Again and again, these tracks strain towards a slow and careful kind of beauty, holding harmonies and histories against each other until they turn into something entirely new. Soviet Choral & Folk Special is a monument built out of dust, each new selection suggesting yet another hollowed-out cathedral animated by its histories.

If you wind the clock a few decades and spin the globe a few thousand miles, you’ll find something awfully familiar. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is a fascinating record label: It practices a sort of sonic archaeology, digging up—and complicating—folk-music traditions with a seemingly unending stream of archival releases. Their latest radio special comes courtesy of Outside Time founder Jonathan Williger, who gave listeners a cheeky-but-not-entirely-incorrect entrypoint: “Is bluegrass the new gabber?” The special does indeed include plenty of zippy material, but it’s all banjos and heartbreak here, with nary a kick drum or skull-cracking synth to be found. Williger spends the hour shuttling between a hundred shades of blue, moving from strung-out whiskey-joint balladry to up-and-at-’em dance numbers; it is, at various points, thrilling, exhausting, lonesome, and playful; at its best, it is all of this at once. Bluegrass Special is a celebration of a highly particular style of folk music and an excavation of the stories contained within.

Lil Mofo – Crown Ruler Mix #28

On Crown Ruler Mix #28, Lil Mofo stretches out. And who better to do it? The Tokyo selector has maddeningly deep crates, with sets that reliably run the gamut of fast-and-loose club weaponry, listening-bar deep cuts, and zonked-out home-listening gems. Binding all her sets together is a preternatural sense of pacing; she seems to know just when to drop the listener off a cliff or give them a ladder on the way down. With Crown Ruler Mix #28, she’s afforded the time to go deep and wide, grabbing a seemingly endless range of vinyl records for over five hours. Scan through the set and you’ll find it goes all over the place—sun-soaked dub records, rickety electro tunes, and lo-fi Ibizan chillout, sure; but also gut-busting jungle, ice-cold grime instrumentals, and torrid hardcore. This everything-goes approach might seem overwhelming in the abstract, but Lil Mofo turns the kaleidoscope carefully, easing listeners between styles so smoothly that it’s tough to name when, precisely, the room catches on fire.

Lorem Ipsum & 12manrambo – B.P.T. Radio 084 / Soos – B.P.T. Radio 086

Spring has sprung, so why not roll the windows down? With B.P.T. Radio 084, Paris’s Lorem Ipsum and California’s 12manrambo dive into their crates and pull out a sun-drenched afternoon on the West Coast, thumbing between old-school R&B, laid-back G-funk, and rickety electro workouts. They move at a pretty relaxed pace here, lending the whole thing a lazy-afternoon kind of ease, drum breaks bleeding into each other as one track turns to five turns to fifty. The set runs nearly three hours, and it encompasses a pretty wide range of styles, but it all holds together thanks to Lorem Ipsum & 12manrambo’s laser-sharp stylistic focus: This is sleazy, playful, and sensual music aimed squarely at the sun-tanners and ghost-riders, each track drenched in FM-radio static, out-and-out joy, and sepia-tinged nostalgia.

A few weeks later, with B.P.T. Radio 086, Mexico City’s Soos moved from the oceanside drive to the beach itself, spinning up a mix of jubilant freestyle, sun-soaked Ibian downtempo, and old-school hip-hop. They mix cleanly and precisely here, prioritizing smooth blends and steady grooves over obvious peacocking—This is stuff to kick back to, so it’s not like they’re trying to spin any heads. But that happens, too: Maybe in a late-session flip from souled-out new-jack swing to piano-stomper dub records, or when they jump from MIDI-drenched deep house to acid-soaked breakbeat-jazz, or perhaps when they dunk the Steve Miller Band and early-’90s Brazilian hip-hop in an ocean of dub. B.P.T. Radio 086 is filled with moves like this: Low-key brain-benders that feel designed to soundtrack a long summer’s afternoon.

Matthew Kent – Club Rooted #9

Near the end of Club Rooted #9, the clouds part. “Silver Haze,” a 1995 drum-and-bass track by Area 39 & Corell, is a blast of hyper-precise drum breaks and diva-house vocals; it wouldn’t sound out of place on a genre compilation from the era. But, here, it blasts the doors open. For the bulk of Club Rooted #9, Matthew Kent—The founder of the dearly missed mix series Blowing Up the Workshop, and a masterful DJ in his own right—goes deep on lights-out dubstep, often sounding like he’s stripped it for parts before reassembling it piece by piece. Here, it’s an extended foray into low-end-heavy ambience; there, it’s pitch-black dub poetry; elsewhere still, it’s shoulder-rolling drum tools suspended over the Mariana trench; scan ahead again, and you’re liable to find pitter-patter minimal-techno tools or broken-machinery machinery drum programming. For about an hour, Kent takes a genre’s history and tosses it into a kaleidoscope, showing a few parts of the whole at any given time, swapping out key elements with striking precision. Consider this a game of Exquisite Corpse for the U.K. dance-music aficionado.

