Notes from the Electronic Underground: 5 of my Most Important Mixes for 2017 (Part 2)

This is the second half of my most important mixes for 2017. For the first 2 selections, check out my earlier post.

Randomer— Live from Dekmantel Festival 2016 — Music to Heighten

Randomer is a top-notch act when it comes to original productions, and this set proves that point as well as solidifies his prowess behind the decks.

But I can’t say I recommend it, at least for how I found myself employing the frenetic, industrial sounds of this set from 2016.

I first listened to the set at my local gym in Illinois, a bright, open, airy building that gives off a welcoming air to all: this could be your first, fifteenth, or five thousandth time there, and you would feel at home all the same.

In this setting, the set provided a flood of focus and intensity alongside an urge to bop around to the mind-bending percussive assault. However, as the context of my listening situation changed, so too did the effect of the music.

The gym is a multifunctional space: I go there to get out energy and get in shape, but I also go there to get my mind off whatever’s been bothering me during the day. The last situation needs to be handled delicately, and in the case where I chose Randomer’s techno masterclass as my soundtrack, I found the adrenaline rush followed by being engulfed in a swirl of negative feelings.

The same goes for listening to the set on the way to or during work, particularly if I had a mountain of work to get done on a tight deadline: listening to this set allowed me to reach a higher level of performance followed by a noticeable sense of being edge.

On reflection, I realized that this set became the anthem for tapping into and exacerbating stress and anxiety to reach higher performance; the clanging sounds and high tempo are the sonic equivalent of supercharging already-racing thoughts.

My conclusion here: this is a fantastic set, and all props go to the man who made it happen. And despite the negative side-effects of how I listened to this set, I recognize that it played an instrumental role in my year unfolding the way it did.

HNNY — Music for Resting — Music to Wind Down

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is the Randomer set’s antithesis; its counterpoint. Where there was once a visceral ferocity now is a cerebral challenge to let go of the modern day’s stressors — all the more challenging in an age of doing everything, all the time.

This is a DJ mix primarily comprised of jazz music, but rather than serve as background music, HNNY’s selections enrapture one’s attention and force the listener to actively deescalate their mental state.

This might sound like it works directly against the title of the mix, “Music for Resting”.

I assure you that this could not be further from the truth.

The thought and care HNNY put into orchestrating this mix is readily apparent: night jazz with the vintage crackle of vinyl over top of it gives way to chords and melodies at once soothing and unsettling. Delicate bell sounds cascade over the full-bodied support of an orchestra in a tune that’s revisited over the course of the mix.

It’s a mix that could only be effective if it was composed from a place of great empathy, and given its effectiveness in achieving the goal set forth by its title, it’s clear that connecting to others with music is something HNNY has mastered.

Henrik Schwarz— BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix — Music for Growing

“Maybe our world changes…. In today’s time, it is important to stay open and connected, and be together. So this mix is a celebration of diversity, with a kick drum as the connector.”

It was a good year to be a DJ whose name started with an “H”: Hunee, Henry Saiz and Helena Hauff turned in Essential Mixes that found their way to the shortlist for Essential Mix of the Year, with the latter picking up the win on the heels of a barnstorming year.

Though he missed that list, Henrik Schwarz was my favorite of those four, providing my most important mix of the year with a masterful 2 hours of music.

The story Schwarz tells is not just one of connection, but one of resilience; of weathering the storm. In this case, the more dance-forward moments in the mix provide not just levity, but symbolize the ability to mobilize oneself as well as to find regularity following a significant shakeup.

I first listened to this mix not in the gym, but on the way back to San Francisco following a week-plus in Illinois.

While I’ve done plenty of growing over the course of the year, there’s no escaping the fact that leaving home for California carries a tinge of sadness each time. Part of growing is accepting that there will be things that are bittersweet in nature — such is the way of scarcity and how it affects our values over time — and that the end of time spent in the place in which I spent over 96% of my life falls into that category, though the departure is always only temporary.

Cultivating a balanced transition into adulthood has provided its fair share of growing pains.

But they are growing pains. And encouraged onward by Henrik Schwarz’s 120-minute ode to the strength of human spirit, the pain becomes endurable on the way to growth.

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