This mix is one of the best I have recorded, in terms of how it felt when it landed at the time. It’s been 16 years in the making - more if you cycle back to the Balearic sets of the 1990s which inspired me with the notion of telling stories by sequencing tracks and creating a time capsule to take people on a journey through sound. Since Sol System in 2003, with memorable repeats thanks to Disorient, Kostume Kult, Mirage Garage and others who have been kind enough to invite me to play, I’ve been itching to program a more ambitious, ‘soundtrack-ish’ type of set for sunrise at Burning Man. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood in front of art cars as the orange orb rose up over the mountains, stared up at the decks and wondered Why, when you’ve got a few thousand spaced-out people in front of a massive sound system, would you choose to play… this?? DJs that don’t take risks and just plod along monotonously – I just don’t get it.
The risk I decided to take this year was to kick off with 10 minutes of beat-free ambience and vocals. Following a chance meeting with the legendary Jefr of Root Society – consistently among the most thunderous, jaw-droppingly awesome sound stages on the playa - he asked me to spin for him Friday 7am. The crowd had thinned out by then, so it didn’t take much balls to pull the rhythmic rug out from under their feet. What it did do was clean out the sonic cache in the audience’s collective head and create a sense of space to reflect the vast expanse and arresting stillness of the desert. There is a more somber side to the Black Rock City experience than the wild hedonism for which it is famous: a soulfulness that emanates tangibly from the sacred terrain and is symbolized by the Temple where thousands leave dedications to those that have recently passed. Gazing out at this year’s edifice, it felt poignant to play a tribute to Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, a true pioneer of loud/quiet dynamics, who died in February and whose work brims with the existential hum of a lone human coming to terms with a stark wilderness. Thanks to Duncan Forbes for turning me onto that seminal B-side. It provided a lush backdrop for the beats to come back in on a ‘Spiritual High’. Talk about luxury: to let that play out in its entirety, and then bask in Moodswings’ fat bassline rumbling up from the bins below (24 x 21”s among them, FYI)… the cascading choruses and Chrissie Hynde’s peerless vocal pouring out across the playa, scything through the elements, shrinking time and space… it was full-body goosebump stuff that sent shivers down to my bones and gives me shivers just thinking about it as I write this now, a week later. A track I’ve known for 24 years and will now always associate with that amazing moment.
Yes, I do know how I survive, Yes, I do know why I’m alive, To love and be with you, Day by day by day by day…
The next section of the mix offers nothing much new, just a few favorite tracks from over the years that seemed to gel really well as the dawn warmed us up. The power of the stage made these tunes sound fresh and BIG: stopping people on their bikes as they rode past, inducing them to take a break to dance up their own little private dust storm, then bound up to the platform on Rolling Root all misty-eyed to give me a hug, the music creating a connection with friends and complete strangers alike – that’s what I do it for; that’s what makes it feel like these moments can last forever.
For those who couldn’t be there, and especially Lucy F (whose presence was missed most keenly during the bittersweet cadence of the final track), I hope you’ll get a chance to hear this in similar circumstances: rich vibes, deep frequencies, smiling faces, uplifting lyrics, warm breeze, golden rays bathing distant hills, all the dials turned up to 11. It's not a mix to hammer, it's one to keep under wraps for certain times when this will all make sense - a lucid hour of inner escapism, where music touches your soul.
- Deep House