Notes from the Electronic Underground: 5 of my Most Important Mixes for 2017 (part 1)

As this year comes to a close, lists counting down the “best” abound for just about anything you can imagine.

Whether it’s movie releases, slam dunks or memes, if you’re looking for a summation of the year’s highlights, this is the time of year to find that.

But there are some who do things differently.

Earlier this year, Resident Advisor ended their annual poll of top DJs, citing its evolution into a popularity contest that was unrepresentative of the diversity in electronic music today. Rather than claim to speak for the entire underground dance music scene, they turned their view within and put forth a slew of ranking-free content they felt to be the most boundary-pushing.

In the same way, I’m eschewing the world of rankings, but for a less high-minded reason. With this year being one of my most challenging to date, my rate of consumption for DJ mixes changed, as did my preferences, as I strayed further from strictly four-on-the-floor mixes.

I first delved into off-dancefloor mixes in preparation for my first trip to Europe, with Panama’s mix for i-D magazine serving as the soundtrack for watching the Irish countryside pass by from a bus window.

In the same spirit, the mixes I’m sharing are ones I’ve found personally meaningful during this past year, as each evoked an emotional response that I found worth capturing for repeated use.

Without further ado, I present the 5 mixes that made a difference in my year.

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Cashmere Cat — CASHY LOVES AUSTRALIA A LOT 🐱🐱🐱 — Music for Finding My Fun

In a year awash with internal strife, anxiety, worry and heartbreak, it was often that my time became devoted to finding stasis rather than being able to adequately pursue joy. My day-to-day was largely missing any sense of levity, instead replaced by an overwhelming seriousness and unilateral heightening of emotional stakes.

Then, on a recent trip home, I wandered over to Cashmere Cat’s SoundCloud page and found this mix.

Loading this up as I walked into the gym, my time between sets was spent bouncing around like a child on a sugar high. As I remarked to one of my friends, “Cashmere Cat mixes make commercial artists really enjoyable.”

This mix is fun from beginning to end, beginning with some calming ambient-ish music similar to Cashmere Cat’s remix of Hudson Mohawke’s Forever 1 directly into rap that seems like it should be jarring, yet mysteriously isn’t.

Somehow, Lil Uzi Vert, Four Tet, Ariana Grande and Machinedrum all come together into a single 50 minute set with which you’ll find yourself equal parts sonically engaged and physically moved.

Palms Trax — Berlin Community Radio: Cooking with Palms Trax 024 — Music to Soundtrack the Movie About Your Life

I found this mix completely by accident (which turned out to be a very happy accident).

After listening to Palms Trax’s set from last year’s Dekmantel Festival, I went on a search for more of his content to get a better feel of how he played.

I came away with more questions than answers: how was the guy who shut down his set with a yet-unreleased afro house track the same one kicking off a radio set with an introspective ambient track?

The answer, yes, and his mastery was on full display for this set. It turns out that this particular edition of Palms Trax’s radio show is remarkably versatile: it can put you at ease or accompany you as you cycle through emotions.

The most poignant setting I had for listening to the mix was on a train ride back to my first San Francisco residence, a house in Parkside. Making my way home from Taraval Street, the rush and bustle gave way to a jarring stillness and muted ambience as I found myself bathed in the orange glow of streetlights.

Looking south, I saw an array of house lights dancing over the hills, a star field infinite yet comforting.

I was still adjusting to life in a different city and processing the shock of leaving home for the first time, and this mix became the antidote to my uncertainty as I embarked on a new journey, providing the reassurance the story’s hero needed to put one foot in front of the other.

Part 2 coming in just about a minute!

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