The Grandfather Paradox mixed by Henrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon
“The Grandfather Paradox” is in itself a paradoxical mix, if we were to assume that every commercially-released DJ mix’s intent is to entertain the listener. To fully consume Paradox in a manner befitting to its artistic rigor, is to dissect it track by track, sample by sample, to peer with our ears, into what Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon explores with the material at hand. That is a time-consuming process many may not find enjoyable at all. However, I do, and I have done the work for you, so hear me out.
On my first listen, the ideas and intentions behind the mix were unclear to me. It appeared to be a breezy ride through various techno styles, sprinkled with African and tribal elements, going deeper into gentler, minimal territories occasionally, and at times, electro.
A single listen isn’t ever enough for me, especially when it is a collaborative effort between four giants in electronic music and backed by BBE, something’s gotta be interesting here. With repeated listens, and plenty of research into the source material, it became apparent to me, the strategic creative choices the quartet employed that shaped this quietly intelligent accumulation of minimal music past and present. I daresay this is not a DJ mix as it is more than that, it is a carefully stitched-together aural, sound experience.
A few key moments in the mix wouldn’t have been possible if not for certain mixing techniques that DJs seldom use, for they are usually uncalled for. One of them is extreme pitching up and down of tracks, meaning the quickening and slowing down of tracks to fit a certain tempo set by the entire mix. It was bewildering to see John Carpenter’s “The President Is Gone” from the 1981 movie “Escape from New York”, adjacent to Lateef’s interpretation of the eastern hemisphere, both sandwiched between works by two big names in modern techno. One can see that this isn’t the run-of-the-mill mix where the DJ grabs tracks from Beatport’s Top 100 in Minimal. The restrain from wanting to sensibly mix a bunch of tracks that fit with an intended artistic vision led to the use of extreme pitching.
Then there is the use of original, uncredited material from the quartet themselves. Samples from Âme’s “Rej” (layered over ‘Blue Water’) and their collaborative track “D.P.O.M.B.” (layered over ‘Motor Bass Get Phunked Up’), are thrown into the mix, just like how a painter would adorn the canvas with his signature once the masterpiece is completed.
The mix is separated into two halves by the smooth and patient mix between Conrad Schnitzler’s “Elektrocon” and Theo Parrish’s “Feedback”. The sonically diverse second half is what might pique your interest, even though I’d argue that the first half is just as lively, particularly the inclusion of the unconventional (in modern electronic music) 3/2 time signature at the beginning of the mix. This was a precision move to introduce and marry the merits of Steve Reich’s work with modern techno. Also, prior to Paradox I would never have known the appropriate moment to deploy Âme’s remix of Etienne Jaumet’s “Repeat After Me’ sensibly in contemporary clubs – mixing a track made up of 3-beat measure would just go out of phase most of the time.
It is noteworthy that the mix ends off with the work of Louis “Moondog” Hardin, a eccentric and revered pioneer in the avant garde and minimialist scene who wrote all of his music in Braille after losing his sight in an accident at the age of 17. Âme’s fascination of his work permeates from their previous mix “Fabric 42”, a year before.
The Grandfather Paradox is a sound education, a statement about how the mix CD concept can continue in this day and age of the shortened attention span. It is a bold attempt at compressing a vast musical history in 68 minutes, that ultimately, it cannot be but horribly truncated. This truncation also begs and provokes the listener to go further and beyond the fading out of Louis Hardin’s streets sounds at the end of the 68th minute.
Listen to “The Grandfather Paradox” via a playlist I’ve curated on Spotify, that includes more of the tracks used in the mix in their original unmixed forms, and in the right order: