Mixes, like DJs, are everywhere. But the question of how to stand above the crowd has a simple answer: be better. Be consistent, be intelligent, paint a scene. Give humans a reason to listen to you; make algorithms, like unskilled DJs, weep.
And, yes, have a soul.
Ryan Elliott’s mix on Ostgut Ton is simply one of the best such mixes I’ve downloaded this year, and earns a place on some hard drive round here, stored permanently in all its lossless WAV glory, an hour and a half and gig and a half. Strip away the Panorama Bar label, and it still communicates one of those moments in that venue. You can learn something and feel something all at once. It’s an encouraging sign that quality can still endure, that DJs can do things with what producers make that shines light on them and gives them meaning.
I’ve just returned from Amsterdam Dance Event, which is perhaps a microcosm of where dance music is at these days – a very, very huge microcosm. The event is strange in some ways; it’s not that it’s commercial, as it’s got a surprisingly wide range of music and unique venues like the audiovisual-themed events just across the water at Beamlab and EYE. (More on the excellent Paula Temple / Jem the Misfit AV show soon, as well as the results of our 4DSOUND spatial audio collaboration.) But it’s still skewed overall to industry and business, and for all the quality there, the biggest money gets the attention. (Dutch friends were quick to chide me for so much as uttering the name, produced as it is by Buma, a royalty collections agency that has alienated many artists and somehow managed to become more-hated than Germany’s GEMA.)
So all of this brings us back to Berghain/Panorama Bar, which on the weekend of ADE and the weekend following manages to produce similar lineups not because it’s a festival but just that it’s a regular weekend. Commerce and names are subdued, even as the machinery of the club ticks away. Hype is only a problem if it clouds judgment, or it’s undeserved.
Sure, this venue has been talked to death in a way that might ruin most places. The New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, forever a fount of profundity and my all-time hero, famously quoted “No one goes there any more; it’s too crowded.” But, much as New York baseball fans need the Yankees, Europe’s music scene needs Berghain. It’s a place where you can wind up having hours-long conversations with producer friends over ice creams (yes, they serve them, even in winter), then wind up hurting your feet from dancing too much. Artists rub shoulders with DSP engineers making music software. No one should ever pay too much attention to any one place, lest they become myopic, but the feeling those connections produce is important. We need venues that draw us in; we’ve plenty that push us away.
Ryan Elliott nicely sums up Panorama Bar on a day when everything is clicking. There isn’t anything terribly virtuosic here – no special edits or anything like that. And you miss out on the delightful weirdness Panorama sometimes achieves – odd tracks, wonderfully undanceable mixes, and I won’t say anything about the crowd because that’s meant for those inside, not for words.
But what I would say is, this is a good mix precisely because you don’t have to visit Berlin. You can create your own personal club, as you like, with a pair of headphones. (You can also smell fresh and clean and have as much space as you like to dance, which beats any club in the world on some evenings.) It’s not a typical 3-hour set at Panorama. But it says something about Ryan Elliott, about his tastes – deep, dark, soulful, yet precise, calibrated.
And that’s what Ostgut needs to do as a label behind Berghain/Panorama – this steps up Ostgut’s output at a very important time. The club is brilliant; the label as far as international attention has to emerge from that club’s shadow (and shadows). This free gift helps Ostgut to say what it’s about in a way that can stand on its own.
And I think in that sense, it can be a strong template for people making mixes with different things to say, too – even if you’re planning a dark ambient mix or avant-garde noise radio show. I would make the measure this sense of encapsulation, of beginning, middle, and end, of the mix as both a teaser (90 minutes makes you wonder what Elliott does with a full set, what the party is like), and standalone object (you might be happy to devote a gig and a half of precious drive space to it).
Ryan Elliott is a great ambassador, and it’s fantastic to see Ostgut back with long-absent mixes. Elliott has been a regular since 2007; the mix download here suggests a post-CD life for Ostgut.
So, give yourself a nice weekend – anywhere in the world, no entry fee, with your favorite headphones. Enjoy.
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