Memotone – inis:eto

In September of 2022, to commemorate the release of Ballads—a collection of folk music that scrambles centuries, traditions, and tones into something subtle and head-spinning, the folks at Black Tower Projects paid host to several names whose work does something similar. Time Is Away, the duo who curated the compilation, DJed for two hours; Moopie, a DJ whose crates stretch from bleary ambience to full-throttle techno, started at nine p.m. and played until the whole thing shut down. In between them sat Memotone, a.k.a. Bristol’s William Yates, an electronic-music producer with an ear angled towards the fourth world. During his time in the spotlight, Yates leaned deep into glacial soundscapes, stretching out organs and reeds and strings and synthesizers until they lost all sense of time. It is both stomach-churning and deliriously beautiful. Lapping bits of noise turn to torrential rainstorms; guitars sing lullabies to each other; clarinets reach across the centuries, sounding like Mediterranean folk musics and modern classical at once. The result is something that, somehow, sits somewhere between dread and serenity, with each new instrument only deepening the trance.

Notte Infinita – #31: 01 to Infinita

The appeal of drum-and-bass is hardly a mystery. Cook up enough quick-and-precise rhythms and you’re bound to make a club night plenty humid. The genre’s more minimal ends, on first pass, might seem like they’re defeating the point: Why set the amps aflame if you’re not going to fuel the fire? But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you suck all the air out of the room and cut the drums in half, any breathless energy suddenly takes on a vertiginous edge. Great minimal drum-and-bass is a bit of a livewire act: a sprint across a tightrope, with the darkness below only adding to the thrill. Notte Infinita, a.k.a. Berlin-via-Italy producer Giovanni Bonelli, clearly understands this. On a recent set of theirs, he traverses the chilliest ends of white-hot hardcore, turning in a fleet-footed session of drum machines played so delicately that they feel like they’re on the verge of disappearing entirely. Here, any particularly rowdy bits—a cragged blast of Amen breaks here, a shot of dystopian techno there—Stand out thanks to their sheer scale, but even they get subsumed back into the murk. This is a set about that negative space: The unstable energy that emerges when you toss a drum machine into a bottomless pit and venture into the dark.

Rosey Gold – The Mix 009

What Rosey Gold is doing is hardly new, but that’s the thrill of it. On The Mix 009, the London-via-Zambia DJ and producer digs deep into the sounds powering South Africa’s club scene—gqom, amapiano, Afro-tech, 3-step—and blends them in a celebration of the country’s rich dance-music landscape. Beyond a shared geography, the mix is bound by Gold’s interest in muscular and acrobatic percussion tools: These are tracks built around deep and dizzying percussion and souled-out vocal performances, with frequent stylistic change-ups keeping things just unpredictable enough. Here, it’s shuffling and joyous house music; there, it’s nail-biting gqom, all earth-cracking low-end and open air; elsewhere still, it’s rolling bass-drum triplets and hands-to-Heaven euphoria. No matter the specifics, though, it’s all held together by its bracing and playful percussion. The Mix 009 is a sun-kissed celebration of South African dance music’s histories and futures.

Setaoc Mass – RA.931 / Wata Igarashi – Ratherlost / phpho – Animix One Hundred & Fifty Three / STOOR – Live in Paradiso (Saturday / Sunday)

Techno sets, for all their joys, can be a bit monastic: Four-four kicks turning to brick walls, perfectly-calibrated synth lines running just-so circuits around each other, and zero sunlight whatsoever. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; there’s beauty in aesthetic specificity, and there’s a million shades of black once your eyes adjust. On RA.931, Kiev’s Setaoc Mass—a.k.a. Sam Coates—turns in a masterclass of vertiginous techno, all machine-funk edge plotted out with exacting precision. Throughout the session, he holds onto a steady BPM even as it feels like he’s moving in three tempi at once, using rock-solid kick drums as a foundation for all sorts of elliptical synth and hi-hat lines. The result lands somewhere between the grit of Manchester’s techno circuit, the understated sense of play found in Detroit, and the heads-down four-fours pumping out of Berlin.

