DJ.Food: Music On A Shoestring [Psychonavigation 2000 - 2015]
Psychonavigation Records

To celebrate fifteen years of operation, Psychonavigation Records recently commissioned DJ.Food aka Strictly Kev (Ninja Tune) to create a mix CD featuring his favourite picks from the label's catalogue. The result isn't your standard house or techno mix but instead an ambient set comprised of twenty-three tracks (his original wish-list far exceeded that number). That the mix is indexed as a single track means that, first of all, it can sometimes be difficult for the listener unfamiliar with the originals to identify individual tracks; it also ensures that the mix will be experienced more as a cumulative, seventy-four-minute whole rather than as distinct parts.

With respect to the first part, there are occasions when it's easy to match the artist to the music—when Arve Henriksen's immediately identifiable trumpet appears, we're obviously in the presence of Enrico Coniglio's “The Girl From Murania,” for example—but there are other instances where the lines blur. Don't get the wrong idea: for anyone but the most obsessive trainspotter, such indeterminacy won't matter much; it also, as mentioned, strengthens the impression of the mix as a whole, even if it's a set that subtly changes shape and colour throughout.

Many a familiar name shows up, including The Future Sound Of London, Roedelius, Alex Paterson, Thomas Fehlmann, Brian Eno (collaborating with New Composers), and (as remixers) Autechre, and long-time Psychonavigation listeners also will recognize label-associated figures such as Lorenzo Montanà, Sense, Bruno Bavota, and Samora surfacing in the set-list.

In threading audio transmissions from the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (most famously, “Obviously a major malfunction”) into its ambient-electronica material, Miss Silencio & Dr.Atmo's “Lebe Deinen Traum” inaugurates the mix on a slightly unsettling note before a more calming, New Age-styled ambiance instates itself via the pretty pianisms of Karol Gwózdz's “Bittkow” and Lorenzo Montanà's “Anya.” Two-thirds of the way into the trip, Bavota's “If Only My Heart Were Wide Like the Sea” introduces a few moments of ocean-side flavour, after which Henriksen's plangent horn purrs alongside a lilting blend of cello and guitar figures. On an engaging programme that sees dub, nujazz, trip-hop, and psychedelia rubbing shoulders with pastoral folk and classical piano sequences, DJ.Food sidesteps one-dimensionality by working breakbeats and other change-ups into the mix without ever straying too far from the mix's ambient-electronic character.

February 2016