How to DJ your first set without knowing how

July 29th, 2006 by Paul Irish

I was asked to DJ a one-hour set, though I had no previous DJ experience. I didn’t know how to beatmatch, transition smoothly, use Ableton or Traktor, and neither do you. You just have to be comfortable with being a laptop DJ.

Know your audience
I had never been to the venue and from what the outside looked like, I figured inside was a bunch of dusty overweight 30-year-olds with massive facial hair. I took a weekday evening trip over and had a beer inside, scoping out the clientele. I learned that from the balcony dj booth (!), I’d be playing for an affluent, educated set of 20- and 30-somethings that weren’t necessarily music nerds, but seemed receptive to different sounds.

Determine the theme
I thought about what music has moving me lately. While I wanted to do an all out electro-rock-dance-indie set with jams like Wolfmother’s “Woman (MSTRKRFT Remix)” and Madonna’s “Hung Up (Diplo Remix)”, I instead took influence from the very summery flavors of Nickodemus and Captain Planet.

Select your songs
I went through my entire music collection picking out the best tunes that fit the afrobeat/tropicalia/soul/funk vibe. If your audience won’t be earnestly dancing, don’t pick vocal-heavy tunes. Keep a mental picture of the venue inside your head as you listen to your potentials.

Narrow down your picks
After my first sweep, I ended up with 60 tracks, clocking in at 3.75 hours–far more than the one hour I was given. Toss anything that will garner significantly more or less attention than the rest of your set. I had to let go of some classics like Barrett Strong’s 1962 hit “Money”.

Cut it down to size
After tossing half my selections, I still had nearly an extra hour of music. Time for the surgery. I went in using audio editing software (CoolEdit and Audacity work) and cut out extra pieces: extra repetitive choruses, needless verses, instrumental solos. I wanted to keep the song lengths between 2 and 4.5 minutes to keep the energy level moving. [As this takes a bit of know-how and technique, this step is completely optional.]

Put them in order
I used Traktor to help identify the BPM of all the tracks. If you don’t have any audio software, just manually gauge the energy level on a scale of 50-150 for an approximation. My set started with my lowest BPM (79) and gradually worked its way up (with a few tweaks) to finish with my quickest song (126bpm).

Configure your crossfade
Using winamp? I suggest the SqrSoft crossfade plugin. Using iTunes? Even easier; if you left the default settings, your crossfade is already working, though you may want to tweak it in Preferences.

Play it!
Run through it at least once, in its entirety. Watch your levels, some songs are louder than others. iTunes has a fix for this called ‘Sound Check’; try it. Write on a notecard which songs have levels that stick out so you can tweak ’em with your mixer. Otherwise, you’re ready to go!

Well it’s about time for a finished product!

Grab my ‘Breeze and Sweat’ mix.

Like my How To? Be a cool kid and Digg This.

The Court & Spark

August 27th, 2006 by Paul Irish

alt-folk // country space rock

The time of 60’s folk-revival shamanism may be long past, but its embodying awe of life in untapped American places carries on in the wise, mellow songs of The Court & Spark. The titular homage to Joni Mitchell speaks for itself, bringing to mind mature melodic landscapes lush with histories both cloaked and unraveled. Among the eclectic collection populating Absolutely Kosher Records, this band is by far the most creative; their mix-and-match combo of gently accented vocals, bells, tape noises, horns, slide guitar, and everything inbetween sure sounds great on balmy summer evenings.

Vocals like buttermilk biscuits.
The Court and Spark – Suffolk Down Upon the Night
The Court and Spark – Your Mother Was the Lightning

Post contributed by Natalia
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July 5th, 2012 by Julija

french vocal // soft soul

From the very first track of her debut album Jusqu’aux Oreilles (2008), Quebec native Amylie enchants the listener with her soft-toned and subtle sound. The soulful vibes of “Espace” evoke similarities with critically acclaimed Les Nubiennes’ Princesses Nubiennes, while its lush instrumentation and clean hypnotic production reminds the sound of Zero 7. Catchy, uptempo and playful “Mes Oreilles” brings to mind the debut album of French chanteuse Camille.

Fresh, sweet-sounding and vibrant.
Amylie – Espace
Amylie – Mes Oreilles
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The Chemical Brothers

January 17th, 2005 by Paul Irish

big beat // funky electronica

This powerful duo debuted originally with the name “The Dust Brothers”, but an American group with the same name (later well-known for the Fight Club soundtrack) pressed some litigation and forced a change. Though mildly bitter, the british Chemical Brothers carried on, releasing their first album appropriately named Exit Planet Dust. Now, ten years later, the two release Push The Button, a break-rocking record exploring their trademark dance-rock-rap mix. Though “Galvanize” has gotten the first-single attention, it’s the sophisticated dance track “The Boxer” that rocks this record. Hard.
Sorry Fatboy, they’ve come a longer way, baby.

