Played Out: The Logic Of Fort Romeau’s DJ Set Build-Ups

TIME: Any time
PLACE: Any club

There are as many approaches to playing a set as there are DJs, and it can be a difficult tightrope to walk. I’ve never been a fan of the totally self-indulgent approach of just playing anything at anytime, regardless of the context. To me that misses the principal function of the DJ. At the same time, no one wants to feel like they’re robotically smashing out hit after hit for two hours. I think theres a balance, a push and pull that the best DJs are able to find that keeps the energy up but also clearly expresses their own point of view. The main consideration for me when I’m DJing is to create a cohesive narrative to a set, so I’ll often anchor a sequence of four or five tracks around one key song, which is in this case “Mutter” by Konstantin Sibold. The track has a big trance influence and is quite a statement, so I use the songs before it as an introduction to create the right context. I included this sequence in my Groove podcast, but I was playing with it at gigs before I recorded the mix. If I was DJing, it would probably come no earlier than halfway through my set, as I always like to warm myself up a bit and create a framework before really getting into it.

  1. Chymera, “Episode” (Cocoon 2016)

This is a great track from Chymera that develops and builds energy really nicely over its long duration. It’s also a nice balance between a modern, reduced techno sound and a more melodic, sequence-driven kraut/trance vibe, so it hints at where we’re headed.

I generally prefer smooth long blends when mixing—especially when it’s this trippy longform track. So for this one I’m just slowly re-balancing the tracks and swapping out the basses.

2. Plastikman, “Purrkusiv” (Plus 8 2015)

After the long, sustained arpeggios of the Chymera track, I want to give some contrast with something totally rhythmic. This is a newer Richie Hawtin production with a classic Plastikman vibe and a deceptively simple and skillful use of drum machines that builds into a real workout.

I let this roll on for a few minutes before fading up the next track. It’s totally percussive so it’s essentially atonal, and the riff from the Benjamin Milz track afterwards blends seamlessly into the rhythm. It’s just a case of carefully swapping out the frequencies to make the transition completely smooth.

3. Benjamin Milz, “DC2” (Live At Robert Johnson 2016)

This is another new track that has a really cool and slightly ’90s acid techno vibe to it that pairs really well with the track it’s building into. It also introduces a little melody back into the mix from the previous track, but it’s still quite a rhythmic workout.

“Mutter” is all low end in the beginning, so I fade up the track with the bass fully in and pull out the bass from “DC2” at the same time. Then, as the tracks aren’t in complimentary keys, I need to be sure that I’ve pulled out almost all the melody line from “DC2” before the main sequence of “Mutter” comes in, otherwise it will sound jarring.

4. Konstantin Sibold, “Mutter” (Running Back 2016)

By now the stage is set for the main track and the peak of this trippy acid/techno/trance segment. It’s the kind of track that, if used at the right time and in the right context, can create a real moment. The last 15 minutes of the mix have been programmed to create the correct atmosphere and context for this track.

As that section of the mix peaks, I like to switch gears a few times in a set to keep it dynamic, so the next blend is a little quicker but still hopefully quite seamless and fluid.

5. Benedikt Frey, “Out Of Here (Roman Flügel’s Cosmic Disco Drama Rework)” (Hivern Discs 2016)

This track has a slightly different energy but still feels related to where we have been, which allows me to pivot in a different direction and maybe go on to something more Italo/electro/EBM- or acid-based.

Fort Romeau recently released a new EP, Reasons, and he will play at the Telekom Electronic Beats Clubnight at Institut für Zukunft in Leipzig on July 6, 2017. Find more information and buy tickets here. Read previous Played Out columns here.

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