Let’s not beat about the bush: 2017 was far from a vintage year for the commercial mix. While all and sundry have been lining up to ring the death knell, 2018 is full of enterprising projects looking to buck the trend. To be fair, the commercial mix has an uphill battle to fight in today’s market. With a multitude of podcasts and streaming media platforms – seemingly existing with some sort of “this is fine” gentleman’s agreement in terms of track licensing – the financial and creative constraints that bind both label and DJ as soon as an asking price enters the frame means that the endeavour is often a labour of love. For the brave, it is still in the lap of the gods as to whether a consumer is going to choose to spend money on your product or defect to the near endless hours of freely available material out there.
This has led to some labels looking for unique selling points that the likes of Soundcloud and Spotify are unable to replicate. One such angle is to commission tracks exclusively for the mix, often offering the results as a companion vinyl offering. Taking this concept to the absolute extreme is Phillip Sollmann. His ‘Naïf’ mix – a collaboration between Curle and his own rebooted Naïf imprint – comprises an albums worth of Efdemin material, plus a stellar supporting cast also providing unreleased and never heard before material. Rather than face the unenviable task of selecting a sliver of tracks for a double or triple pack to send out with the mix, every track bar one is made available across a mammoth seven piece series of vinyl. It is a canny avenue to take with the mix demonstrating each track at their in situ best, acting as perfect advertising for the wax based wares.
Of course this would be for nothing if the contents did not live up to expectations. To physically describe the momentum of ‘Naïf’, it takes me back to a childhood that was shy on common sense. While a passenger in a car, I’d enjoy the sensation of putting my hand out of a car window, cupping it so it was in the shape of an aeroplane’s wing and feeling for that perfect point where I’d catch the passing air current. With a near imperceptible twist anti-clockwise of the left hand, my arm rose, quickly levelling to catch the current again. Another subtle twist clockwise and my arm drifted downwards, adjusting again to feel the bumps of air gliding by. In essence, ‘Naïf’ is an aerodynamic mix. Locked into the groove from the first moment, it is made of those subtle movements between currents. It is also a considerably safer experience than sticking an appendage out of a moving vehicle. Don’t do that.
"The commercial mix certainly still has a few tricks up its sleeve and it would be a far poorer world without it. 'Naïf' is an incredibly strong argument in its favour."
The blends between tracks are seamless and the focus is not simply about dropping in scene stealing tracks that maraud across the mix with neon signs flashing. Instead you find yourself shifting between those currents, each coming with its own motif. At first you’re drifting through subtle jazz infused tones – the highlight here from Sollmann and Gürtler on ‘Watte‘ – but, before long, you find yourself entering a starker sci-fi influenced sequence of sound – with Staffan Linzatti ‘Gas‘ being the point where you really start to twig the shift in tone. Everything then melts down for a second, with an arresting sequence that sees the weird cosmic ambient of DIN ‘Glide‘ slipped in as an accent, before we descend darker and darker through cuts from Pharoh, Pom Pom and a stand out waltzing piece of techno from the combination of Efdemin and Konrad Sprenger on ‘Laveline‘.
From here we slide through muscular techno and into synth laden territories, showcasing melodic, dissonant and hypnotic tendencies. This is the mix at its peak, absolutely commanding your investment. By the time Efdemin’s own ‘Move Your Head‘ comes in, you’ll be panting in empathy with the near out of breath vocal delivery. Then, as if sensing a need for respite, is the lifting of the foot off the accelerator for the finale. Aubrey and Simone Gatto ‘Groove 1996‘ allows a little looseness to slip in to what is an incredibly taut mix end to end, before we close with the dreamy ‘Love‘.
If you listen to the mix as a sequence of audio without context, it is beguiling and evident that it is an excellently executed techno mix. It is as you start to peel through the twenty nine tracks in their full length entirety that you start to understand the artistry on show here. Here, you realise that there are sections where elements from two or three tracks are looped together into totally unique instances, like the precise environmental conditions required in order to form a snowflake in a cloud. This peek behind the scenes simply enhances your appreciation. The commercial mix certainly still has a few tricks up its sleeve and it would be a far poorer world without it. Efdemin’s ‘Naïf’ is an incredibly strong argument in its favour.
Keep a look out for our in-depth interview and photo shoot with Efdemin. Naïf is out now in CD, cassette and digital formats, order a copy here.
1. Autolyse – Tag Drei
2. Phillip Sollmann – Aliasing Bells
3. Sollmann / Gürtler – Watte (Efdemin Version)
4. WaWuWe – Beams
5. Efdemin – Sirius
6. Marco Shuttle – Onda Anomala
7. Jeroen Search – Modus Luminatione
8. Kuf – Untitled
9. Staffan Linzatti – Gas
10. Cassegrain – Future D’Argent
11. DIN – Glide
12. Pharaoh – Donald
13. Pom Pom – Untitled
14. Efdemin / Konrad Sprenger – Laveline
15. Margaret Dygas – Fony
16. Rhyw – Not Now, Not Yet
17. Gunnar Haslam – Neuromantic
18. Savas Pascalidis – 1Q84
19. Patrik Skoog – Drake Equation
20. Inland – Sherpa
21. Jinge – Kation
22. Tobias. – Keep Me Insane
23. Nihad Tule – Lean Forward
24. Steve Bicknell – Running Man
25. Efdemin – Move Your Head
26. DIN – Akustikkoppler
27. Efdemin – Palindrome
28. Aubrey / Simone Gatto – Groove 1996
29. Efdemin – Love