Classic house and breakbeat records, mixed with personality.
It was astute to launch T4T LUV NRG, her new label with Octo Octa, with a DJ mixtape. It plays to her strength—DJing—and reinforces her musical identity. It's also a refreshing move to reinvest in the idea of the DJ mix as art object. In a landscape teeming with free streams, it can feel like you need a host—usually a publication, small online series or one of the remaining few licensed mix outlets—to legitimize a recorded set. It takes a DJ with chops and chutzpah to use their own platform to sell one (especially as a cassette). Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1 shows that Drew has both.
The 72-minute session is a retro array of chunky house and swashbuckling breakbeats. Such a tight stylistic focus could easily feel static, yet in Drew's hands it comes off well-read, not rote. Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1 brings together familiar samples from disco, funk and soul that surfaced on many '80s and '90s garage records from the US and UK. James Brown's "Funky Drummer," Jomanda's 1988 track "Make My Body Rock" and Musical Youth's 1982 reggae hit "Pass The Dutchie" all make cameos. There's no tracklist, but you'll probably recognize something here, even if it's only a time-honored synth sound, a classic loop or an oft-sampled vocal.
Sometimes these sounds appear only briefly due to Drew's style of mixing, which the liner notes explain is deeply influenced by the '90s Chicago turntablists known as the B96 Mixmasters. Many, if not most, of the transitions involve a trick, like sudden tempo changes or rhythmic fader flicking. This makes for some bold and exciting—if sometimes imperfect—mixes. It works when she whips up a big moment by juggling a vocal, or when she cuts between records or doubles in a way that makes it hard to tell exactly what's going on. But it's also distracting when the execution is clumsy.
Of course, those moments are part of Drew's charm. Ultimately, it only makes her more credible as a fearless and diligent selector, and makes her mixing feel more visceral and live. Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1 clearly transmits Drew's vibe as a DJ, and also as a person: she carries the torch of original American house music on stylistic, technical and spiritual levels. There's obviously a layer of nostalgia here—after all, it is a DJ set of old house tracks presented on an anachronistic format. Still, it's refreshing to think of a DJ mix not as free content, but as a powerful relic of a bygone era of club history. Or at the very least, an artistic object.