With so many mixes fighting for your attention each month, this column rounds up some of the DJ sets that deserve to be heard – from household names to underground operators, from peak-time energy to morning-after moods.
January’s selections overflow with bespoke edits and unreleased gems: Ariel Zetina offers a hypnotic slant on the Chicago scene, Stockholm’s Off The Meds reimagine their debut album as a madcap rave journey, and Washington’s 214 cools us off with contemplative electro. We travel from South London (LCY) to, um, North London (Apple), from aerobic breaks to elastic UK funky. Bicep reveal the records they bought during clubbing’s fallow year, and we pay our respects to underground hip-hop’s GOAT, MF Doom.
SZNS7N with LCY & Diessa on Balamii Radio
An aerobic workout for bassheads and speed demons
At the beginning of 2020, LCY decided to switch up her look and drop her signature surgical mask. Unfortunate timing – but at least she had a solid range of face coverings to choose from when they became mandatory. LCY is perhaps the most production-focused member of 6 Figure Gang, the London talent pool that includes DJs Sherelle, Fauzia, Jossy Mitsu, Yazzus and Dobbs. Her SZNS7N label is known for cutting-edge twists on grime and jungle, led by her own machete-sharp productions, and it’s in this experimental-yet-aerobic space that her second show on Peckham’s Balamii Radio begins. After making speedy connections between ghettotech, new-gen baile funk, jungle and breathless breaks, Sheffield Hope Works resident Diessa tags in for a guest mix with a crate full of loopy pop and trap edits from Migos, Charli and Britney.
MF Doom mixed by KeiyaA
A tribute to the vaudeville villain
As if New Year’s Eve in lockdown wasn’t weird enough, discovering that DOOM has passed away – and that it had actually happened weeks earlier – was a punch to the gut. Messages fired off and received: Did you hear? Woah. Shit. Yeah. This one hurt. DOOM was the arch bewilderer of rap, a producer and MC whose boundless approach to wordplay, rhyme scheme and sampladelic collage will forever ensure his position on the podium of hip-hop greats, one of those artists that every serious head is destined to fall in love with at some point. Daniel Dumile leaves behind a colossal catalogue of projects, personas and collaborations, from stone-cold classics like his debut LP Operation Doomsday to collaborations with Madlib, Ghostface Killah and Dangermouse. As a vivid tribute to her hero, Chicago saxophonist-turned-singer KeiyaA puts together a mix suitable for both the curious listener and the hardcore fan, mixing up old DOOM favourites with her edits, samples, skits and reference tracks.
Ariel Zetina’s Sestina Mix for Mixtape Club
Hypnotic vistas from the Chicago poet-slash-DJ
It’s pretty bleak out there for DJs, but if the past year has revealed anything about the clubbing community it’s that it actually exists – people are still buying music, still creating mixes, still supporting each other where they can. The latest effort in this vein is Mixtape Club, a series from London label Local Action and Manchester DJ Finn that promises to pay DJs a lump sum in exchange for their labour. A radical idea! First up is Chicago DJ, poet and playwright Ariel Zetina, who excels herself on this set of futuristic ballroom, house and breaks. Packed with exclusives from fellow Chicagoans like Futurehood rapper Mister Wallace and Zetina’s own roommate Madeline, it’s high-concept hypnosis. The word sestina, she explains, is a poetic form where patterns of repeating words create new meanings in each stanza. “I’m obsessed with repetitions,” says Zetina. “Melody that becomes percussion, percussion that becomes melody, is my jam.”
The Sound of UK Funky Mixed By Apple
The greatest genre of all time, probably
UK funky is having a moment – or rather, it’s been having a moment for a few years now. In fact, the revival of this 2008 vibe has now gone on for about as long as the original scene, which morphed into deep house and eventually deeptech after its white-hot moment in the sun. Tottenham producer Apple was one of the first to make UK funky on his 2006 track Dutty Dance – perhaps the very first, as he explains in a DJ Mag feature chronicling the original scene and young funky fans like Ahadadream and Jamz Supernova. By way of illustration, Apple has recorded a retrospective mix of his favourite funky cuts, showing off the diversity of a sound that still deserves more shine (and reissues – please, we need reissues!).
Bicep Cover Mix for Mixmag
Pressurised bumpers from the big room
Bicep’s new album Isles is one of the saddest-sounding dance records imaginable – an elegy for lost raves and that euphoric moment before the drop. But in the months since clubs went dark, the Belfast duo have kept up their record shopping habit and delved into harder, darker places than ever before. When they came to making this mix, the Mixmag cover stars realised they had a crate full of tunes at 140BPM – arguably the spiciest and most eclectic of all the tempo zones. “Pumping but still restrained, almost tense,” they say of the mix, billing up pressurised bumpers from Otik, Objekt, Karenn and other tough nuts. As always they made fresh edits of most tracks before mixing them, so it’s a bespoke experience all round.
214 for Groove
Frozen electro from an understated maestro
Electro is one of the most flexible and expansive genres in the club universe – and one of the vaguest. The term encompasses everything from the 808 thump of Egyptian Lover to the sci-fi water worlds of Drexciya to the distorted thrash of SebastiAn. In the hands of Chris Roman, though, electro reveals the yin to its dominant yang. Roman is based in North Bend, Washington – a town best known as the misty setting of Twin Peaks – and these rugged environs are the inspiration behind his latest album as 214. Selecting for Germany’s Groove magazine, he extends the chilly mood of his North Bend LP through contemplative cuts from the likes of Soul Oddity and Peter Benisch. One of those subtly addictive sets you’ll keep coming back to.
Off The Meds for Resident Advisor
Scandi-belters from Stockholm’s strangest dance troupe
Through its alien medley of languages and genres, Off The Meds’ self-titled debut turned out to be one of most original albums of 2020 – an unexpected collaboration between South African vocalist Kamohelo Khoaripe and three club producers from Stockholm. Honouring the album’s unique mix of electro, gqom, dub-house and multilingual wordplay, the band have done a homely mix for RA centred around their own music, including alternate versions of album tracks and material from their solo projects (Carli, LUXXY, Måns Glaeser). There’s also a bit of Belgian rave, Indian film music and a three-way mash-up of The Prodigy, New Order and Opus III. The whole thing was recorded over two sessions, so vocalist Kamo is hosting and toasting over the playful instrumentals: “Vodka on ice… nice.”