This is How It Ends: What's the Perfect Way to End a Mix?
We asked some of our favourite writers about the best way to close a session.
Ever since the first DJ stepped up to the platters and spun disc after disc, we've all been told that real DJs — actual DJs, proper DJs, DJs who know how to actually DJs — are masters of narrative, storytellers par excellence, authors of the unwritten word. We think about DJing as a journey. Journeys, often, usually, pretty much always in fact, have a beginning a middle and an end. Wars, power struggles, prime minister's allegedly fucking dead pigs, whatever it is, it has an end. Thus is it follows that DJ sets and mixes have ends too. The end, to me at least, is has always been the best bit of a set. I skim tracklisting after tracklisting to see what the selector's going to close out on.
Whether it's the musical equivalent of a bumpy landing — joining the clapping hordes bumping along the landing strip of Ibiza Airport or Berlin-Schönefeld — or gentle closure — a quiet suck on a boiled sweet and an easy stroll through customs, we all have our preferred comedown after an hour or so of banging around. I'm just one man though, so I reached out to a few other writers to see how it all ends for them in a dream world.
Angus Harrison (THUMP)
I like a mix to have symmetry. Might sound dull, but I always feel bringing the session back to the same tone it started with gives this an amazing perspective to proceedings. Even if the body of the mix jumps from grime instrumentals, to booty house, to Afrobeat, I want it to be bookended somehow. Bit like being picked up outside your house, being driven around for an hour at high speed through bat-shit crazy neighbourhoods you didn't know existed, only to be dropped off on your doorstep again, wondering if it even happened. Great recent example? Four Tet's Dekmantel mix.
Natalie Davies (Dummy)
I think my brain has since been sapped of all its good nutrients, but I did a mix when I was younger that ended with Peshay's "Piano Tune". I layered it up with echoing samples from the bath scene of Fear And Loathing In This Las Vegas, where Hunter S Thompson's Attorney (Benicio Del Toro) is losing his mind and screaming in the bath. No Radox. I think a good mix should build and build then dampen down. For a smooth mix, the last track should be the baby-maker but for a grittier mix, the last track should be surreal and totally out of it, making you feel like you just walked out of the club, lights up, twenty cans down and feeling the brunt of whatever floor drugs you took.
Joe Bish (VICE)
A good mix can be like your best friend when it's special. In the same way a shit mix is like having your ear chewed off by an arsehole at a house party, spilling flat 'Kroney' on your new Evisus, a great mix is your companion for life, reminding you of the good times when you delve back into it. I like to hear a mix end with a good vocal sample, something from an old film or something, nothing too pretentious. Perhaps a chain-yanker from Grandma's Boy or some other stoner film. Harold and Kumar go to Berghain, or something.
Josh Baines (THUMP)
Our formative experiences have lifelong ramifications. We base our experience of the present on experiences we've had in the past. Our future, too, is inescapably shaped by them. Habits, as we all know, are hard to shake. Two mixes that changed my life — honestly, they did — are Michael Mayer's 2003 microhouse classic Fabric 13 and the Erlend Oye incarnation of K7!s DJ-Kicks series. The former is the still the most stirring, solid club focused mix I've heard and one I'll never tire of. The latter doesn't hold up quite as well as it did when I was a bored and lonely 16 year old just beginning to immerse himself in the world of "proper" dance music but it's a charmingly eclectic time piece. I challenge you to find another mix that features both Avenue D' sadly forgotten "2D2F" and "2 After 909" by Justus Köhncke. I digress. The thing that hooked me on both was their endings. Mayer rounds things off with Heiko Voss' unspeakably lovely "I Think About You" and Oye slides into the ether after airing Morgan Geist's gossamer thin, sadlad downtempo cosmic disco classic "Lullaby" — though the version I had, ripped onto a CDR after stealing it on Soulseek rounded things off with Erlend singing over Ada's timeless "Luckycharm" which, since you asked, is a contender for the best piece of music ever ever made.
So there you have it: sadlad slow jams, stoner flicks, symmetry — this is how it ends.