The above mix image was taken by Jim McKenna, whose photographs inspired me to go to Hawaii, where I was then inspired to work on this mix. Many of the tracks are from driving around the island of Maui and seeking new sights and experiences. Below is a track listing. I have also made a mix guide – see this to see how the mix is layered track by track. Time stamps are included. The mix guide image was taken on Haleakalā.
Todd Terje – Snooze 4 Love (Ambient version) [Olsen Records]
Charlie May & Barry Jamieson – Homecoming (Coma remix) [Mayhem]
Kassey Voorn – A Stride in the Dark (Petar Dundov remix) [Afterglow]
GMJ – Nothing Is Lost (Michael A remix) [Particles]
Navar – Moments In Life (16 Bit Lolitas remix) [microCastle]
Invisible Inc. – Stars (Guy J remix) [microCastle]
A followup to a previous appearance on the Frisky Radio spotlight on Canadian DJs, I’ve put something together that is only an hour long. Let me tell you, that does not seem like very much time to me after putting together my last mix, which was around 3 hours long. I think I have to stop doing those big long mixes as they take a really long time to smooth out and sequence and generally be happy with, which means it was more like work than play. This, on the other hand, was definitely play.
Tom Middleton – Sea of Glass (Jon Hopkins remix) [Café Del Mar Music]
Nick Warren – Devil’s Elbow (Max Cooper remix) [Hope Recordings]
Odd Parents – Learn to Fly (Maceo Plex’s Flight Home remix) [Ellum]
DAVI – The Gates of Babylon (Original mix) [Rebellion]
Joy Wellboy – Before the Sunrise (Dixon remix) [Bpitch Control]
Dave Seaman – Right Side of Wrong (Guy Mantzur & Lonya remix) [Sudbeat Music]
Kaan Koray – Heart of Africa (Faskil breaks mix) [Magnetism Digital]
Pryda – Sunburst (Original mix) [Virgin UK]
Barry Jamieson – Stars (Charlie May’s Black Hole remix) [microCastle]
Ana Criado – Afterglow (Will Holland remix) [Adrian & Raz]
“wandering level” describes the mix as a whole .. it meanders this way and that; it’s a vocal-less, solitary journey in the country along an unmarked path. It’s the way of a traveller, but not a tourist. Wandering level is also an anagram for my first and last name.
I started putting together DJ mixes in 1997 and was DJing at all-night parties, clubs, and music festivals shortly after. The first few years, I was bringing some very anti-social, introspective music into very extraverted circumstances, i.e. parties full of young people staying up all night. I felt like I could do that because I made no secrets about what kind of music I was interested in sharing – I was on the radio pushing it out, and people seemed interested in that sound, and promoters booked me quite a bit. As years went by, there was a bit more festival play and club play, less all-night parties and less dedicated club nights focused on this particular sound. EDM was being commercialized; for the most part, that meant that DJs were being booked to help sell alcohol at the bar. That is the ugly truth of it; the music itself took a back seat. If people were caught appreciating music, well, that didn’t exactly pay the rent.
Time went by and it became clear that I would have several record bags: music for radio (calm, thoughtful music); music for parties (vocalized, happy, sometimes even aggressive); music for festivals (energetic, laser sounds, anthemic); music for outdoor events, i.e. a full moon gathering in the forest (atmospheric, mysterious, dark, epic); and of course, the music I made myself as AFK, Royal Assassin, Tiebreaker, Emerald Green, Trifecta and so forth, i.e. featured artist kind of stuff. All of these are distinctive sounds and very different creative directions, and any one of them could easily be a set on their own – and have been.
I don’t DJ at parties and clubs much any more; my lifestyle has changed to be less nocturnal – but the music itself is something I haven’t given up. It’s just something I have been enjoying mostly on my own.
Out of all my DJ mixes, this is likely the most introverted. Exploring music and listening for the layers and the mood of each composition is not really a thing you do in the company of people, unless you know people already do that on their own. It is wordless on purpose as to not distract from the qualities of each piece. Not to say that vocals cannot be an introversion, but rather that they can be demanding and engaging on a level that leaves a listener wanting more vocals of a similar quality, or turned off regardless of the quality of the music behind it; vocals can be quite polarizing for the listener.
Vocals over EDM have become a hallmark of pop music lately, and I’ve felt like distancing myself from that. Although you can dance to this music, I would not call it dance music. It’s a different relationship with music that I wanted to push away, at least this time, in favour of this study of synths and sifting syncopated sounds.
This is my first new mix since 2012. I’ve been gathering music as it comes up. These are pieces of inspiration; the fruit of 2 years of hunting. I spent a full year putting this together, and another 2 months making sure it flowed right, the levels worked, the cues made sense, and the right chances were being taken with some of the ambient blends. A 3.25 hour long mix takes a while to wholly proof. I do not know how many hours I have put into this, but the mix has been my getaway, consistently, for the last year. It’s a little creative outlet.
