January 20, 2014

History Repeating

Me and my fat pants

This week's Twisted Mix Tape is... dance!
My Skewed View
Well, not exactly. You see, this week's prompt came from a blogger who's brother died. He was a DJ, and this week it's kind of an honorarium to him.

When I first started hearing the term "DJ" thrown around, I picture Vince Fontaine from Grease. Because when you're ten years old and you watch Grease a million times (without once picking up that half the songs are WILDLY inappropriate for a kid your age to be singing along to) you kind of accept faux 50's lingo as canon.

Fortunately, my family moved to Ann Arbor, close enough to Detroit for me to learn better. I got to spend half a decade listening to music with kandy kids, kitty flippers, and other assorted ravers who set my head right about the rich cultural and musical history of the title.

So without further ado, my mix tape- an ode to DJs and dance music.

Everything about this song. Everything about this video. From the visual context for the uninitiated about what a DJ does, to the incomparable Ms. Bassey. Spectacular hook. Spectacular mixing. Just... brilliant everywhere.

The video. Oh, the video. Dance music is one of those things where generally speaking, the lyrics are minimal, vague, and sort of pointless. This is good, because when a DJ gets his hands on the vinyl he's going to chop the song into tiny pieces. Sample bits, fade in and out- you don't really get techno or dance songs with narratives. But that leaves the videos open for wild and brilliant interpretations. I could make a top ten of official videos alone. The best part of this is that it sears the feel of the video into your mind, and you forever associate the song's ambient quality with the feeling of the story of the video. So good.

As I was saying, the songs are kind of a blank canvas. There are so many spectacular dance hall tracks- heavily sampled and with repetitive hooks and beats that you bob your head to no matter where it's playing. But there's a lot of variety in the music. And as the music is a blank canvas, fans are forever painting on it. I went to art school, and I cannot even begin to count the number of music videos people made to dance and techno songs. For totally unrelated assignments even- I had a friend in fashion design deliver his final portfolio in the form of a music video to a techno track, filmed with models wearing his dresses out on the pier by Bryn Mawr. And he got an A.

He wasn't the only art school kid to make brilliant music videos of his favorite songs, obviously. This girl... wow. Just wow. She makes me like Daft Punk, despite the Daft Punk. And I mean Daft Punk previous to their disco revival. Because I think we can all agree that "Get Lucky" was a spectacular track, and we can also all agree that it has almost nothing whatsoever in common with the bulk of Daft Punk's previous work. But I would watch this video a million times.

As I was saying... Techno. It can be art. And I don't mean that just the videos can be art. I mean the music ITSELF can be art. This techno track is a MASTERPIECE, by the same twisted mind that came up with Come to Daddy. And while Richard D. James is a virtuoso of a DJ, he's far from alone.

Richie Hawtin, aka Plastikman. As I mentioned before, we lived not too far from Detroit. And Detroit is where techno became techno. And one of the geniuses behind it was this guy. I mean, Richie Hawtin played the Guggenheim. This isn't just some dance hall DJ, this is an ARTIST. That said, art that starts underground and gets people bouncing and moving around in huge enclosed spaces that are generally occupied illegally... well... They have their own certain flavor. And as many of the techno fans of the Detroit area can attest, Plastikman cultivated his own flavor- to the point where his most iconic CD was best known for its liner notes- perforated blotter paper, each square printed with his logo. And just in case that was too subtle for you, I'm gong to clue you in. Blotter paper is one of the most common methods for dispensing LSD. So if you were a party kid in Detroit in the 90s, chances were very high that somebody you knew was carrying a CD case full of acid, each hit emblazoned with the Plastikman.

Living near Detroit and befriending many of the aforementioned party kids, I was fortunately enough to be introduced to an unbelievable wealth of spectacular music. This is what I generally think of as gateway techno. The Orb. So lovely.

But this isn't just a techno list, this is a DANCE list. And no dance list can be complete without the 90s classics. Can't hear this without bobbing my head. Okay, fine, I can't hear this song without dancing my freaking butt off. Badly. Happy now?

Fortunately, and simultaneously unfortunately, dance music is seeing a sort of resurgence these days. It's a shame because that means there's a lot of straight up crap on the radio. But it's good, because it means that the parts of my brain that just want to stop thinking and dance have such nice things to listen to.

Then of course, there are times I want to dance AND use my brain. So thank you, DJ Rap, for combining a little bit of pop philosophy and motivational speaking with your phat beats.

And here- a bonus track:

Yeah, I know, not only did I START with the Propellerheads, I even started with a track from THIS ALBUM. But you know what? 007 is an important part of my life. Laugh all you want, it's true. M and I spent two weeks honeymooning in New Zealand in the middle of winter- at the northernmost tip of the north island. So while during the day it was generally 80 and sunny and we had access to a deserted beach and a gorgeous beach house, many days it was dark and rainy, because, winter. So we split our honeymoon between gorgeous Pacific relaxation, and curling up in the beach house with a Bond movie marathon. We've been totally hooked ever since. We've seen all of them. So many times we occasionally have debates about which are the worst silhouettes in the opening sequence. That's how far we've picked these movies apart. I'm a Dalton fan, he's a Connery purist. At any rate, this track? It's a love letter to Bond movies. It's almost entirely sampled from the iconic Bond themes. And it is most likely the best thing ever to come from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Dear God, that movie was awful.


  1. Nice mix of those I didn't know with those I had heard before. Wonderful inclusion of Ms. Bassey!

  2. I'd have to pick Ace of Base from this list! Awesome!

  3. Pierce Brosnan is my "other husband" and I have had a crush on him for FOREVER. He's my favorite secret agent. ;)

    Your list of songs would probably Ben's favorite at this point, he only liked popular music if he could mix it with something else..bring a beat to it and completely remake it. I am not a music snob, but he was..a little.

    Which is why I like your mix because I know that he does.

    thanks for sharing your favorites and introducing me to some new music. :)

  4. So loved this list. Some tracks on here that I completely forgot about liking back in the day. I had Ace of Base on cassette....feeling old.

  5. OK, you win today, if only for History Repeating! I had never heard it, it just got put on my best new music to me youtube playlist. LOVE. And OMG I haven't heard standing outside a broken phonebooth in so long. That beginning always made me feel sad...
    I couldn't stop watching Daft Hands - A FREAKING MAZING!
    Orb- awesome
    Ace of Base - Cracks me up, I always like it, it's on my iPod greatest hits, my sister HATES that song because of the guy she was dating when it came out so I torture her with it :-)
    Really great list, AS USUAL!

  6. A great mix. I love that Ace of Base song!



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