By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Barring unforeseen circumstances -- an apocalyptic computer virus, a reign of terror by a worldwide legion of rockers or a welcome retreat back to an agrarian society -- the volume of electronic dance music released in the next century will no doubt bury us all as every wannabe superstar poops out studio-quality recordings in his/her own bathroom at the rate of a dozen a week. A huge toilet sits due south of your beloved cable modem: Toss it in there and flush it into the magical treatment plant that is the Internet, the great equalizer. Better yet, press it onto a 12-inch, the great legitimizer, and turn it into black gold. Everybody else is doing it.
Who's there to pick through the pile for the pearls?
The most interesting innovation in recorded music in the past decade addresses this very problem, and it's a perfect solution: the mix CD, a medium in which a DJ plays curator, selecting and presenting shining tracks in an interesting order; in the best cases, she/he fashions a whole new thing, a nonstop drama that tells an instrumental story. The mix CD is evolving into an art form all its own, and one of the recent best of these mixes is this playful, exciting work from Matthew Herbert.
Herbert, who records on his own as Dr. Rockit, Wishmountain and Herbert, makes refreshing, melodic dance music by sampling everyday objects -- a salt shaker, crumpled paper, radio static -- and creating rhythms and melodies from them. He has an obvious appreciation for transforming curious sounds into rhythms and melodies. Let's All Make Mistakes is one continuous mix of this stuff that moves from funky, driving techno and to groovy trip-hop (Moloko) to freaky Chicago house (Green Velvet) to schizo synthetic melodicism (Si Begg) to booty house (DJ Deeon) to gorgeous minimalism (Plastikman) to the highlight, the Latin-tinged electro ballad "La Musica" by Hombre Ojo. Through it all, Let's All Make Mistakes retains a sense of freshness and adventure, leaps through and destroys all the different subgenres (really, what the hell is tech-house?) and mounts a momentum that Herbert ably retains from start to finish.
Unlike most DJ mix CDs, Herbert did this live to tape -- not with Pro-Tools -- and the "mistakes" of the title don't detract from the mix but add to it: You can hear a record skip here and there, he drops the beat slightly on occasion and at one point you can hear a phone ring in the background. But in the crisp, faux-perfect world of computer-based music, these missteps signal a confidence and lack of concern for the idiotic "Superstar DJ" method of grading a mixer and add a layer of levity to the release that's perfectly mirrored in Herbert's song selection.