San Francisco DJ Nikola Baytala has become a crucial component of the minimal-techno collective known as Kontrol. But don't typecast him as a one-dimensional droid with a M-nus Records logo tattoo. He's been exploring the upper echelons of the techno/house continuum since the early '90s (including the last 10 years at The Top, a weekly event hosted by S.W.A.T., aka Special Weapons and Tactics), gaining a reputation as a DJ's DJ, with acclaim coming from house-music legends like Derrick Carter and Doc Martin. Moreover, Baytala's list of musical influences and loves is vast, eclectic, and impeccable. The following roll call just scratches the surface: dub/reggae (Lee "Scratch" Perry), jazz (Pharoah Sanders), world (Ravi Shankar, Mulatu Astatke), funk (Cymande), soul (Bill Withers), hiphop (Gang Starr), Krautrock (Can), electro (Egyptian Lover, Kraftwerk), disco (DJ Harvey), Latin (Tito Puente), soundtrack/new age (Vangelis), rock (Steely Dan), post-punk (ESG, Liquid Liquid), and post-rock (Outhud). As for his bread and butter, Baytala similarly displays excellent judgment, with a heavy preference for quality-pushers like Jeff Mills, Gas, Monolake, Robert Hood, Theo Parrish, and Mr. Fingers. When you see a DJ possess such wide-ranging, outstanding taste, it instills confidence that he/she will rarely, if ever, veer into wackness. Baytala clearly has put many hours of study into his craft, and it's paid off with smooth mixes and world-class track selection. Besides his formidable technical skills and profound knowledge, Baytala reportedly exudes a lot of personality and passion behind the decks, which must have served him well while opening for acts like Jane's Addiction. Everything I've heard by Baytala suggests that his sets avoid the supposed pitfalls of minimal dance music. They're kinetic and dynamic.
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