Monday, 13 October 2014

Swingamajig 2014 - belated video!

I have just been having a bit of a digital clear-out, sifting through all those files which seem to be clogging up my difference engine (it is practically steam-driven and makes very worrying noises when starting up) and have just come across this video which I made of my time at Swingamajig. I must have made the video and then forgotten to post it. Better late than never, I present it to you now.

In case you are not in the know, Swingamajig is one of the only festivals in the world dedicated to the Vintage Remix sound. Organised by Ragtime Records and the Electric Swing Circus, the Birmingham-based one-day festival has completed its second year and goes from strength to strength.

The line-up featured some of the biggest names in the scene, plus a wide variety of side-shows, swing dance classes and demonstrations, and although my memories are a little hazy, I had a thoroughly excellent time. It was all a bit of a marathon, as I had traveled up from London on the Saturday morning, partied all afternoon and evening, right through to dawn before catching the first train back to London. If you are reading this Mr. Branson, I apologise for dribbling on your train's seats.

Anyway, enough of my waffling - here's the video.



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

10 Soundcloud Mixes You Should Download RIGHT NOW

Vintage Remix is dance music, and is intended to be enjoyed to in a nightclub/festival setting. Somehow hearing individual tracks in a playlist is unsatisfying. The word 'remix' is the important one here. In these days of big-name DJs being paid huge sums for soulless (pre-recorded?) sets, it is nice that VR  has a strong connection with the traditions skills of the DJ. Don't misunderstand - I'm not about to start banging on about CDJs vs vinyl - I'm going to sing the praises of the download-and-keep DJ mix.

The most treasured music in my collection, the first tracks copied onto a new phone/tablet, are the many hour-long mixes that can be found on the Soundcloud pages of most Vintage Remix artists. The DJ mix is more than simply a bunch of songs hastily jammed together with no thought. Although the main aim of the mix is to showcase the DJ's abilities to potential clients, the amount of care and attention that goes into them makes them something akin to a concept album. This is how Madame Electrifie puts it: 

I like to make sure a mix is going to be something a bit special when I release them, rather than just recording everything I do.  I like each mix I put out to be a bit of an occasion. I’ve tended to work in series, working around a theme for each series I do.For instance the Carnival of Chaos series I did was based around an event I was doing. I did three very contrasting mixes, one hip hop orientated, one house, and one breaks/dnb- I wanted to do something that represented the range of styles I played and how many genres the whole electro swing scene had touched. It was actually really hard to create three completely different sets in one go – but for me these three mixes are a good snapshot of the whole scene at that moment in time.


Generally I’ll start with a theme idea and go from there, for me that’s the whole challenge. Anyone can bang out their top 10 tracks at a standard tempo, my mixes are where I really push myself. For my Glitching the Blues mix, I spent weeks hunting out suitable tracks and the whole thing was a right bitch to put together if I’m honest. I wouldn’t try some of those mixes live, they required some serious queue point planning, but again, for me that’s where the challenge is. Just beat matching is pretty basic!


I generally always have 3 or 4 mixes in planning, so when I go record shopping I find things that fit into the different series, The After Hours Series, The Funky Shit Series, etc. I’ll normally also create artwork or do a photoshoot for each series too, (I work in photography and design by day) so they become complete little projects. Like an album or EP I guess, it’s a really nice way of approaching them.


The good thing about working this way is that I can adapt loads when I’m playing live, and bring the tricks I discovered into my performances. It makes me be on top of my game technically, and means I’m always pushing myself. I’m a bit of a geek/show off when it comes to nailing a complicated mix, so without this approach I might not be so cocky!


So it was with great sadness that I learned that Soundcloud have started to enforce copyright law and take down any track the record companies request. Combined with the fact that they will now be playing adverts, I fear for the safety of these works of art.

I have selected some of my favourite mixes to show you here, but do check out the actual pages of the artists and check out their other mixes. A great mix has a structure, carefully selected tunes, might have a few judicious mash-ups and hand-picked samples - these are my favourites. Take my advice - go and download all of these before its too late.


