First Floor #77 – Re-Examining the Value of the Mixtape with Finn
a.k.a. The Mixtape Club co-founder discusses his unique project and how it fits into the larger (and sometimes problematic) world of online mixes.
Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. This is the free edition of the newsletter; access to all First Floor content (including the complete archive) requires a paid subscription. If you haven’t done so already, please consider signing up for a subscription (paid or unpaid) by clicking the button below. Alternately, you can also make a one-time donation here.
ON MY MIND
A few months back, Manchester producer Finn and UK label Local Action (which is run by Tom Lea) teamed up to launch a new online mix series called Mixtape Club. At first glance, that might not have seemed particularly remarkable. After all, the internet was already teeming with all sorts of mixes, radio shows and podcasts, and while Mixtape Club would surely have its own curatorial bent, it was ultimately adding to what was already a very crowded field.
There was one thing, however, that set Mixtape Club apart: Finn and Local Action were going to pay all of the DJs, and were also setting aside budget for visual artists to create custom artwork for each mixtape. Although the move wasn’t unprecedented, it was certainly rare, as artists are rarely compensated for putting together a mix, even if it’s for a major editorial platform.
To assist their efforts, Finn and Local Action also set up a Patreon account, asking people to donate £5 a month, not because they would receive anything extra—all of the mixtapes are free and available to everyone—but simply because they wanted to support the project.
It was an intriguing approach, and one that also raised questions about the value of online mixtapes, the willingness of electronic music fans to pay for content and whether or not existing practices (in which DJs are rarely paid) are fair. In the months since the initial launch, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Mixtape Club, which has already released four of the six mixes that will comprise the project’s first “season.” (Following editions from Ariel Zetina, Martyn Bootyspoon and Jubilee, the series’ latest mixtape, which was put together by London duo Sicaria Sound, surfaced just last week.)
That said, one can only learn so much while observing from the outside, and I was curious to peek behind the curtain and ask a few questions, so I got on a call with Finn a few days ago. We discussed the origins of Mixtape Club and dug into the nuts and bolts of the project (including its financial feasibility), but things got particularly interesting when we talked about the larger landscape of online mixes, examining their relative value and how they usually fit into what is essentially an exposure economy. And since I had him on the line, I of course also asked about what else he’s got in the pipeline, both in terms of his own music and upcoming releases on his 2 B REAL imprint.
The full interview—which has been edited for length and clarity—can be found here.
(PLEASE NOTE: the link to the interview will be open to all for the next 48 hours, but after that, it will be available to paid subscribers only.)
ANOTHER THING I WROTE
A few months have passed since I last wrote for Pitchfork, but it was a pleasure to return to the platform and review CFCF’s Memoryland, an album which offers a warm remembrance of late-’90s “electronica” and alternative rock. In retrospect, so much of that music was totally ridiculous (not to mention painfully ahistorical), but as someone who quite literally got their start in the music industry by working at an alt-rock radio station during that era, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of tapping into my memory banks and reflecting back on those sounds.
A round-up of of the last week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
This is a few weeks old, but data-focused publication / research group Components recently posted a fascinating analysis of Bandcamp sales from the fourth quarter of 2020. After scraping three months of data from the site, they were able to extrapolate all sorts of geographic and behavioral trends amongst Bandcamp customers. From there, they also estimated the company’s total revenue and drew (mostly favorable) comparisons to Spotify, highlighting Bandcamp’s profitability and stability while also conceding that the platform needs to “extricate itself from a state of technological and branding inertia.”
Writer / researcher Cherie Hu has become a fairly regular presence in this newsletter—you may remember her First Floor interview from a couple of months back—and last week she published an article on Water & Music that dug into one of the music industry’s most misleading words: independent.
Fast-rising UK artist India Jordan is on the cover of the latest issue of DJ Mag, and now the accompanying feature (written by Eoin Murray) has been published online.
Nightclubs have obviously had a rough go of it during the past year, and this article in Pitchfork (written by Nathan Taylor Pemberton) looks at how NYC’s Nowadays has attempted to weather the storm and stay alive.
Last month’s Clean Scene report on the environmental impact of DJs’ flights garnered plenty of headlines—I also interviewed Darwin, the initiative’s founder, for this newsletter—but I haven’t seen nearly as much attention paid to this recent interview with Green Music Initiative founder Jacob Sylvester Bilabel, who spoke to We Are Europe about his organization, slow gigging and why festivals aren’t quite as bad for the environment as people might think.
