Friday Night Tune: Jeff Mills AKA The Wizard on WLBJ Radio

Ok, so it’s not a tune. Well, it’s not one tune.

I’ve think I’ve said it before but DJ mixes are now reaching a level of ubiquity that makes oxygen look rare. They’re everywhere; thirty minutes online will furnish you with more mixes by big name DJs, bedroom triers, heroes, chancers and everyone in between over a range of styles, genres and tastes than you can ever hope to listen to, and that’s if your ears don’t implode with the sonic strain first.

It almost goes without saying that such is the amount of new mixes you almost can’t see the wood for the trees. There are mixes out there to cater to every taste, every possible mood: Recorded output from club nights, stuff knocked up as demos or promos or CVs, mixes for mates, mixes for enemies and mixes for the DJs themselves. Given the volume it’s no surprise that the vast majority of them aren’t really up to much (and, strangely, some of the very worst mixes I’ve heard over the last couple of years come from otherwise pretty gifted producers – a musical analog of the fantastic former footballer becoming a lousy manager…) but if you are willing to dig there are still mixes out there that will change your life and the way in which you perceive music.

Tonight’s tune (tunes) comes from a man who was probably the best DJ in the world for a long, long, long time and still pretty much is, I reckon. Although Mills is obviously best known for his hard, uncompromising and yet unbelievably funky take on techno, his DJing skills are rooted in mid eighties Detroit radio where a myriad of genres and styles were brought together into a banging and coherent whole by an incredible understanding of how the music works and how the songs can go together. The featured mix is one of many from the WLBJ archives that reappeared a few years ago, and I suggest that any DJ who is just starting out does a search on Google or Soundcloud for the rest of them. You will learn some important things from them.

In fact, there are lessons here for everyone whether you are starting out or have been mixing since the dark age of acid. These mixes are a master class in tune selection, technical ability and, most importantly, fun. You often get two out of the three but, my God, it is so rare to get the trinity it’s worth celebrating every damn time we do.

This is a very young Jeff Mills and yet this isn’t simple raw talent; this is incredibly sophisticated talent. This is talent that has worked with the tunes and listened to them over and over until they become as familiar as the back of his hand and the act of mixing them as automatic as breathing. Listen to what he plays and how. He’s cutting house, acid, proto-techno, rap, electro and God knows what else with a style that owes more to hip hop than 4/4 electronic music. It’s bordering on 30 years old but it remains the absolute epitome of everything we should be aspiring too. They don’t make ’em like that any more. The sad fact is they rarely ever did. Listen, dance and learn; The Wizard is working some bad ass magic here.

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