- Two and a half hours recorded at the Frankfurt institution in January.
- The distinction between official and unofficial DJ mixes is falling apart. Online podcasts have essentially bypassed the process of licensing music or the need for a physical component. The few outlets that still offer licensed mixes, like Berghain and fabric, have moved online or adjusted their presentation to respond to decreasing demand for the CD. A physical format—especially one that people aren't buying or listening to—seems almost like a token of authenticity that only serves to legitimise the same content. It no longer makes as much sense to privilege official mixes as more serious or worthy of critical review.
The Frankfurt institution Robert Johnson recently launched a new mix series, Robert Johnson Archive, to immortalize sets performed live in the club as SoundCloud streams. The first is a 151-minute recording from Lena Willikens' appearance on January 26th, which seems like a good place to start. At the time of writing it has been played more than 13,000 times (a figure that doesn't take into account those who ripped it to listen offline). But the comments praising Willikens' selections or asking for track IDs thin out after the 90-minute mark, which seems to indicate that many people stopped listening to the rest.
That's a shame, because the last half hour is the set's strongest. An acid box jam introduces this groovier, looser-feeling closing section. A flanged-out drum track and a sashaying bassline bleeper provide groovy relief in a mix that privileges attitude and instrumentation over percussive drive. These tracks then segue into a wiggy ten-minute wind down that diffuses the energy with loping basslines and itchy rhythms. It's a nice reward for those who keep the tab open long enough to hear it.
Willikens' first track opens with an ominous soup of wispy pads, laser zaps and pitched-down, muffled speaking. She doesn't linger too long in this mood-setting mode. She dives into groovy breakbeats and sustains that vibe for about 20 minutes, allowing dancers to settle in without pushing them too hard before gently increasing the energy with electro and sputtering timbale workouts.
The mix trades in Willikens' usual formula: electro, post-punk, wave-influenced tracks, percussive oddities and gothic techno. While the set covers a lot of ground, Willikens creates a throughline with broken beats, using a four-on-the-floor pulse only now and again. You can hear an example of this about 52 minutes in, where she drops a housey beat to bridge an electro rhythm and an edgier EBM track.
Unlike a studio mix, Robert Johnson Archive 0001 is a more slice-of-life look into Willikens' DJing. I'm the kind of pedant who would dock points for a studio mix that included tracks like Mike Parker's fabulous remix of "Give A Little More" by DJ Who. (I've heard it in multiple recorded mixes and live since Maceo Plex re-released it last year on his label Ellum Audio.) But when it comes to playing for a dance floor, what matters more is whether that track bangs. A DJ's gotta do what a DJ's gotta do.
01. Lena Willikens - Robert Johnson Archive 0001