A round-up of noteworthy new and upcoming releases that were announced during the past week.
Suzanne Kraft is known for his ambient journeys and laid-back house grooves, but after hinting at a new direction on last month’s On Our Hands / Waiting EP, the LA native (who’s been based in Amsterdam for several years) has apparently continued down the road of hazy, vocal-driven pop on a new album. About You is due to arrive on June 11 via the Melodies As Truth label, but four of its songs are already streaming here.
Chinese experimental and conceptual artist Pan Daijing has just announced a new LP. Entitled Jade 玉观音, it’s described as “the sound of solitary release and refuge, of creative self-sustenance.” The album will be released by the PAN label on June 4, but first single “Dust 五月” is available now.
Floating Points’ Melodies International label is launching Melodies Record Club, a new series of reissue compilation EPs with tracks selected by artists like Ben UFO, Josey Rebelle, Mafalda, Daphni, Hunee, Charlie Bones and Gilles Peterson. The first edition was curated by Four Tet, and will be released on May 7. More details, along with previews of its two tracks, can be found here.
Twenty years after its initial release in the US and the UK (it came out the year prior in Australia), The Avalanches’ debut album Since I Left You is getting the deluxe reissue treatment. This special anniversary edition will be released on June 4 via Astralwerks, and will include remixes from such artists as MF Doom, Black Dice, Leon Vynehall, Carl Craig, Stereolab and more. In the meantime, the Prince Paul remix of the LP’s title track can be heard here.
Jayda G will be at the helm of the next edition of the long-running DJ-Kicks series. The Canadian artist’s mix compilation is scheduled to drop on May 14 via the !K7 label, and she’s composed a new song for the occasion, “All I Need.” The track is available here, and its upbeat video—which includes lots of fun archival footage from Vancouver’s ’90s rave scene—has also been shared.
Speaking of mix compilations, although it’s not clear whether or not Danilo Plessow has officially discarded the name Motor City Drum Ensemble, he won’t be using it on his forthcoming Fabric Presents mix. (For what it’s worth, the artwork does say “MCDE.”) It’s scheduled for release on May 28, and one of its songs—a collaboration between Plessow, Francesco Geminiani and Peter Schlamb called “Nightfall”—is streaming here.
Sasu Ripatti is keeping rather busy in 2021. Later this week, he’s once again donning his celebrated Vladislav Delay alias to release Rakka II on Cosmo Rhythmatic. As the title implies, it’s a sequel to last year’s acclaimed Rakka LP, and lead track “Rakkn” is already available. Then on June 25, the Finnish veteran will be teaming up with Planet Mu to release Fun Is Not a Straight Line, a surprising new album (under the name Ripatti) inspired by rap and footwork. Two of its songs, “speedmemories” and “flowers,” are streaming here.
Following a string of self-released efforts over the past year, Space Dimension Controller has signed up with Aus Music for his next EP, Dispatch477. Before it surfaces on May 14, the title track can be heard here.
Seefeel doesn’t get mentioned as often as other seminal ’90s electronic acts, but the UK group’s legacy will soon be getting a boost, thanks to a series of forthcoming reissues of their work for the Warp and Rephlex labels. Slated to appear on May 14, the reissues—which all contain previously unreleased bonus material—include the out-of-print Succour and (Ch-Vox) albums, an EP collection called St / Fr / Sp and an anthology entitled Rupt & Flex (1994 - 96). A separate 12”, Sp19 / Ga19, is also being released exclusively through Bleep.
Details of the debut LP from LA-based ambient specialist have Green-House emerged. The record is called Music for Living Spaces and has been designed to “facilitate the connection between humans and nature.” Before it arrives on May 7 via Leaving Records, two of its tracks, “Sunflower Dance” and “Royal Fern,” can be heard here.
Anyone who witnessed the early days of post-dubstep (when the music was also heavily influenced by UK funky) likely has fond feelings for the work of production duo LV and vocalist Joshua Idehen. The trio dropped the Routes album in 2011 and followed it up with Islands three years later, but after an extended absence, they’ve prepared a new LP, Ends, that they’ll be self-releasing on July 6. Ahead of that, they’ve shared the record’s lead track, “Ancestors.”
MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO
My wife Dania is a wonderful person, but she has little regard for my taste in electronic music. Head of the Paralaxe Editions label, she often describes the music I like with words like “cheesy,” “simple,” “predictable,” “boring” and, worst of all (in her mind), “happy.” In contrast, I think she has a fantastic ear, and I’m constantly amazed by the obscure gems she unearths, both from record bins and the dark corners of the internet. Given that, I’ve asked Dania to share some of her finds with the First Floor audience. Each week, she highlights something that she’s currently digging, and adds some of her thoughts as to why it’s worth our attention.
Yes please to the return of organic sounds. This is Body Meπa, a New York quartet consisting of the legendary bassist Melvin Gibbs, who has appeared on more than 200 albums and worked with the likes of Arto Lindsay and Bill Frissel, Greg Fox, the drummer of black metal group Liturgy (his solo album Contact that came out on RVNG Intl. last year was one of my favourites), guitarist Sasha Frere-Jones, who formed the ’90s band Ui and who also collaborated with Stereolab to form Uilab, and guitarist Grey McMurray, who has worked with Colin Stetson and John Cale. Their debut album, The Work Is Slow, was released digitally back in December, but it will soon be available on tape and CD through Hausu Mountain. Opening track “Horse Flower Storm / Fabuloso” is hypnotic with a gritty and subtly evolving rhythm, while the other tracks on the record are more dubby, with Gibbs’ bass taking the lead.
NEW THIS WEEK: THE BIG THREE
The following are some of my favorite tracks from three releases that came out during the past week or so. (Click on the track titles to hear each song individually.) An extended list of recommendations is available to paid subscribers only.
When TSVI first adopted the Anunaku moniker a couple of years ago, the London-based Italian quickly made waves with his drums, which frequently echoed the thundering rhythms of North Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. On his new 042 EP, however, he’s dialed down the percussive intensity, and has impressively done so without weakening the potency of his tracks. “Spirale” isn’t an ambient cut—it’s closer to a laid-back strain of techno—but it is hypnotic, with a come-hither vocal refrain that glides atop the song’s subtle (albeit steady) pulse and furtive bassline. Although some might miss the the thrill of being battered by Anunaku’s signature drum attack, the siren’s song he’s cooked up here goes deeper, and is ultimately just as rewarding.
Although she’s perhaps best known for her mastery of an instrument called the ondes Martenot, French artist Christine Ott showcases a multitude of talents on Time to Die, her latest full-length. The title of “Chasing Harp” makes its instrumentation fairly obvious, but the song itself is a wonderfully delicate creation, as every one of Ott’s gently plucked notes is given the space to ring out and reverberate in the open air. It’s a pensive (and strikingly beautiful) affair, and feels like the musical equivalent of laying on your back and watching the stars twinkle on a clear night.
Jordan GCZ is an artist I’ve written a lot about over the years, both in reference to his solo work and the music he’s created as one half of Juju & Jordash. (I also interviewed him last year about his embrace of Patreon and move toward online teaching and mentorship.) That said, his latest EP, Introspective Acid, is something of a surprise, simply because it’s such a focused effort. That’s not a dig at his existing catalog, but given that so much of his creative process (not to mention Juju & Jordash’s entire live show) is rooted in improvisation, a certain amount of jazzy noodling and spacey wanderlust have become an expected part of the Jordan GCZ formula.
To be clear, those elements are great—and help to distinguish him from the rest of the electronic pack—but they’re largely absent on “Introspective Acid,” which is a relatively straightforward (and immensely enjoyable) piece of warm and woozy dance music. The whole EP is essentially an exercise in acid-licked techno, and there’s still a psychedelic bent to the record, but true to its title, “Introspective Acid” takes a laid-back approach. Jordan GCZ is still heading into the cosmos, but here he’s moving in a relatively straight line—and it suits him.
Once again, additional track recommendations are available to paid subscribers. This week’s selections include new music from artists like Malibu, Overmono, CFCF, Claire Rousay, Nico and more, along with tracks from labels like Shall Not Fade, Leaving, Gearbox and Shelter Press.
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That’s it for this week’s newsletter. As always, thank you so much for reading First Floor, and I do hope you enjoyed the tunes.
Until next time.