A good continuous music mix needs highs and lows, intense moments as well as calmer parts, all while creating a coherent feeling throughout. There’s an artform in itself to produce a mix good enough to be enjoyed with headphones that isn’t just mashing together styles. A good mix succeeds in conveying a story through music, using the different parts as thematic elements and tools to push and pull on the listeners’ feelings. Good mixes will recontextualize the source material and sometimes completely change both meaning and feeling by surrounding it with other tracks.
Then there’s brilliant mixes that stands above the good ones I just mentioned. These often use unknown material together with known material to create truly unique experiences while listening to them. The thing that sets these apart from good mixes are when you really can’t tell if the music is all from the same album, as the person mixing is doing such a good job at keeping the storyline crisp and texture smooth. Every once in a while an album comes along that is all that.
A night outside in July with friends had me scrolling through my music collection trying to find a longer mixed album that could run for 2 hours while we enjoyed the night. I’ve had this album in the backburner playlist for a long time and since I was pretty drunk it seemed like the obvious album to put on.
As you might have realized from me writing about this album, this is truly a brilliant mix on so many levels. Essentially it’s James Holden showing off a couple of tunes from his label Border Community together with a few other songs but it ends up being less about the showcase and much more about the flows. It doesn’t hurt that these songs are truly good tech house music but the interweaving of these songs is what creates. I didn’t realize how well this is mixed before hearing it that night, when Holden spins a forgotten track from 1997 called “Lifeformation” which blends in perfectly with “Black Acid Pt 1”.
James Holden mixes this seamlessly but the selection is what makes this one stand out. Looking at the tracklist, one might wonder why Holden would play 2 songs from the same single, only different mixes back to back on the first disc. Once they hit it turns out that this is just a better mix of the actual track that should have been the single, rather than the two individual ones. My only criticism about this mix is the terrible cover image which screams 2005 aesthetic, the sole part of this record that feels dated in 2020.