DJ’s: Digital v Vinyl

Category : Digital Media, Electronica, Minimal House

hawtinFor many years now there have been disputes between DJ’s concerning the purity of mixing with vinyl and the speed and convenience of using digital mixing software. The root of this issue concerns the acquired ability to aurally beat-match and the use of a computer to algorithmically beat-match the music.

Personally I’ve always loved the tactile quality of vinyl and the care and creativity that goes into the sleeve design and packaging. However, it seems strange that music made in a totally digital environment should still be transferred to an analogue/vinyl format before being played. Surely this contradicts the process of electronically created music.

Back in the days of Acid house, before the technology was available, analogue turntables were an obvious necessity. Now with DJ software packages like Traktor and Ableton Live these have become redundant. The idea of clinging on to an antiquated process may seem quaint and pure to some but being able to keep the music in the format it was made – digital – seems more logical. The advantages are obvious: searching for music is easier, building playlists is simple, beat-matching only needs to be done once, no lugging heavy flight cases of records and more time to be creative with your mixing.

hawtin31The video below shows Richie Hawtin, aka Plastikman and renowned DJ, describing his Traktor DJ and mixing equipment and shows the future of mixing technology. He explains the time the computer saves enables him to produce more creative mixes and link with other DJ’s.

Unlike Hawtin I’m not a professional DJ and I use a very basic setup of Traktor and M-Audio soundcard to record tracks I like into mixes. A simple process of downloading tracks, mixing and upload to my music player webpage.

If electronic music and house producers are to progress and continue to experiment in the digital environment Digital DJing must become the norm.

I remember a similar argument raging in the 80’s between the visual quality film and the expediency of video. Much of the criticism of video was borne out of snobbery and tradition. The same could be said today about the debate between analogue and digital DJing.

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The Grandfather Paradox – Henrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon

Category : Digital Media, Electronica, Minimal House

paradoxIn the mid to late nineties electronic music was beginning to lose it’s way. It was as though techno was morphing into a hideous “prog rock” cousin. Techno and House had become overproduced, overlayered, bloated and self-indulgent.

Inspired by the work of Kraftwerk and Richie Hawtin electronic music producers from Berlin to Brazil found that stripping sounds and layers away from the music made it more rather than less interesting. With a nod to the classical minimalists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich – minimal house was truly born.

Fast forward to 2009 and bang on cue comes the release of “The Grandfather Paradox” which embarks on ‘An Imprudent Journey Through 50 Years Of Minimalist Music’. Conceptually this is more than just a compilation of the latter. Taking its title from the science fiction writer René Barjavel the album cleverly and skillfully reveals lost minimal gems. This is delivered in mixed, remixed and unmixed formats allowing for different contextual listening environments.

albumHenrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon disclose in their sleeve notes that they felt they were “traveling back in time and manipulating the old music with modern knowledge.” The Paradox in the title refers to Barjavel’s idea that if you travel back in time and kill your grandfather you can not exist and thus cannot go back in time to kill him…

As for the music it is full of diverse sources and selections. The mix kicks off with Steve Reich – Electric Counterpoint memorably sampled in the 90’s by The Orb on Little Fluffy Clouds. It also includes the music of often forgotten 80’s Avant Garde New York group Liquid Liquid. The rest conjures up a carefully considered and beautifully executed journey of various styles. From the dubby To Rococo Rot through Robert Hood’s minimal techno the music seamlessly travels taking in the ambience of John Carpenter’s “The President is Gone” and the jazz multi-intrumentalist Yusef Lateef effortlessly in its stride. The unmixed CD has a surprising but clever selection in the form of Young Marble Giants with the always reliable Can bringing up the rear.

Henrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon have produced a conceptually inspired compilation journey. They are currently touring their “Critical Mass” project which is infused with Henrik’s Ableton driven live show. Catch their minimal “Acoustic time-travel” at a Tardis near you soon.

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