Once you’ve wrapped that one up, if you’re looking for a smoke break but aren’t ready to leave the club entirely, it’s worth turning to Wata Igarashi’s latest offering. The Japanese techno don has found a style all his own: Equal parts psychedelic, disorienting, and driving, with tracks that perennially feel like they’re on the verge of bursting open into something entirely new. With Ratherlost—a three-hour recording from New Year’s Day 2024 that doubles as a transmission from an alien planet—Igarashi leans ever further into this tension-minus-release, sliding between an endless array of kicks and arpeggiating synths in a stomach-churning game of Jenga. This is a delirious and disorienting vision of techno, with keyboards tilting towards the stars even as kicks burrow ever further beneath the earth; it is a three-hour exercise in carefully plotted tension where release never quite arrives. It’s all the better for it: The result is something of a black hole, with each kick drum deepening the mix’s gravitational pull.

With Animix One Hundred & Fifty Three, Berlin DJ phpho cracks the window a bit further, taking techno idioms and blasting them with a bit of fresh air. This is techno presented as a funky and lithe thing, each kick paired with a rattling tom drum or funked-up synth line; the whole set threads a needle between mechanical and organic dancefloor idioms, to consistently impressive results. Here, it’s throbbing acid techno; there, it’s progressive-house synths laid atop satisfyingly chunky basslines; elsewhere still, it’s delirious minimal-techno infinities, all kick drums and negative space. The set is filled with these sort of genre acrobatics; throughout, phpho vaults between styles and formats, keeping his gaze squarely on the dancefloor throughout all the twists and turns.

Just in case that wasn’t enough techno for you, though, how about fourteen more hours of it? STOOR, a “sonic lab” masterminded by Rotterdam’s Speedy J, has been pumping out a steady stream of live-electronics improvisations since the label launched in 2016, making plenty of space for pitch-black ambience, dancefloor steamrollers, and deep-space experimentalism. The heart of STOOR—a former fallout shelter, of course—is packed with decades of hardware and fueled by an everything-goes spirit; imagine a particularly rowdy jazz club beamed in from a more chrome-coated timeline and you’re not far off.

Two recent sets from the STOOR affiliates, recorded back in October for the 2023 edition of Amsterdam Dance Event, act as a monument to their approach. The list of names involved is more than enough to make a certain kind of raver’s ears perk: on Saturday, JakoJako, Blawan, Pariah, Surgeon, and Speedy J took the reins for just over seven hours; the next day, it was the label’s founder alongside Donato Dozzy, Neel, .Vril, and Rødhåd. Neither performance, it’s worth noting, is a traditional DJ set—These are both long-form live-electronic improvisations, with the artists twisting knobs, frying wires, and testing out new rhythms in real time. Linking the two sets is their interest in long-form rhythmic interplay; they are bound by four-four kicks but stretch into a seemingly unending number of nooks and crannies thanks to sheer length and the number of hands at the controls. While it’s possible to point towards particular highlights in each session, that seems besides the point: These sets are about curiosity and sheer scale, with the millionth kick drum, somehow, landing a bit harder than the one that came before it.

Simo Cell – RA.934

Over the years, Parisian DJ Simo Cell—a.k.a. Simon Aussel—has built up an enviable reputation: He’s a DJ best known for being unpredictable. If you catch Aussel live, you’re likely to hear sweltering dubstep, brain-bending breaks, acrobatic hip-hop, old-school techno, hypermodern hard-drum, or—Let’s be honest—just about anything else; often, it feels like he’s doing all that at once. (He dug into this, and plenty more, in a conversation with this site last October.) Even with that context, his latest session comes as a bit of a surprise. With RA.934, the closing-set maestro slows things down a hair, taking his typically everything-goes approach down 20 BPM. It’s a canny trick, allowing him space to weave between low-velocity club sounds and high-speed slammers rather than locking into a sprint from the jump. Beyond the shift in speed, it’s unmistakably Aussel, but that’s far from a bad thing. The session is filled with did-he-really-just-do-that blends, the kinds of things that make no sense on paper but land seamlessly in practice: barnstorming jungle-techno into suspended-animation trance records; barely-there sort-of-dubstep into minimal-grime Missy Elliott flips; an extended flight of old-school hip-hop into synth-smash techno tracks. Slowing things down didn’t hinder Aussel’s alchemy at all—In fact, it might have only deepened it.

