For the first episode of Mixtape Monday, I thought long and hard about what to choose, but in the end, it had to be this – arguably the best DJ mix ever made, and certainly one of the most influential.
For Episode 1, I give you Journeys by DJ; Coldcut – 70 Minutes of Madness.
A genuinely remarkable combination of styles, samples, tempos and grooves, the title is something of a hint as to the audio bedlam that is contained within.
1a.Philorene – Bola
1b.Depth Charge – Depth Charge
2. