Monthly mix roundup: Romantic reggaeton, apocalyptic hardcore and Irish mysticism

Chal Ravens gathers March’s highlights with sets from Sherelle, Space Afrika, DJ Florentino and many more.

We’re another month closer to a big sloppy reunion party and the DJs have started squirming like greyhounds in their traps. But while we negotiate a spring of semi-legal gatherings and sit-down dance parties (shudder), the online DJ mix will remain one of the most important cultural artefacts imaginable. Not a joke, just a fact.

March’s highlights include a fabulous finale of the long-running Beats In Space series, a live transmission from the last UK rave before lockdown and a pair of no-nonsense club sets from Gage and FiFi. We also get freaky with a surreal new radio show, a haunting ambient mix, and an incantation for Ireland’s mystical history.

A couple of bonus picks to start? Try this improvised set by object blue which combines music for focus and relaxation with interviews on mental health. For a peppier soundtrack to the changing seasons, bask in this proto-vaporwave mix of Weather Channel jazz-fusion heaters. Scorchio!

BIS Radio Show #1085 with Tim Sweeney

The final farewell from a beloved mix series

Tim Sweeney has, somehow, been presenting his beloved Beats In Space show on WNYU-FM for 21 years. But baby’s all grown up and it’s time to wave goodbye, at least for a little while, and so Sweeney himself stepped up.

In its long tenure, the college radio show became an essential NYC pitstop for rising DJs and veteran faces too – Galcher Lustwerk, Andrew Weatherall, Lena Willikens and countless more dropped in to play tunes and collect their all-important Polaroid snap. The final episode before Sweeney’s hiatus is packed full of vintage classics with winking titles: Hot Chocolate’s Don’t Turn It Off, Arnold Jarvis’s Take Some Time Out and Parada 88’s You’re Gonna Miss Me among them. Sweeney drills down to the core of his collection, weaving luminous disco and sleazy chuggers into a very personal celebration of dancefloor ecstasy past and present. Tim, we salute you!

Vani-T for Donegal Social Club on Threads Radio

A slithering incantation for Ireland’s mystical history

London’s Threads Radio marked St. Patrick’s Day by inviting promoters Donegal Social Club to take over the airwaves for the night. The highlight was this two-hour incantation by Belfast-born, Berlin-based DJ, Vani‑T. Opening with a reading from Arthur Evans’ manifesto for a mystical queer counterculture, the mix is dedicated not to St. Paddy, but to the snakes he drove into the sea, as legend has it. The snake is a symbol of fertility, transformation and creative life force that flows through us all,” explains VANI‑T, and for that to be chased out of Ireland should be questioned, reimagined and brought back.”

This mix is a real journey, slithering between wyrd film soundtracks, occult electronics from Demdike Stare and Venus Volcanism, doom metal from Black Boned Angel, and a whole lot of witchy women speaking in English and Irish. There’s nothing like stumbling across a high-concept mix executed to such a standard – block out two hours and experience this one like it’s a movie.

Sherelle at Bangface Weekender 2020

Outrageous hardcore antics from the last rave on earth

The jury’s still out on last year’s Bangface Weekender, which took place in mid-March – just as the coronavirus was sprouting up all over the UK, but before the government announced a nationwide lockdown. Altern‑8’s masks and hazmat suits suddenly looked like sensible PPE rather than an apocalypse-rave fashion statement.

Between the old-school hardcore acts and the young anime-gabber kids, Sherelle stepped up to the Bangface challenge with jaw-dropping flair, threading her juke and jungle selections with flashes of breathless hardcore, booty-banging electro and accelerated B’more – and the blends! Dear lord, the blends. Strap in for a fairground ride more twisted and exhilarating than anything you’ll find in the carpeted arcades of Southport Pontins. In hindsight, maybe Bangface shouldn’t have gone ahead. But a world without this set would be a little less bright.

Gage’s Fabbri Evolution Mix

Nothing but pumpers from a first-rate club artist

Over a hot streak of releases in the late 2010s, Gage proved to be one of the brightest brains in the UK club continuum, pushing elements from grime and ballroom into strange and even ambient places. Returning after a long break with a record aimed squarely at the dancefloor, he marks his comeback with the Fabbri Evolution mix, which comes with the motto: Eyes down, chin up.”

Assume the position and hit play for a surprisingly upbeat set, where Darkside excursions (AceMoMa, Dimension 5) are balanced out by a few sun-baked pumpers dating from the 90s (Intuition) to now (Nigeria’s Ekiti Sound). The celebratory mood is topped off by a handful of Gage’s new tracks, including one called This Won’t Take A Minute, which is going to sound absolutely cataclysmic on a speaker stack this summer, fingers crossed.

Club Romantico FM on NTS Radio

Hot tracks and weird ads in DJ Florentino’s new slot

The self-described reggaeton romantic’ DJ Florentino comes through with a joyful offering on his new NTS Radio slot, which is set to air every eight weeks. Club Romantico FM is a surreal one-hour show during which the Manchester-via-Columbia DJ/​producer combines new music, fake adverts, pop-out mini-mixes, a bilingual request line and nutty interviews.

In the first edition, electro survivor Brodinski drops an almost psychedelically heavy rap mix featuring young weirdos like Slayter and LPB Poody – really good stuff – while Montreal’s Isabella Lovestory is interviewed by, um, her Maine Coon cat. Well, it’s a concept! Most importantly, we get some excellent off-kilter reggaeton picks and unreleased tracks from DJ Florentino himself, who must’ve pulled an all-nighter in the editing suite to stitch it together.

Space Afrika – RA Podcast 772

Rain-soaked contemplation from the ambient storytellers

Space Afrikas 2020 mixtape hybtwibt? was one of the highlights of the pandemic year, an ambient record that uses cut-and-paste montage to sketch out a narrative both personal and political. For their RA mix, the Manchester/​Berlin duo deliver something structurally similar, using field recordings, spectral voices and gloopy loops to open up a shadowy space of contemplation. The long and strange-looking tracklist offers a few useful footholds, including recordings by Leeds dub meditator Teresa Winter, electroacoustic composer Jacaszek, and radical rapper Iceboy Violet. But none of that anticipates the moods and colours that unfold over the mix as layers are added and subtracted, and it’s somehow up to the listener to finish the story. Think about a memory you want me to see,” asks one of the voices over shimmering tones, I can show you.”

FiFi for JEROME

Femme drums from a long-running mix series

Remember the mixfile? There was a moment during the white-hot protean chaos of Deconstructed Club Music™ when releasing one of these babies was all the rage. Ultimately it was less about the format and more about an approach to the decks, as a generation of CDJ punks ushered in a new era of mixing in which we no longer need to argue about the ethics of the sync button.

And so to JEROME, a mix series, (defunct) blog and label affiliated with bleeding-edge club artists like BLEID and HDMIRROR. But this set from Berlin’s FiFi (SoundCloud description: FEMME DRUMS”) reminds us how far we’ve come from the shattered-glass-and-gunshots era. These club tunes are very much constructed, aimed square in the centre of the dancefloor while touching on a wealth of global styles, from goth-dark neoperreo (DJ Sustancia) to blown-out electro (Nikki Nair). It’s not easy to get an ID for some of these, but one unidentified banger bears the touching lyric, Spit in my face and tell me you love me.”

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