So Wet’s Water Kingdom – murmur / Fergus – murmur / Anton Pieete & Tracey – Cornerstore During Service #20

murmur takes its time. This should hardly land as much of a surprise: If Amsterdam venue and listening bar’s digital archive is to be trusted, a typical session recorded on their system runs for about five hours. (This one goes for six.) But, here, So Wet’s Water Kingdom uses a slow pace to breed a kind of intimacy, not so much blending tracks as paging through a yellowed photobook, finding comfort in the half-remembered familiarity of it all. That being said, they seem to have dog-eared a few pages. For the first half of the set, the producer digs into low-gravity ambience, field recordings, and fourth-world synth explorations. Once they’ve built a universe of smog, though, they spend much of the back half of the session tossing all sorts of MCs into the haze: Ice Spice gets a “cosmic edit”; a robotic T-Pain and Akon sing atop a busted keyboard; and the bleary-eyed feel of pre-Playboi Carti Playboi Carti is a natural fit. Even an eleventh-hour blast of breakbeats can’t puncture the disorientation for long. Over the course of the session, So Wet’s Water Kingdom slowly conjures something deeply psychedelic, using dream logic to smear umpteen musical traditions into each other.

Approximately two weeks after uploading the transmission from So Wet’s Water Kingdom, murmur followed it up with another head-spinner. In their time behind the decks, Fergus picks a similar starting line—ethereal and bleary-eyed ambient music—But goes somewhere radically different, slowly turning up the distortion and diving full-on into twitchy krautrock and creeped-out electronics. They’ve got plenty of time to do this, of course; this session runs a bit over five hours, affording them space to stretch moods out and promise eternities, making the shift from serenity to anxiety and back again almost imperceptible from one moment to another. Here, it’s new-age guitar workouts; there, it’s pieces for flutes, hand-drums, and unidentifiable machinery; elsewhere, it’s fourth-world spoken-word; jump ahead again, and you’ll find yourself deep in the retrofuturistic worlds of electro or ramshackle krautrock. (One highlight of a million, a bit over four hours in, sounds like a B-52’s record with even more air sucked out of the room.) murmur is a quiet triumph of slow-motion world-building: Nervy, playful, exuberant, joyful, and about a hundred other moods, often at once.

If you’re looking for something easier to kick back to, though, you don’t have to look far. Elsewhere in Amsterdam, two critical names in the city’s dance-music scene—Anton Pieete and Tracey, the latter of whom has a killer set at murmur—went long at a different listening bar. Cornerstore During Service #20 sees them flipping between a million different chilled-out rhythms: nearly two hours of jazz and jazz fusion, including a long-form dive into In a Silent Way; shades-on Steely Dan cuts; humid boogie-bossa-nova; sun-kissed flamenco-funk. The set runs long(-ish) at just under four hours, but that goes by in a flash thanks to the DJs’ canny mixing; they vault between styles without so much as a scuffed blend. Never mind the stylistic specifics, though—This is a session devoted to sun-baked grooves and quiet shoulder-rollers, and Pieete and Tracey are able to find those ideas in all sorts of places. With Cornerstore During Service #20, two DJs with plenty of experience with amp-busting club tools look into their crates and find an ocean filled with fresh air, guitar licks, and glitter.

Vrika – 95OT_MIX SERIES_004 / Serious Cut – Onyro: Natsukashii

The art to the opening set is both straight ahead and maddeningly vague: How do you play for a crowd that hasn’t arrived yet? When Vrika, a Madrid DJ and producer, went behind the decks at Espacio Perpendicular, one of the city’s standout nightclubs, he answered it slowly, peering into his crates and finding a bottomless pit. The session, immortalized in the 95 Open Tabs mix series, is a spine-tingling exploration of ambience and disorientation, often without so much as a drum break to anchor it all. The first proper drum line arrives after nearly an hour of deep-space ambient music, and the contrast lands with enough force to crack the set in two. Once the percussion hits, though, 95OT 004 lands in queasier territories still, straddling the line between heart-in-throat drum-and-bass and chilly ambience, with Vrika finding a common ground in their low-oxygen atmospheres.

A few hours later, Serious Cut—another Madrid DJ—took the reins. Even if there were four DJs between him and the opener, his session feels of a piece with Vrika’s set: Both zero-gravity and high-pressure, drawing up disorientation with a draftsman’s precision. If Vrika found the space between ambient music, drones, and drum-and-bass, then Serious Cut took that latter part most seriously, injecting negative space into breakbeats rather than the other way around. The result is a three-hour dive into depth-charge dance music, all alien synths, unidentifiable silhouettes, and scraped-metal percussion; it’s blood-pumping and blood-curdling in equal measure. There’s a huge variety of sounds here, albeit all landing within a pretty specific range—whip-cracking drum-and-bass, scorched-earth techno, metallic ambience, dystopian jungle—but Serious Cut’s commitment to steely-eyed dance music keeps the whole thing stitched up.

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