How and when did ‘journey’ become such a dirty word? Tenner says that the tipping point is when “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey was re-released. I hear the word now and all I’m picturing is a reality-show contestant’s transition from pub singer to pub singer with a stylist. That or some Eat Pray Love ‘I just need to find myself’ self-absorbed horror show that could possibly have been solved by switching from Cosmo to Vogue.
Let’s reclaim it for the sake of this piece, shall we? See, the best mixes aren’t just a daisy chain of tunes, they’re an evocation or distillation of a time or moment or era that transports you, ideally progressively, starting at A and ending at Z. You know, a journey. Hence the legendary series, Journeys By DJ. Check ‘em if you haven’t. Which brings us to Mark Pritchard‘s vast two-part mix for FACT. Piecing together the chronology and flourishing of jungle from its raw, outlaw, pre-hardcore beginnings to its mid-’90s ascension to the cultural vanguard, the Warp and Global Communications electronica stalwart has turned 90 minutes of music into an artifact, one that can work as a listening experience or as a learning tool, weaving in background context, highlighting how hip hop, house, breaks and garage provided the textures. In short, it’s instructively Darwinian in its presentation of how dance music evolves.
I realize it’s a super-wanky thing to say, but I think we might have a moment here. As a Brit who’s lived through dance music in pretty much all of its iterations writing here for an American site in the middle of the EDM boom, I can’t help but see the structure of the mix as a potential roadmap. While most Androids followers – and a great many of my American colleagues – have a strong sense of how the dots are joined, the wider EDM mass appear to have a wide-eyed naivety reflected in the tunes, unaware that dance music has developed to where it is as the result of overcoming a long-term struggle against the mainstream and the establishment – in the UK’s case, even riding out the Prohibition-esque Criminal Justice Act – giving it a cultural resonance that goes deeper than the biggest drop you’ve ever heard. These mixes offer a guide, a jump-off point for EDM’s next ten years. Pritchard’s mix preserves a special, nascent time in dance music history – a spot not dissimilar to where a large chunk of the U.S. scene is now. What’s needed now is mixes that expand this from America’s point of view, reaffirming your roots and your role influencing the world scene – I’m thinking Detroit, I’m thinking Chicago, and I’m thinking Baltimore – all of which should be proudly matching the urban and hip-hop tropes and mannerisms that are filtering through as EDM affectations.
Dance music starts out crude, amateur, simple, and raw but quickly becomes complex, accomplished, and seminal. That comes through loud and clear in Pritchard’s mix. Think of it as handing you a Cliffs Notes to EDM’s past and, more importantly, its future. Dance music offers a journey that is genuinely progressive and transformative in a way that rock music rarely is nowadays. You have an amazing journey ahead of you. Don’t stop believing.