Home > Ambient, DJ Mixes, Electro, Electronica > Top 1 of my fav DJ mix of the moment with the last DJ that makes you think on the dancefloor…

Top 1 of my fav DJ mix of the moment with the last DJ that makes you think on the dancefloor…

A lot of people don’t get the fuss with all the DJ’s. Why bother to consider them artists ? What is so great about playing two records altogether ? For for those naysayers, meet James Holden, a British DJ known for his unique style of DJing that has earned him praised around the world as well as his peculiar track selection which often features the likes of Radiohead next to Aphex twin. The DJ set Holden made for the Igloo festival in January 2009 in Montreal is quite simply one of the best DJ sets I have ever heard. Holden plays entirely on different levels and mixes with fluidity post-rock, minimal techno, IDM, electronica, ambient and even dream pop on some of his DJ mixes. Don’t bother if you’re looking for trendy dance music, it’s not Holden’s cup of tea. Instead, you will find a good dose of tracks from his Border Community label with a strong accent on melody. Holden mocks the categorization of dance music that has plagued the British press that specializes within those genres. The maverick spirit of James Holden is quite admirable : he totally ignores the “charts” and he’s far from being a crowd-pleaser.

Most Holden mixes have a strong emphasis on melody and are rather trippy but the real contribution of Holden as a DJ is the musical composition that he performs live. Indeed, Holden does not simply merge the tracks; he also uses loops (so far, nothing exceptional) to merge his tracks so that the listener does not perceive it to be a mix: you really ought to be careful to perceive a mix. We are talking more of some sort of journey where the whole mix is just one big track. For example, Holden composes live in the sense that he loops a song A with a song B loop and then, he keeps the loops constant with the songs A & B mixed, then he withdraws the loop and removes the song A.

This technique is obvious in the first mix of the disc At the controls,  released in 2006. The first time I saw the tracklisting I thought : here is a DJ that is probably known for his music selection. Then again, on one of his first mix, he makes a seamless transition between track # 2 (Cor Ten Plastikman) and track # 3 ( Trinity Dub Massive Attack) in a stunning clarity. Which is even more staggering considering that these two songs are totally the opposite musically : one is downtempo dub and the other one is minimal techno. Holden also mixes similar harmonic melodies in the sense that he uses songs that are rooted in the same musical key. For instance, if a song ends with a G clef (Treble clef or clé de sol in french) then the next piece that is to be mixed, part B will also begin with the same key. [There are 3 keys: Treble clef [clé de sol], F clef [clé de fa] and  the C key (clef de Do) Most DJ’s are completely unaware of such details. Hence the genius of this man…

Musically speaking it’s also so much easier for a DJ to mix pretty tight when all of your tracks are conceived within the same framework. The mere fact that he is able to chain as many different songs and melodies and that whole result is so cohesive, that is just sheer genius! Especially since many of the songs that he mixes does not have any place where he can start cueing. Some of the songs starts strongly with melodies and without any warning.. For beginners, I strong recommend to get your mitts on At The Controls, a very personal mix that revolves around a large and breathtaking world that will leave you breathless. For addicted listeners, it is essential to listen to the Igloo fest mix in Montreal in January 2009. Disguised by nicknames such as nerd, rebel or outsider, Holden imposes a dose of creativity truly refreshing to the art of DJing.

James Holden : At the controls CD 1 [2006 : Resist music]

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