So this means that I have been working on it while I have been travelling: Tofino, Vancouver, Nashville, Sarasota, Key West, and also at 35,000 feet. The traveller theme is completely built into the mix philosophy: the mix image was taken with my iPhone while taking off from Houston, Texas. The lines are the skyline of the city as the camera did a time exposure and the pilot banked to turn the plane in the right direction.
“Completion-date” for the mix was never a question, I just worked on it when there was time, and didn’t know when it would wrap itself up. It has it’s own life, and in years-spent-on-music terms, this represents 11.25% of mine.
At 3.25 hours and with no explicit narrative, I don’t really expect this kind of mix to appeal to most people. It’s fairly specialized in a direction that isn’t what I’d call popular. I called it a “study” above and I believe that’s what it is – how to weave several different sub-genres together over several hours. It is for the listener to interpret; it is meant to accompany the listener during whatever it is they want to do, and it provides no instructions on how to enjoy it.
rules and illusion
There’s all these rules I’ve made up for myself in order to make a good mix. They’ve been practiced in almost all of my previous mixes: the current track has the energy of the preceding track +1; foreshadow and hint early in the mix about different styles that will follow later in the mix so that the introduction of a full tangent in those directions is not a big surprise and flows naturally; give the listener a full exploration of the tangent before mixing away from it, or make the tangent build into a whole new direction; build from basic sound designs into more complex and affected sound designs; and evolve from simple repetitive riffs into melodic widescreen epic scores. There is a shared aesthetic logic to the collection.
There’s probably more that I can’t remember right now, but the sum of that is that you have a mix that seems to speed up, slow down, wind this way and that. But the truth is, this mix never changes tempo – it’s 126 BPM the whole way through. It seems to get quite fast towards the end, but it’s an auditory illusion created through layers and sequencing.
break up or stay together
This mix could have easily been 3 or 4 different mixes; it certainly has the content and the scale for it. That probably would have been easier on me to put together, and probably easier for the listener as well. That’s what I’ve done in the past, for the most part, but early on when I was putting this mix together, I decided it was not going to make compromises based on time – that the journey was going to take as long as the music in it demanded. This is the least I could do to really place these pieces in a way that honours the countless hours that the producers and remixers listed above put into their pieces.
Mixed in Ableton Live 9 with the Complex Pro mode to preserve as much quality as possible while still being able to properly re-pitch tracks as necessary. It was exported as a 1.99 GB AIFF and then compressed to MP3 with VBR turned off, as well as the filtering options turned off. The mp3 is at 320K, and sounds, I think, pretty good.
After my last mix (Nothing But You And The Beat) in late 2011, I wasn’t certain that I’d be in much of a rush to do another. And, as it turned out, I wasn’t in a rush. There were no radio shows to guest on, no new stream of productions to feature, nothing to provide urgency. It wasn’t until June of this year that I had even given it much serious thought – that’s when I heard Blunt Force Trauma and realized there may be some more music worth mixing and sharing. In August, I actually got the motivation to do something new. That month, there was a spectacular meteor shower that I watched out at Witty’s Lagoon (Tower Park) until 4 AM – far from the city lights and on a weekend, so far from alarm clocks as well. That weekend I got the inspiration to actually put something new and spacey together. You’ll hear some Isaac Asimov references in here as well – that is meant to complement some of the big wide open sounds you hear in the music. That’s it for now. Enjoy!
Mono Electric Orchestra – Blunt Force Trauma [Manual Music]
Micah – Matter & Light [Proton Music]
Luke Chable & Danny Bonnici – Blue Skies & Butterflies [Mesmeric Records]
Pryda – Alfon [Pryda Recordings]
Dousk – Estrange (Kasey Taylor remix) [Vapour Recordings]
U.N.K.L.E. – Heaven (Charlie May remix) [Surrender All / Essential]
Robert Nickson Pres RNX – Suffer [Encolourized]
John Digweed & Nick Muir – Raise [Bedrock Records]
This is a mix that gets away from the popular dance floors and ventures far into the underground. Something you might listen to on a walk near the ocean, or a drive on a long windy road, or who knows. This mix is a soundtrack for a place far away from the maddening crowds. This is a mix that started in April, and finished in the beginning November – this would be the result of my latest efforts.
The samples in this mix – the vocal samples – are from Mad Men and The Walking Dead. Points to whomever can pinpoint individual episodes which each are from.
That is all.