1. Madame Electrifie - The Bearcat Mixes Vol.2 "Glitching the Blues"

Sadly Mme. E has already fallen foul of the Soundcloud fun-police, and has asked me not to link to her Soundcloud directly. You can stream all of her mixes from her own website but if you sneak in quietly, you can still download it from her SC page... This one is in for the excellent track selection - that Pretty Lights 'Jolene' remix and the preceding Woohoo Review tune - it's a great 'just got in from the club and my feet hurt' mix.


2. DJ Dodgy-Style - The Electric Empire Promo Mix


This one is in simply for the spectacular Renegade Master mash. But even without that, it is upbeat, fast-paced and great for when you need to get some where quickly: get the headphones in and get walking. Don't listen to it on the bus or the train as people will think you are odd - I find it impossible to listen to without sniggering at the sheer brilliance of Dodgy-Style's juxtapositons. "Good mood in a box" says one of the comments on Soundcloud, and that's about right. There are lots of other mixes up on his page, if I could, I'd include them all here. get over there and fill your boots!



3. Grant Lazlo @ Fusion Festival 2014

We don't get to see Mr. Lazlo perform in the UK very often, but he is the man behind some of the best Vintage Remix tracks out there (check out his remix of Swing Republic's High Hat, available on the Freshly Sqeezed Soundcloud page) so it is great that he chose to upload this lengthy set. Filled with rolling, driving basslines it is great to listen to in the kitchen. Just don't start dancing about with a knife in your hand.



4. DJ Eliazar - Vintage Bliss and Bass

This mix clocks in at nearly 2 hours, and from the opening track, All in Together by Chap-hop superstar Professor Elemental, it does exactly what it says on the tin - blissful, sunny beats ideally suited to lazy Sunday mornings.




5. Mortisville - Highly Swung series


I was lucky enough to spend lots of time hanging out with Mr. Mortisville at Boomtown 2013 - I helped him choose his outfit for the evening (gold lamé leggings, wife-beater, spangly visor), he shared his supplies of beer and rizlas with me. It was special. A proponent of the deeper, techier side of electroswing, he has created a series of three mixes which have a kind of mesmeric quality to them. This is the third and final mix of the set, but do make sure you check out all the other stuff on his Soundcloud.





6. C@ in the H@ - Box of Tricks

Like all felines, the C@ in the H@ loves a good scratch. To prevent him from damaging the furniture someone clever gave  him some decks and he's never looked back. This mix has been up for a while now, and though it is only 20 minutes long it delivers a healthy dose of big tunes. This is another one to make you look like an idiot on the bus. Repeat after me: "I must not play the air-turntables in public. I must not play the air-turntables in public... 


7. Don Mescal - Reggae got Swing


I'm not often lost for words, but I find it really quite hard to put into words just how fantastic this mix is. In many ways it exemplifies what I was on about before, in that the set has a specific theme, and that a great deal of crate-digging, thought and care has gone into the selection and mixing. It is an exploration of the links, similarities and differences between reggae/dub and swing. Taking you from low-tempo skank of Prince Fatty right through to the ska-madness of Gentlemen's Dub Club. Beats, Brass and Bass - what more can you ask for?



8  Dutty Moonshine - Kicked out of the Club


I expect you were thinking "Where's the Dutty?" So was I. Answer: here it is. This mix, in typical Dutty style, is a big middle finger to certain players in the Vintage Remix world who suggested that the DM chaps were moving away from the sound and into the mainstream. Keen to refute that suggestion, they produced this. As you might expect, it is full to bursting with big tunes, plus the Spice Girls.



9. Captain Flatcap - Squelchy Silliness Minimix


Some of you may have read the interview I did with the Captain Flatcap chaps a little while ago. What you may not realise is that the Captain hosts a weekly radio show called That Swing Thing on Kane FM, and that as well as being a flutist, guitarist and producer, he is also a pretty sick DJ. He tends to favour the ghetto-funkier end of the spectrum and definitely loves a good wobble and squelch.


10. The McMash Clan - Filthy Swingers Set


The last selection in this little run down is from the McMash Clan. These are the guys behind the enormous Swing Break ft. Kate Mullins from the Puppini Sisters, and the rest of this is in the same vein. Not only is is an hour of massive tunes,, but since McMash are not really a Vintage Remix act, it contains a huge variety of music and some really interesting selections and some cool takes on some of the classics of the genre.