Year in Music: Keep on truckin'

Beats that drive motorists crazy

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I do a lot of driving, which sucks. I don't like cars. They stress me out, they mess up the environment, and even 10-year-old minivans are stupidly expensive, but I live in the sticks and do a lot of traveling to places where public transportation is an urban myth, so I don't have much of a choice. However, one thing makes long trips in the car bearable: DJ mixes. Whether it's neck-snapping hip-hop (perfect for manning up and not letting that 18-wheeler cut you off) or relentless techno (tailor-made for the final miles of an eight-hour jaunt to Oregon), a solid DJ mix is the perfect accompaniment to hours spent trying to go as fast as possible without getting yet another speeding ticket.

This year offered more than the usual share of potential candidates for the perfect driving mix. In addition to the typically top-notch offerings from the likes of Fabric (check James Murphy and Pat Mahoney's Fabric 36 for a spectacular romp along the edges of past and present disco) and the typically abysmal efforts by DJs voted number one by tasteless trance lovers all over the world (Armin van Buuren's Hoover festival Universal Religion 2008 on Ultra, replete with synchronized crowd noise and snare rolls, tops that list), two stuck out in particular.

More often than not I found myself reaching for Future Soul Sessions Vol. 1 (Bagpak), on which the stop-and-start rhythms' broken beat perfectly matched the stop-and-go traffic one usually faces when attempting to escape the Bay. Ernesto Vigo of Elevations Radio on Harlem's WHCR did a stunning job of charting a trip through broken beat's best, from international figures like Ty, whose flowing rap for "What You Want" is up to his usual smooth snuff, to New York cats like Bagpak boss Yellowtail, who teams up with Alison Crockett for "You Feel Me," an absolutely smashing future soul classic with a vocal break that had me frequently causing consternation in nearby drivers with my attempts to match Crockett's vocal prowess.

Once free of the urban congestion, I invariably turned to some good old four-on-the-floor. Only one mix survived my periodic pogroms of the iPod Shuffle that stores my house and techno mixes: "Hot Oven Hand," by San Francisco's DJ Worthy. Worthy is a rising star within the twisted techno world centered around the dirtybird Records camp, and "Hot Oven Hand" came from the label's Web site, though there isn't a single dirtybird track in the mix. Fair enough, since I already have all of their damn stellar output and look to mixes for the new. Instead, we're treated to the pop-locking percolation of "Back the Beat," by Ran Shani on CR2, and the spaced-out synth swirl of Swag's "Just Pull It Dub" of Jimpster's "Don't Push It" on Freerange. Yet the highlights of the mix are Worthy's compositions, particularly the grin-inducing, squelchy bounce of "Crack El" (Leftroom) and the speaker-testing tension of "Bass Quake," on his Katabatic Records. With an absurdly stuttering, chittering hook and a progression that belies its creator's relative newcomer status, "Bass Quake" was one of 2007's high points. But be warned: although the impulse to stupidly wave your hands in the air is perfectly acceptable on the dance floor, it's not advisable while doing 90 over the Tehachapi Pass in a thunderstorm. *


1. LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great" (DFA/EMI)

2. Baby Oliver, "Primetime (Uptown Express)" (Environ)

3. Square One, "Vesuvius (Justin Martin Mix)" (Freerange)

4. Bassbin Twins, "Woppa" (Bassbin)

5. Lanu, "Disinformation" (Tru Thoughts/Ubiquity)

6. Riton, "Hammer of Thor (Roman Fluegel Mix)" (Souvenir Music)

7. Sebo K and Metro, "Transit" (Get Physical)


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