Stiven Rivic, Michael & Levan – Leap Of Faith [Mistiquemusic]
Stefan Anion – Strangers [Silk Digital Records]
Christian Smith – Milky Way [Tronic]
Sasha – Mongoose (Guy J remix) [emFire]
GMJ – New Dawn (Kasey Taylor’s Rainbow Serpent remix) [Vapour]
Cid Inc. – Magnify (Quivver remix)[AfterImage Recordings]
Pako and Frederik – Western Approaches (Evolution remix) [Coded]
Hybrid – Blind Side (Hybrid Soundsystem remix) [Kill City Records]
Micah – Begin Again (Faskil remix) [Polytechnic Recordings]
Dibby Dougherty and David Young – Hydra Island (Cid Inc. remix) [Mirabilis Records]
The fall turning into winter is all about change, as is this mix. Change is all around us as leaves fell before snow, students go back to school, clothing adjusts for the inevitable cold, and some of us even decide to re-do what our lives mean to us. I did this mix in the midst of all these things – while hanging out with a cat named Toaster, while taking time out between snowboard sessions on Whistler and Blackcomb, while sitting in cafes in Victoria, and while floating back and forth between the mainland and this rock in the Pacific Ocean.
You’ll notice my new Jets Overhead remix in the tracklisting.. one of my favourite tracks from Jets Overhead’s excellent No Nations album. The original version of Fully Shed is very much worth checking out. It’s full of great melodies, ambience and texture, and of course the unmistakable vocals of Antonia Freybe-Smith. With so many great parts to work with, this remix was quite a treat to work on.
Something else evident in this mix is the inclusion of some samples of Helen Beebee talking about the Laws of Nature. The samples are severely out of context, but I like the continuity of philosophy they give to the beginning and the end of the mix. If you have time, you should have a listen to her talk on Philosophy Bites. Philosophy is something I strangely got hooked on from business school, something that matched the way I think in a way I could not have predicted. I like analyzing, asking questions, and challenging my own way of thinking (as well as others, but that is not always as rewarding). The initial challenge from Beebee is not answered by the music, but the music provides a soundtrack for an exploration for whomever is interested. Most simply, I enjoy the way her voice sounds when asking these questions.
I took the image above (and on the mp3 itself) late in the day on Blackcomb. Whistler sits beneath the sinking sun.
Charlie May – Midnight (Original mix) [emFire]
Faskil – Rezi (Coalesced remix) [Silk Digital Records]
Sunset Sessions is my new mix series that is appearing as a part of Sunset Collaboration’s weekly series of music. I will be doing a mix every three months as my contribution. Here we have some of the best music since last August, in my opinion. Starts off with downtempo, moves into breaks, progressive, and finally something which I don’t know what genre to call – doesn’t matter, it’s quite enjoyable.
Faskil – It Puts Me To Sleep (Prelude mix) [Frisky Records]
Oleg Zubkov – New Parallels (Fretwell remix) [Mistiquemusic]
Michael Cassette – Kilimanjaro (Solarity remix) [Anjunadeep]
Gemma Hayes – At A Constant Speed (Faskil remix) [White Label]
Dave Horne – Q.E.D. (Original mix) [Anjunadeep]
Proff – Starstruck (Solarity remix) [Silk Royal]
Mat Zo and Tyler Michaud – Battle Royal (Original mix) [New School Recordings]
Sander Van Doorn – Ninety (Original mix) [Doorn Records]
Mat Zo – Nuclear Fusion (Original mix) [Anjunabeats]
Christian Luke and Chardy – Because We Want To (TV Rock Remode) [Neon Records]
The last Pacific Front Sessions mix starts off atmospheric and ambient with some classic work by Saints and Sinners – “Peace,” remixed by the one and only Michael Woods. I had to do quite a bit of warping and filtering to get it to mix into the following track, Luke Chable’s “Melburn” which was given an ambient treatment by .. himself. I believe I heard this version when Kasey Taylor came to Focus at Lotus (Vancouver) several years back and started a set with it. Very cool so far as backwards music goes, or forwards music for that matter. Some light rhythm in Melburn sets the stage for the transition to breaks, where Domased Electronica’s “Mermaid” swims into the mix, with a remix by the atmospheric breakbeat authority of Fretwell. This track is brooding and determined, building momentum in preparation for Ronyo and Chris Drifter’s “Disconnected Illusions.” Aeron Aether is one of my favourite artists out there right now and he shows why in this understated remix which continues what Mermaid began. Half time beats and filtered down sounds come together to increase the inertia of the mix – layer upon layer.
