Tuesday, 17 March 2009


The latest release on Mikrowave is the first of a series to be released entitled Elements. Described as 'part musical experiment, part creative resource,' this release offers both full length tracks and a series of stripped back versions containing the individual sounds that make up the whole. While the tracks themselves are good quality peak time techno, (i included a couple are on a recent mix I recorded) it was the selling of the individual parts that caught me eye.

I have to say this is an interesting idea. Hawtin's DE9 Transitions and the accompanying videos showcased the huge potential of live remixing, combining elements from different records in a live DJ set. If you are Richie Hawtin, elements that make up a track are relatively easy to come by- people send you clips, basslines, syth lines etc ready to use. But for anyone else it involves complicated and time consuming clipping of the original record- until now, that is. For the digital or laptop DJ this will open up a whole dimension of possibilites, as Kevin Gorman says, a truly 'creative resource'.

But I remain intrigued by what this means for the DJ. As a traditional hardware based DJ (ie: CD's and vinyl) , I play tracks I like, i've spent a considerable amount of money buying, and want to hear in their entirety. When I make a mix there are few occasions when I have more than two tracks playing. A lot of well known DJ's on the scene are vinyl junkies, and the 12" remains their medium of choice. On the other hand, some of my favourite DJ's are much more creative, using multiple decks, efx and samplers- making loops, cutting between parts of tracks, laying sounds, and pushing the music in new directions.

This is where the crux of the my question lies- at what point does the DJ become a live artist? Should the two be differentiated? With the amount of technology available, will the DJ soon be replaced by what we would now consider live artists, using layered elements of other people's music to create unique remixes on the fly? Will this be a bad thing or a good thing? Can both continue to exist? Does it really matter?


  1. to be honest, in the end i dont think it matters that much. i've heard people produce amazing sets completely with vinyl or on ableton. it comes down to how the artist actually utilises the technology (or not). in this case, gorman provides the tools but it is up to the DJ to make good use of them...

    and as a cheap plug - linking in with the elements projects, kevin has a mix coming up for us at mnml ssgs very soon. it will be interesting to see how he utilises his elements.

  2. Nice, i'm looking forward to that mix!

    Making creative use of the elements seems to be key- I think it's up the the individual to use whatever equipment they are comfortable with and push it as far as they can. This has tempted me to have a play with Ableton a bit more though...

  3. as a longtime vinyl-only snob recently converted to ableton live, i find myself thinking about these questions far too often...in my mind, the difference between being a dj and live artist is determined by the temporal confines of your performance medium. if you're spinning vinyl you are stuck with a predefined stop and start point. as such, you can only play tracks or samples in the order in which they were produced--even if you are playing with 3 or 4 decks and layering different sounds, you must always be mixing between tracks the way they were structured by the producer. because you are mixing within the confines of others' productions, i don't think you can fully consider this a live performance.
    with software like ableton, a track's structure no longer defines they way you play it--you can loop, rearrange, or cut out whatever you want. then you can take these individual pieces and tweak them however you want with effects, and then re-layer them live. at this point i think you are in live performance territory since you, the performer, are determining the flow, order, and sound of your different parts of music.
    but using ableton doesn't automatically make you a live performer, nor does using vinyl preclude you from it. in the end one isn't necessarily better than the other--all that really counts is how much fun you and crowd are having!
    by the way, i'm loving your blog--i just started a very similar one recently, but based in San Francicso. check us out when you get a chance....