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email: euphorianth@gmail.com

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Mixtape City: Total Freedom’s OC Mix

Mixtape City is a new irregular feature about mixtapes, proper or otherwise, up to and including regular old internet-style mixes made for or posted by radio, blogs, and underground clubs. Mixtapes/mixes will be posted INPO, but all of them are important and either diverted me from or further informed things I was listening to already. Download/streams will be included. 

Mixtapes/mixes are still the best way to spycam someone’s tastes, someone with lots of really eclectic/really distinguished access, which is still the best excuse for going out addictively, at least when shrewder DJs are playing. You are acquiring information, which is what every post-internet activity has no excuse for not doing. Every mixtape I’ll feature here blends expertly-specific references for whatever I was doing when I played it all the time into each other, fantastically mirroring the whole practice of song selection. 

OC Mixtape Series #11: Total Freedom (January 2012)

Total Freedom, who rejoices in the IRL name Ashland Mines and occupies LA with the rest of the Fade To Mind crew, understands how important peripheral vision is to producing. This array of songs, which by the way OC does not stand for Orange County, integrates a bunch of telltale signals from other decades with bursts of noise from the approximate future, where the drums are brutal and underground and the dancefloor is just a grid where data is unlocked. The best mixes are impossibly curated, and OC Mixtape Series #11 flourishes quite personally. 

Jhene Aiko’s You vs Them gets a multi-sourced filter through footworky drums, which are the only drums that are ever melancholy. It sounds like breaking up, one piece at a time. A Like A Prayer sample, tighter than air, whirs through one of those Kingdom edits that sounds like throwing hubcaps off the roof of a gymnasium. Kingdom, nee Ezra Koenig, is one of the honchos of Fade To Mind and his streetiness really imposes on the whole mix, identifying Fade To Mind as itself highly-curated. Total Freedom is a good employee. 

Nguzunguzu, barely missing being named after Jack Nicholson’s pen pal in About Schmidt, remix the Ayshay track Jemsheed, which: Ayshay is like M.I.A. w/ the middle fingers sawed off. For some reason all the Nguzunguzu mixes I’ve heard are just whatever, but I saw them play/DJ at Lights Down Low last year and everything really cracked, like the seals breaking on oil drums. The Ayshay remix, which I’d never heard before, was as-expected insane. 

One of the best blends in the set ends up being one of the most topical, from the Shorty mix of Codename John’s Dreams Of Heaven into what Total Freedom identified on the tracklist as Saddest Song In The World Ever. It’s I Will Always Love You, under which the skidding drums continue until a kind of reverse drop, with Whitney’s disembodied voice floating in a kind of ginned-up ether. Whitney’s death has brought out so many professions of love from DJs and producers, they’d all sound phony if you didn’t already understand what she meant to them. Understand that for a lot of these guys growing up in Baltimore and Detroit and New York, Whitney was a perfectly-pitched planet, unstirred by the coldest efforts to Pluto her. 

All the blends are so intricate and overlappy it’s hard to tell throughout the session which track’s doing what. Toward the end though, at about 35 minutes, TF introduces what’s apparently a YouTube rip of some girl singing His Eye Is On The Sparrow like she will never set foot in church again. It sounds like Grace Cathedral tapping up and down a rainy road, calling desperately for her comrades. This goes back into the vocal hook from the 90s US garage song Helpless by Urbanized, which even YouTube admits is cheesy. TF cleverly lifts it, however, and places it at opposing points in the mix so the identical samples kind of inch their way back toward each other, into the heart of the story like the bomb experts in The English Patient. It’s sly self-reference deployed to millimetric precision. Ultimately what’s supposed to be hard-edged club music from a non-O’Neill perspective ends in streamers of wist, anachronistically weighing death and the tragic pull of the church. And people say you’re stupid.