Every year around Academy Awards time, some smart person pipes up with the same point people have been making approximately forever about the unfairness of contests. To truly decide who is the year's best actor or actress, goes the argument, have the nominees all play the same role. That's basically what's going on with Macrospective. It's billed as a celebration, not a contest, commemorating the Macro label's silver release with a couple of DJ mixes from label founders Finn Johannsen and Stefan Goldmann. But a duel it is nevertheless: each man's set consists of, more or less, the same 16 tracks. There are a couple of tweaks—Johannsen chooses Santiago Salazar's original "Arcade" while Goldmann picks his own remix, while Goldmann sticks with Namlook's original "Subatomic Particles" as Johannsen nabs the Pépé Bradock version. Mostly, though, the mixes' fascination is in their very different approaches to the same material.
And make no mistake: the differences between the sets are big and manifest. It's telling that Johannsen kicks off with the track Goldmann finishes with, Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras' soft-breathing, slow-mo "I Remember"—the sound, take your pick, of someone waking up and/or going to sleep. That gets at the mixes' respective aims as well: Johannsen takes his time revving into a comfortable middle gear that feels more like backdrop than spotlight.
Goldmann does the opposite—he makes you take notice from the starting gun, his own industrial-ambient "Massenbach" (second up on Johannsen's mix, where it serves notice that things are going to take a while to get moving). While his set's second quarter makes an early, quirky, atmospheric detour (via the Ricardo Villalobos mix of Slap's "Eden Now," with its distant, lonesome horn flickering beneath a quiet, sturdy pulse), the patient metronomic bass and jazz-informed piano of Tuomi's "Expense of Spirit" lifts things back to party mode, albeit from a slightly crooked angle. It's not surprising that Goldmann has the advantage: many of these tracks are his, and indeed Macro began as an outlet for his production work. It's a virtue of both sets that they showcase the same material to such different ends. But like most duels, this one isn't exactly a contest.