Dixon: Live at Robert Johnson Vol. 8
Live at Robert Johnson

Any DJ preparing a mix invariably confronts the challenge of how to differentiate his/her mix from those that have come before (the Live at Robert Johnson series' three-year run, for instance, has featured mixes by Prins Thomas, Roman Flügel, Ata, Arto Mwambe, and others). Certainly one way to do that is to buck convention and not just omit beats from an introductory ambient track but from a mix's first half, as Dixon does in this final chapter in the Live at Robert Johnson series and also purportedly the last mix the Berlin DJ/producer will himself produce (henceforth, Live at Robert Johnson plans to release only EPs and unmixed compilations, whereas Dixon's focus will be on his label, Innervisions, and his own productions).

The typical mix segues between peaks and valleys, with the gradual changes in intensity tightening the tension at certain moments and loosening it at others. Dixon's, by contrast, fixates on an ever-slow build such that when the kick drum finally does appear six songs in during Agoria's gospel-tinged “For One Hour” the impact it has is all the more powerful (in truth, it's not entirely the case that beats don't appear during the first half-hour, but in those cases where they do, such as during the second piece, Ursula Bogner's “2 Ton,” they're hardly clubby in nature nor the primary element). Holding back in the way Dixon does also invests the mix, once it does take flight, with an urgency that feels better-earned than it would had it charged from the gate. The set begins in a thoroughly kosmische state with the synthesizer swirl of P. Éladan's “Morgenthal” before gradually moving onto the insistent pianistic acrobatics of Hauschka's “Wonder” and Barnt's tension-building “Collection.” Past the halfway mark, the mix rises to an epic pitch with Cologne Tape's “Render 2,” turns groovy via the disco-slam of Roman Flügel's “Dishes & Wishes,” and eventually peaks with a fiery, bass-thumping Âme remix of Osunlade's “Envision” and the pumping swizzle of Todd Terje's “Snooze 4 Love.”

There are unusual moments, for sure. The gravelly voice drawling through Hatikvah's “Big Mind,” for example, can't help but call to mind Robbie Robertson's “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” (from his 1987 self-titled solo debut), and isn't that Diana Ross surfacing during Dixon's edit of Mark E's “Call Me”? But more significantly, a curious tension arises between the oft-sober moodscaping and the propulsion of the beats churning below (Bruno Gauthier's dramatic “Existing Reality” a case in point). It's almost as if Dixon designed the mix so that the two would operate at cross-purposes to one another, which in turn becomes one more thing that distances his set from others. In addition, the tracks themselves often are melancholy in tone, as if Dixon purposefully intended for the mix to bring out its wistful and nostalgic sides in place of the customary euphoria.

October 2011