The affordability of CD-Rs has changed the mix tape game, making mix CDs a key self-promotion tool for DJs. Record labels have pressured stores not to carry unlicensed DJ mixes, but in most cases you can still get promo mixes directly from the DJs.
Here's a roundup of the best CD-Rs by local artists passed on to me over the past few months.
THE DUKES Let’s Get Cocky! (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rating: NNNN
The Dukes (aka @m and KF) are a tag team DJ duo who are starting to get recognized for the genre-bending sets of funky glitchy techno, deep tech-house, breaks, IDM and any other electronic sub-genres they can cram into the mix. This disc is relatively upbeat but has a dark mood overall. It may be a bit too "big room" for home listening but would probably be a good driving mix if you own a car with a decent subwoofer. Minimal but funky.
ADAM KHAN Soulutions Mix (email@example.com) Rating: NNN
Adam Khan is the resident DJ and one of the organizers of the highly rated series of late-night deep house parties called Soulutions. This mix might surprise those familiar with those parties, especially the particularly dark and techy middle section and the brokenbeat moments toward the end, but overall it's an entertaining and deep session. The live spoken-word bits by Ski are a bit distracting and unnecessary, but at least they're trying to add something to the typical mix CD format.
PANTIKI Impressions In Modern Improv (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rating: NNN
Pantiki is DJ Christian Newhook's experiment in live improvised dance music. This is a compilation of live recordings of the various bands he's put together over the past year for different events. It's not quite the techno-jazz he's aiming at, but it's an interesting excursion into spacey Latin jazz funk and features some pretty heavy talent, including respected trumpet player Nick Ali. The recording quality isn't always great, since it's just recordings from the board, and the players have a tendency to lapse into fusion territory a little too often. The more electronic moments are reminiscent of Carl Craig's recent work with live musicians - which is a good thing.
CRYOGENETIC Freeze Frames (email@example.com) Rating: NNNN
This one isn't really a DJ mix either, but a collection of electro tracks produced by Cryogenetic. Don't lump what he does in with new-new wave or electro-clash - this is traditional electro, built for breakdancing. A bit of cheese comes with the territory, but most listeners' ears have become acclimatized to modern reworkings of 80s references over the past few years. Catchy synth riffs and chunky, solid-sounding production. He's had a few tracks released properly already, so keep an ear out for his next single.
DJ ION March Vibe 04 (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rating: NNN
DJ Ion plays house music around town and is just starting to make a name for himself as part of Desire Productions and for his weekly show on the soulstreamnetworks. com Internet radio site. This is a fun, bouncy house mix showcasing some of that West Coast dubby sound with a bit of Chicago thump and funk. Not quite deep house and not quite big room either. Pleasant, but it's missing any peak moments, any songs that really get your attention and make a statement.