The Chemical Brothers – The Boxer (Feat. Tim Burgess)
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Bobby McFerrin & Yo-Yo Ma

April 16th, 2007 by Paul Irish

vocal // contemporary classical

Sadly, too many people only will recall “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” when they think Bobby McFerrin. Beyond novelties, McFerrin actually brought a lot of innovation to a capella and music, in general. The song below comes from his 1999 collaboration with cello master Yo-Yo Ma. In a simply divine arrangement, McFerrin’s voice and Ma’s cello weave lyrical lines together and apart, creating a sonic landscape that escapes categorization. I hear hints of Akira’s Dolls’ Polyphony in the tune (and since it was released only 2 years after the movie, I bet it’s more than coincidence.)

A master of voice and a master of string. Making sound.
Bobby McFerrin & Yo-Yo Ma – Grace
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Aurgasm@Bumbershoot: Day Three

September 7th, 2009 by Julija


Anomie Belle
We started our morning with the hypnotic strings and vocals of Anomie Belle. Anomie Belle is classically trained violinist and songwriter Toby Campbell, who toured North America with such artists as Little Dragon, The Album Leaf and legendary trip-hop artist Tricky. “Down”, featured here, displays her Trip-Hop experimental aesthetics, while its production brings to mind the clear and smooth downtempo vibe of Zero 7.

Anomie Belle – Down

Oren Lavie
Featured on Aurgasm two years ago, Israeli born Oren Lavie gave a warm and intimate performance that didn’t disappoint. Attached below is Aurgasm’s favourite track “Her Morning Elegance”, which was recently featured on Brian Williams’ “Inside the Obama White House” Special on NBC.

Oren Lavie – Her Morning Elegance

We were happy to catch probably the most playful and colourful show of the festival, Aurgasm’s favourite Lenka. Despite Franz Ferdinand playing at the same time, Lenka had a full house and her music was received with much support and enthusiasm.

Lenka – The Show

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The American Dollar

February 25th, 2009 by Paul Irish

post-rock // cinematic ambient

Please click play. Then click full screen. Big headphones are recommended, as well. “Anything You Synthesize” comes with a heavyweight cerebral punch, but it’s delivered a on silken aural ether. The American Dollar, a Queens, NY duo, construct experimental ambient sonic explorations with a healthy rock influence. This video, created by the Onesize design studio, turns a cinematic song into an enveloping sensory experience. (thx, zimsical)

Mighty sonic expertise meet visual cameracraft.
The American Dollar – Anything You Synthesize
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The Cinematic Orchestra

September 25th, 2004 by Paul Irish

vocal jazz downtempo // film soundtrack chill

Luscious full sound. The Cinematic Orchestra creates music that is unmistakably jazz; it assuages the listener into a feeling of utter contentment. British multi-instrumentalist and composter Jason Swinscoe created the group and has led it to repeated successes. After the release of their first album, Motion, they were asked to perform at the Directors’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony for Stanley Kubrick. Just last year, they were asked to compose a score for the 1927 ground-breaking silent film, Man With a Movie Camera. Below, “All That You Give” features Fontella Bass of “Rescue Me” fame, but now in a entirely different context.
Take up a seat on your sofa, and chill to this mellow motion with soul.

Cinematic Orchestra – All That You Give (with Fontella Bass)
Cinematic Orchestra – Horizon
A video clip of the rescored Man With a Movie Camera

Agnes Obel

July 19th, 2011 by Julija

chamber folk // singer-songwriter

Danish-born and Berlin-based songstress Agnes Obel possesses a natural sense of tone and melody as well as a truly faultless voice. The beautifully crafted somber folk melodies of her debut album Philharmonics (2010) linger in the air and stir the heart. While Agnes vocal delivery brings to mind the long-time Aurgasm favourite Ane Brun, the album ranges from romantic quirkiness of Joanna Newsom to echoes of Debussy. European readers might recognize the bright melody of “Just So”, as the song was used by German telecommunications company and played all over Northern Europe ever since.

Soft piano and haunting vocals.
Agnes Obel – Just So
Agnes Obel – Riverside
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Sonya Kitchell

February 20th, 2006 by Paul Irish

vocal jazz // americana blues

The smoky vocal mysticism of Norah Jones and Natalie Merchant. Unique and developed songwriting ability. This young woman, Sonya Kitchell, has created a calm sound of maturity that you wouldn’t expect from a sixteen year-old. Yes, she’s sixteen. Not to let that be the novelty that propels her popularity–her talent alone can do that plenty. (Alas, the selling point of the talented Matisyahu was his novel cultural juxtaposition, not his firebrand musicianship. :-/) “Train”, from her upcoming album, chugs along fueled by a strummy guitar and Sonya’s full voice. Look for this one in your local Starbucks in a few months.
Young girl with an old soul.

Sonya Kitchell – Train
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