Played Out: Pangaea Amps Up A DJ Set With Breaks And Techno

Pangaea_ Brian Whar
Hessle Audio co-pilot Pangaea breaks down how he builds up the energy in a club by bridging breakbeats with 4/4 house and techno during a typical DJ set.

I found this sequence of tracks from a gig I played at Conne Island in Leipzig few weeks back that I enjoyed a lot. It’s a nice summary of what can characterize my DJ sets approaching a peak, as I move between house and techno via broken rhythms. I noticed that it’s mostly music by UK producers, and while I definitely don’t stick to playing UK music, people do say my sets and music have that vibe. In any case, my ear is certainly drawn towards tracks that are broken or have that bump and swing to them, maybe because my foundational roots are dubstep and sound system music. It’s also mainly new-ish stuff. Like most DJs, I dig for and play out older tracks, but I still think it’s important to keep on top of new music every week so that it carries on evolving and the levels are kept high.

PLACE: Conne Island in Leipzig, Germany.

TIME: Between 2 and 3 a.m., approaching peak time.

1. Mr G., “It Dub” (Phoenix G 2012)

As tools go, this one is a bit of a weapon. That undulating low sub bass is nasty, and bringing it from the last one feels particularly satisfying. That little vocal snippet on top is so effective. I think the track before this was by Fred P, and I originally thought I wanted to play the Overmono tune next right then, but it didn’t work that well so I slipped this one between them. It worked nicely as a transition between house into more techno and broken beat territory.

Before I switch things up rhythmically, I bring in a curveball melody with “Lockner Union”. Since the track is only 3.5 minutes long, I have to get busy with the cue points!

2. Overmono, “Lockner Union” (XL 2016)

This is Tessela and Truss working together on their new project on an EP for XL Recordings. The melody on this is a proper earworm, and I’m a sucker for those slightly trance-y motifs and melodies anyway. It’s a very promising project, and I’m looking forward to what they come up with next.

I slam 2 Bad Mice on top of the Overmono tune, as there isn’t much going on in the high end on “Lockner Union”, so “Limit Of Paradise” would cut right through.

3. 2 Bad Mice, “Limit Of Paradise” (Sneaker Social Club 2016)

This is really cool because it’s the first 2 Bad Mice record since 1994—apart from a track that came out in 2004, which I haven’t heard. It’s a timeless breakbeat track really; the chops are done so well. I don’t enjoying hearing a badly cut-up break put on top of a house or techno tune to signify “rave.” But this is straight from the source, as these guys were pioneering it back in 1991.

The next track by Joy O also uses a break, so I have fun chopping between that and “Limit Of Paradise”. No smooth blends here.

4. Joy Orbison, “Off Season” (Unreleased Hinge Finger)

Both this side and the flip side to Joy’s new record are so good and amazingly well produced. This is just a proper breakbeat track, and although the old school signifiers are there, it still feels like he’s doing his thing and “Off Season” isn’t a pastiche.

The Joy O track is a bit too short I find, so I loop up the end with a 16-beat loop. At this point I move into straight-up techno with a track made by a couple of legends in the genre: James Ruskin and Regis. While mixing in “Except In Dreams”, I enjoy fiddling around with the EQs while fading and filtering the end of Joy’s track on loop.

5. O/V/R, “Except In Dreams” (Blueprint 2016)

So many records try to do what this one does and fall short, but the groove and mix here are spot on. It’s all about when the off-kilter rhythmic lead comes in around two minutes. Stuff like that always works for me.

I use the EQ to switch between the kick on O/V/R’s track and my own incoming track as more elements of “One By One” come through.

6. Pangaea, “One By One” (Hessle Audio 2016)

I could have played more straight-ahead techno at this point, but I wanted to ride the wave of off-kilter stuff a bit more, so I decided to play one of my own from the new album. I definitely had techno sets in mind when I started writing this, as it began as quite a boomy, big-room sound, but there isn’t actually much of a discernable kick drum, so the rest of the track is responsible for driving it forward on top of this low-end rumble.

I move back into straight 4/4 techno territory with a track by Phase, which keeps things moving while retaining a lighter touch

7. Phase, “Module Overload A1” (Cosmic 2000)

This is an older one: Phase’s first record, I believe. There’s such a freshness to it, and like the first track on this list, it’s got a versatile, hypnotic quality that’s driven by the percussion. It’s on Cosmic Records, which was co-run by Steve Bicknell, who ran the Lost parties in London. I was just starting to buy records when this came out in 2000, but because I was still living with my parents in the west England countryside, all my local record shops sold were more commercial (hard) house, trance and drum ‘n’ bass. I’d like to think that, if I grew up in London, I’d have bought this and maybe chanced at trying to get into some of the nights as well. From all accounts, they were such important and influential events for forward-thinking techno in the city, and I long for that still to be a thing now. It’s the attitude I came through with since the days of starting Hessle Audio—even though we came at everything through a different angle, that innovation and freshness is something that has characterized lots of dance music to come out of the UK over the years, regardless of genre.

Read more Played Out features with Mike Servito, the Zenker Brothers and more. Pangaea’s album, In Drum Play, is out this month on Hessle Audio.

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