- Leave it to TJ Hertz to craft the most intriguing mix you'll hear this year. At a time when a return to simplicity has become one of house and techno's wider DJing trends, the idea of a 36-track studio mix like Kern Vol. 3 isn't exactly au courant. Save for the occasional Joris Voorn set, the days of 100-track mix CDs seem far behind us. Innovation within the format has essentially stagnated. Software like Ableton was once a route to fresh and exciting results, where music was skillfully dismantled and reassembled. As RA editor Ryan Keeling wrote a few months ago, "DJing shouldn't be easy." For those content with stringing together ten house and techno cuts, uploading them to SoundCloud and calling it a day, digital DJing makes it just that.
Some of dance music's most celebrated mix CDs are relatively straightforward, comprising a dozen or so likeminded tunes connected by unflashy transitions—think of Ricardo Villalobos's Fabric 36, Michael Mayer's Immer and Marcel Dettmann's Berghain 02. But those classic sets came long before the current age of the podcast, where groove-led, clubby mixes are everywhere. As listeners, we've become conditioned to a particular method: mixes being propelled forward by a steady groove, no matter what happens on top. Whether it's Kr!z's rolling techno, Ben UFO's UK bass and garage or DJ Koze's house and hip-hop, a consistent groove has long been essential to the format. Objekt's Kern Vol. 3 bravely challenges that convention.
Depending on how you approach it, the first Objekt mix CD is either a slamming techno and electro set or a complexly meditative trip. Transitions are disjointed and often abrupt, repeatedly rebooting the narrative of the drums and basslines. Hertz emphasises the juxtaposition of atmosphere, sound design and mood. In a way, his mix can be a window into the very essence of DJing. It's emblematic of something that largely sets top DJs apart from hobbyists: the ability to link seemingly disparate subject matter in a fluid, cohesive way.
The 75-minute Kern Vol. 3 features ambient interludes ("Love Without Sound" by Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy, Ondo Fudd's "Blue Dot") and significant tempo shifts. (In the 25 minutes between The Persuader's Svek classic "What Is The Time, Mr. Templar?," and Dave Smolen's "Manual Control," the tempo rises more than 15 BPM.) The tracks aren't particularly avant-garde, but the way they're put together is. No two transitions are the same and the mood changes every few minutes. The selections, which generally run for less than two minutes each, are often edited but largely left intact, so it sounds like Hertz isn't playing loops but fleshed-out songs.
Despite using mostly lighthearted music from old and new names such as Beatrice Dillon, Jesper Dahlbäck, DJ Sotofett and Machine Woman, Kern Vol. 3 is more about the ebb and flow of tension. The hypnotic qualities only increase its power. Hertz is a DJ who seems just as comfortable dishing out three hours of functional bombs as he does playing a low-tempo set in a Berlin techno club. He's one of dance music's modern visionaries, so it's no surprise that he's breathed new life into a format on its last legs. Let's hope Kern Vol. 3 inspires others to do the same.
01. _moonraker - Canobraction
02. Beatrice Dillon - Halfway
03. Aleksi Perälä - UK74R1409037
04. Seldom Seen - So So So
05. Final Cut - The Escape
06. Mono Junk - I'm Okey
07. nsi. - Squelch
08. Echo 106 - 100M Splutter
09. Future/Past - Nebula Variation
10. The Persuader - What Is The Time, Mr. Templar?
11. Birdland - Can U Dance To My Edit?
12. Pollon - Lost Souls
13. Fret - Stuck
14. Shanti Celeste - Lights
15. Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy - Love Without Sound
16. Clatterbox - Aspect Ratio
17. Via App - From Across The Room (Edit)
18. TX81Z - Googol
19. Polzer - Static Rectifier
20. Thomas Heckmann - Chiswick Days
21. Sole Tech - Jit The Anthem (75 South)
22. Ueno Masaaki - Supersolid State
23. Dave Smolen - Manual Control
24. Aleksi Perälä & Nick Forte - Untitled (Colundi EveryOne) / Druse
25. Bee Mask - Frozen Falls
26. Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber - Linear Congruence / Intercalation
27. Ondo Fudd - Blue Dot
28. Yair Elazar Glotman - Oratio Continua (Part I)
29. Rully Shabara - Faring
30. ACI_EDITS - 02
31. Dresvn - Bliss feat. Sensational (DJ Sotofett's Raggabalder Dubplate Version)
32. Machine Woman - Swedishmanwithtwoblackboxes
33. Anokie - Black Knight Satellite
34. Skarn - Revolver
35. Ruff Cherry - The Empath
36. Space Brothers - Lodore (Purple Twilight Remix)