Best DJ mixes: broken beat, desi techno and ambient hermits

Chal Ravens’ column collects the best sets that have dropped in recent weeks.

As we shift gears into what looks set to be a very bleak winter, we might as well take a moment to salute the summer. September’s best mixes include a festival highlight from genius selector Call Super and a carnival celebration from Southall legends Panjabi Hit Squad. At the hot and heavy end, Sita Shah brings us desi techno from one of London’s best new clubs, and at the soft-and-almost-silent end, Perila makes space for the ambient hermits. In between we have head-spinning selections from the mysterious Zee Hammer, a broken beat tribute from Kiernan Laveaux, and a thrilling comeback from the one and only Hudson Mohawke. Remember: sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

Call Super’s Dekmantel set

Anything is possible in the mix with JR Seaton

It takes some chutzpah to open a set with Domina (specifically Carl Craig’s mix of Maurizio’s early techno classic) but with Call Super you know you couldn’t be in safer hands. Taking a quick left turn with a long blend into Photek’s rumbling Glamourama, we’re immediately in peak club mode for what must have been a buzzing highlight of this year’s Dekmantel festival in Amsterdam.

The Berlin-via-London DJ is simply one of the sharpest in the game, pulling off tricky genre transitions with effortless ease and combining deep, headsy material with unabashed fun-times all the way – and, sorry, is that Cardi B in the middle of a nawtee squelch-house moment? Could it be Kelis and her milkshake breaking through the trancey-techno clouds? Anything is possible in the world of Call Super. Hold on for a blast of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy near the end of the set, which is dedicated to the band’s late founding member Steve Bronski, who passed away last year.

Zee Hammer on NARR Radio

Ultimate off-menu chuggers

Knowing little of Zee Hammer’s bio, other than an affiliation with the Holistic Missile festival and occasional sets at London’s long-running World Unknown rave, it’s hard to determine what motivates this bogglingly eclectic DJ. Great name though, right? Take this set on Leeds’ NARR Radio as a sampler. Slowmo grooves from the Aquatic Ruin Zone. Rolling chuggers decked out with hypnotic mantras. Wobbling dancehall lost in an 80s Belgian disco. Satisfyingly off-key piano rave. Cowbells! This is the sort of thing and it’s fantastic. There’s no tracklist and Shazam can’t help, so just let it fill up that Weatherall-shaped hole in your heart.

Sita Shah’s DETECT mix

Desi techno from the Daytimers DJ

Four-on-the-floor techno is on the back foot. Even in Berlin, the tanzclubs now sway with broken beats and tresillo mutations – a situation that would have seemed unthinkable even five years ago. But techno will never die! And a moment out of the spotlight might even be healthy. In London, Fold is one club keeping the flame alive, booking a new generation of nails-hard practitioners who are taking techno in subtly fresh directions. For the club’s mix series DETECT, Sita Shah demonstrates a different way of navigating the familiar techno zone, going fast and furious with a crate of self-styled desi techno”. Think: M.I.A edits, tricked-out Bollywood songs and bhangra bassline going 100 miles an hour. And, just to prove that no one’s taking themselves too seriously round here, there’s one very fast and very silly Dua Lipa remix.

Hudson Mohawke for Mixmag

The LA transplant stays ahead of the game

HudMo made a splashy comeback this year with Cry Sugar, a brain-melting opus that showed just how far his imagination had been stretched during his lengthy secondment to the studios of America’s biggest rappers. Back at the controls for Mixmag, the Glasgow lad’s cover mix smashes through new finds and old sounds with the same itchy and restless energy as the new album. Peppered with his own collaborations – including new tracks with Atlanta club talent Nikki Nair and UK singer George Riley, on the amazingly wonky Telephone – it’s also a showcase of his global allies in high-contrast sound, from Argentina’s Astrosuka to Mexico’s DJ MVÑV. There are nods to his roots too – clouds of hardcore euphoria, grimey edits, and vintage breaks exploding into chipmunk vocals. It’s a snapshot of a producer-DJ in his element.

Perila for Theory Therapy

Under-the-covers ambient from a wise hermit

Aren’t We Here To Experience Something We Haven’t? That’s the evocative title of the latest mixquest from Russian-born artist Perila, whose output transcends the usual parameters of ambient music to become something even more mysterious and compelling. In the wake of her acclaimed album How Much Time it is Between You and Me? it sounds like Perila has been burrowing deeper into the idea of the healing qualities of sound. No tracklist, but expect collaged layers of cascading piano, rain droplets, ultra-high frequency lasers, soft static and home-recorded hums. The mix was made to reflect the blooming hermit spirit” she’s cultivating in her new room, as she tells Theory Therapy: I wanted to make a mix to indulge horizontally on the floor while the sounds evaporate around you.” It’s a tranquil ambient journey that stays just on the right side of watercolours and windcatchers – emotive but mysterious, waiting for you to add your own interpretation.

Panjabi Hit Squad for Boiler Room SYSTEM

A celebratory mix from the Southall garage legends

From the future sound of desi techno to the vintage cuts of Panjabi Hit Squad, pioneers of a style that captured the British-Asian experience at the turn of the millennium. Clearly inspired by the success of Daytimers, the festival and collective celebrating the club heritage of the UK’s South Asian diaspora, Boiler Room called in the Southall squad for a carnival mix to see off the summer. It’s a comprehensive introduction to the Hit Squad’s crossover sound, which brought UK garage rhythms and MCs into contact with melodies, vocals and banging beats from the worlds of bhangra and Bollywood. Fans of Yung Singh, who’s been bringing the Hit Squad sound back into rotation with his own Panjabi garage edits, should not miss this.

Kiernan Laveaux for Juanita’s

Summoning the spirit of broken beat

Sticking with that early 00s mood but travelling over the Atlantic for a different perspective, we conclude with Kiernan Laveaux’s mix for the always-on-point Juanita’s series. Highlighting tracks from labels like 2000black, Main Squeeze and Co-Operation, the vaguely autumnal session features several UK artists with a jazz-rooted, transatlantic touch to their sound: IG Culture, Black Science Orchestra and Russ Gabriel among them.

For Laveaux, broken beat is a style that reminds her of friendship and fun times in New York City, referencing many different musical eras, from hip-hop and 70s jazz fusion to R&B and D&B. It’s a reminder that the broken beat movement – which blossomed at London clubnights like Co-op at Plastic People around the year 200 – was always deeply reverent of that whole US lineage, an outgrowth of the UK’s B‑boy culture that had always looked to New York City for style pointers. History aside, it’s a mix made with love, reflecting the deep depths and exploratory spirit of this Ohio-born, Pittsburgh-based DJ and digger.

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