A photographer, designer, radio host, producer and a record label boss – Steve Braiden is a modern day renaissance man of sorts. Despite this versatility though, for us he will be known first as one of our favourite DJ’s. His thoughtful approach to mixing and selection has always stood out, as he made the progression from online station Sub FM through to Rinse and later NTS – winning the respect of listeners and his peers alike. We probably sound like a broken record at this point, but his Electro special on the latter station from last year is basically essential listening – whilst there are many more high quality mixes of his doing the rounds elsewhere.
Now residing in Berlin, Braiden has just launched his new imprint Off Out with an all too rare solo 12″ of steely, sullen Techno, with more material to follow on the label throughout the year. Before he returns to Blighty to play comm•une at Dance Tunnel this Saturday 7th February, we decided to see what mixes inspire him to do what he does – a task he certainly gave a lot of thought. This is by no means a definitive list, just a selection from a pool of favourites. From spellbinding Techno to confrontational psychedelic beatdowns, with masterful mixing and inspired selections…
Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 7th Birthday 2006 (pt 1)
I always think its a shame that Villalobos seems to be shunned by so many of my peers, especially in London. True as a DJ his form can vary wildly, but when he’s on point he’s impressive. Seen by some as an Ibiza Minimal Techno mashhead, he’s actually one of the most talented House/Techno DJs I’ve heard. His understanding of rhythm is impeccable, matching grooves together to keep a set eclectic yet cohesive. I only properly heard a set by him a few years ago at Fabric, and was surprised to hear how much of his style of mixing I could relate to my own. Lots of crossfader cutting, syncopated yet driving rhythms, this very particular constant flow of peaks of troughs. I once saw someone describe it as “dippy” and I get that. He has this real rough way of mixing but there so much feel to it, like you can really hear him play the mixer and I love that. There’s something quite UK about his style in a way actually.
This mix a good example of him on this form for an hour at peak time. It’s taken from a Fabric night in 2006, and the recording starts right in the middle of the set so it’s pretty full on from the off, but the set has real deep moments scattered about without losing energy. A constant momentum of peaks and troughs introduced effortlessly. 90’s Techno by the likes of Jeff Mills and Claude Young and weird tracks with character like Visnadi – ‘Racing Tracks’ and Velodrom – ‘Capataz’. It contains one of my favourite blends, in which he loops Capataz with 2000 and One’s ‘Funk That’ for an outrageously long time – must be like 5 minutes- and then cuts in Mala’s ‘Left Leg Out’ on a third deck. Oh and if anyone can ID the track at 28:00 I’ll give you free guestlist for my gigs for life.
Zackey Force Funk – This Is My Force Funk Sound (mixed by DJ Kutmah)
This is a mix made by Kutmah, comprising entirely of Zackey Force Funk tracks (save for the kinda jarring tunes by Zackey’s brother’s punk band in the middle of the mix). ZFF is an interesting character. He started singing in his 30s, after a life of crime which saw him jailed multiple times, including a stint in a high security unit and a potential life sentence at one point. The result is quite unique. His music is full of character. He sings with various voices, often combining a sweet high pitched voice playing off a deep gravelly one with vocoders thrown in the mix. This light hearted approach is often juxtaposed by the subject matter: songs about taking a girl to a stickup as a decoy, a song thanking a girl for taking care of him whilst he’s on house arrest and a song about a father and son watching the end of the world – and their lives – as bombs rained upon the earth:”and then the bombs came down/but there was no heat/and there was no sound/except the forceful beat/and thats when i knew i was on the other side”.
He vocals existing instrumentals and they are for the most part fantastically chosen – a combination of Disco and Electro with a strong sense of Funk throughout – with tracks by Legowelt, Rich Cason & The Galactic Orchestra, Tom Tom Club and many others. Kutmah does a good job of gluing all of this together with some suitable Disco flavoured respites in the mix.
Ben UFO – ‘Fabriclive67’
Countless praise has been written about Ben UFO over the past few years, and this mix for me is a fantastic example of why. Driving machine percussion, a fluid movement of energy with very well felt out lows and highs. I love the fearless opener of Delroy Edwards after the ambient intro. Its repetition morphs aggression into hypnosis. Ben also picks tracks with a deft ear for tone and texture – the mix is eclectic but feels very cohesive in its colour. I find it a particularly exciting listen because of how its put together, and I don’t say that about many DJ mixes.
TRAXX – Live @ Dekmantel 2014
Here’s a live mix I witnessed at Dekmantel festival last year. I remember walking in, not of sane mind, whilst the track 50 mins into this mix was playing (btw ID plz??). It felt like chaos, this raw driving mess falling apart at the seams. From that track he played a Nitzer Ebb track, and the place was going off to this stiff industrial stomp. Those two tracks for me typify Traxx’s style: an industrial grit mixed with machined syncopation. His focused selection really pulls the energy out of the tracks in the most efficient way. Tracks that may otherwise seem meandering in their energy feel alive and energetic in his sets.
Traxx says that he is not a DJ, his point being that he does not think about the crowd at all – as evidenced here by the opening 13 minute psychadelic freakout that really pays no compromise. But if you manage to see him at a setting that befits his existing unmovable vision, it’s some ride.
I also want to draw attention to the description of this mix on soundcloud, presumably written by Traxx himself in the third person. With impressive hyperbole he manages to display absolute arrogance whilst insulting the festival that promoted him so much, and the crowds both at the event, and the ones he usually plays to.
It is testament to his talent that this comes off as charming and not really obnoxious at all. Actually I kind of like him all the more for it. YMMV.
DJ TLR – The Hague Macho Mix
The head of Creme Organization mixing Italo infused Electro back in 2002. There was a whole bunch of mixes I could’ve added as my final entry for this article but I had to pick this one for sheer personal nostalgia value. I used to listen to this before I was properly into club music at all – before I’d even stepped foot in a club. I listened to a lot of Electro, people like Bangkok Impact, Luke Eargoggle and Legowelt – all of whom are featured in this mix. It’s funny that Creme Organisation are now talked about as having this rough aesthetic. I’ve seen the ubiquitous “outsider house” term applied to them several times, but few realise that they actually came from quite a different sound when they started in the early 00’s – much more of a clean and colourful sound, influenced by Disco and Italo. This mix is a lot of fun and contains some gems from that era that I’ll always have a nostalgic fondness for.
Braiden plays alongside Minor Science for comm•une at Dance Tunnel this Saturday 7th February. Buy tickets here.