The pads of Michael, Levan and Stiven Rivic’s “Free Fall” lay over top of Disconnected Illusions for a bit before the four on the floor takes over from the breakbeat of Domased Electronica, but it’s not long before they return midway through Free Fall, care of Dynamic Illusion’s superb remix work. Dynamic Illusion has grown to become one of my favourite remixers in progressive house and breaks over the last few years and he shows why in this track. Humbling work on this track, reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys and Starecase at the same time. The mix takes a turn for the haunting as Lighter and Gee’s “Helene” steps into the mix. Armin Prayd’s remix is somehow both abrasive and smooth at once, crafting an old school feel out of synths and a vocal that sounds like it could have come straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Dark, lo-fi and hi-fi at the same time, Helene’s unusual arrangement leaves you wondering how far down the rabbit hole you’ve actually gone. The answer is provided by BT’s new track, “Rose of Jericho,” which features rolling basslines and stupendous intertwining melodies. This track has an Adam K and Soha treatment on the remix, and the result of combining their very smooth remix style with BT’s unparalleled original work is nothing short of a progressive masterpiece. Following in this vibe is Mango’s “5th in Blue,” with a nod to the 80s with well placed tom rolls as well as a nod to the future with crisp and punchy bassline work in Proff’s remix. The mood of this track really opens up and resolves a lot of tension that has built up over the mix.
The second to last track, “Abydos,” continues with the energy that has built up and turns it into a driving bassline and arpeggiation. Probspot and Zinfandel (not a bad wine) keep it smooth and clinical and the track has built up into a many-layered eastern-melodic piece before you know it. Finally, Vince Vaccaro’s “South Pacific Ocean,” a favourite track of mine, gets a remix treatment by… me. There is breakdowns galore, synths and basslines galore, slide guitars, strings vocals, and a lot of effects. I made the ending of this track specifically the way it is to end this mix and the show in general. Hope you like it, it’s going to get properly mastered once I do another couple remixes.
Saints and Sinners – Peace (Michael Woods remix) [Lost Language]
Luke Chable – Melburn (Am Bee En Tea mix) [Trojan]
Right click and Save As, or option-click the link on a Mac to automatically download
Pacific Front Sessions is now over
With myself and Formulate as the hosts, Pacific Front Sessions has brought the sound of the Pacific northwest to an international audience on Proton Radio for 3 years. Our guests have included (in order of appearance, multiple appearances have been omitted):
Thank you to all of those who played, many of you several times, and a special thanks to Ben Malcolm who provided high quality voiceovers for the radio versions of the mixes. Thanks to all the record labels and producers that sent me high quality promos which I was able to mix into a lot of the shows. That network we developed has a specific sound to it, and I’m glad we have been able to collaborate this way.
We started the show at a very odd hour, as I recall, and over time the station recognized the show’s potential and kept moving it further into the peak hours of the day time until we were back to back with John Digweed’s “Transitions.” To this end we owe Jason and Sam from Proton Radio our deepest gratitude for sticking with us and believing in the show concept.
Finally, thank you to those who listened regularly and participated by leaving their thoughts behind with each mix. That included people on this site and a few other forums, most notably on hybridized and ravevictoria, as well as by email. It’s been a slice!
This penultimate edition of Pacific Front Sessions starts off truly downtempo with a new track from The Last Atlant. The melody meanders into G-Pal’s downtempo-breaks remix of Sunset Blvd who they hear a train coming – which is in fact Kasey Taylor’s remix of Wombat. Wombat’s “Helo” starts off chugging like a locomotive leaving the train station, picking up speed and delivering at our destination just in time for Spooky’s new weird one, “Eypes Mouth.” Weird but good, which is what I’ve come to expect from the duo of May/Forbes. Matt Rowan and Robbie Lowe are up next with a crunchy, tech-break house track called Ground Swell. This is followed up by “Tears on the Leaf,” one of my favourite tracks of the year – beautiful production and melody. Dousk’s complete gem of a track, “Chrysalis,” comes next with an outstanding breakdown, and Luke Chable delivers a brand new progressive monster (it’s about time!) in the form of “Pressure.” Great to hear Mr. Chable back into production – his sound has been missed. Steve Porter’s “Don’t Be Afrayed” takes the mix in a bit of a funkier and dancier direction before transitioning into a classic track by Lexos called “The Key.” Finally, a rare remix of Planet Funk’s “Chase The Sun” finishes things off in style with some melodic vocal progressive breaks.
The Last Atlant – Anima Mundi (Original mix) [Platipus]
Starts off atmospheric and breaky, quickly moves to four on the floor. This mix is one of layering and programming, every track building on the one before it in some way. It ends, literally, the same way it began with only one semitone of difference and some bpm shift. The tracks on here were selected for their summer-time feel and the parties and festivals that happen during the next few months. Hope you like it.
DJ Remy – Unplugged (Original mix – intro) [Audio Therapy]
David West – Illectronics (Original mix) [Tolerant Recordings]
Bastards of Funk and Sonic Union – Glitter (Original mix) [Lowbit]