Dixon’s work is a re-presentation of house proper, replete with melodies, choruses, vocals, and in some cases, even songs. There are two in particular that sit front and centre as landmarks in this landscape: Tracey Thorn’s ‘It’s All True’, played here in its massive Buttrich version, replete with those big-room synth stabs, and Thom Yorke’s ‘Eraser’, in its original version. This last track fits easily into the midst of the mix as a kind of hiatus between the earlier part of the program, which sidles up to New York and electroid disco with its dry, sparse selections, and the latter part of the program.
Other choices are less successful. I’m still deciding whether I dislike Mari Boine’s ‘Vuoi Vuoi Me’, a track whose vocal, with its very ‘world music’ flavour, is barely tolerable. The long version of Larry Heard’s hit ‘Sun Can’t Compare’ also makes an appearance, but I’ve heard it played out so often over the past twelve months I’m beginning to think it might be time to retire it for a while, before we all get jack of it.
Track selection is always crucial, but Dixon’s choice is the killer in this mix, because he plays each track for an average of four minutes or more. If you don’t like one of the choices, well then, there goes four minutes of your life. Ryan Elliott this is most definitely not. Dixon’s selections also put this mix into an oblique conversation with Ellen Allien’s very nice Fabric compilation from earlier this year, also via Heard and Yorke. While Allien used the Heard track (gently) for the purposes of techno, and deployed Thom Yorke to form a deep connection with Apparat, Dixon’s selection of these two artists seems to be more about integrating key sounds from the scapes of the past twelve months into his own strategy.
In fact, the ‘showcase’ feel of the programming hints that Dixon has either sweated over the selections, or that they’ve evolved as tried-and-true chains of association through regular gigging. The neat segues between tracks bespeak a DJ who understands not only how to use editing software (unless this is a flawless analogue mix) but who also understands the crucial one to two to three of sequencing. Dixon has an all-important master plan, and it’s at work throughout the mix.
The overall effect of this plan is melodic richness, programmatic discretion and the occasional moment of inspiration. Despite the inclusion of many bordering-on-obvious choices, there are more than enough digressions and surprises to indicate that this disc will remain listenable well past the usual six-month expiry date, something that’s difficult to say about a lot of ‘now now’ sets you hear.
However, for this mix to move off the register of the merely ‘very good’ into the realm of excellence, there’s a dire need for a ‘big risk’ track to show how good Dixon really is. And the track is here – but like all big risks, there’s an element of hit-and-miss, and in this case it’s a clunker, to these ears at least. Smith n Hack’s ‘hornier than rubbed shiny brass band’ mix of Herbert’s ‘Moving like a Train’ is decidedly out of place here. While on Optimo’s earlier (magnificent) ‘Walkabout’ mix it dropped like a revelation, the track’s too (ahem) brassy, too strident, too raucous for the remainder of the Dixon mix, and jars with the blue mood of Thorn’s vocal in ‘It’s All True’ that it mixes from. It doesn’t make sense with the preceding elements, but sits at odds with them. Why not just end with ‘It’s All True’? But this is deeply subjective – no doubt for some listeners, this will be the moment that makes the whole set fall into place. Given that these particular selections also make up the last tracks of the much-loved podcast, you have to have faith: Dixon obviously really believes in both of the tracks and their combination with each other. This is his body language, and if you don't love it, he does. At least at that moment, anyway.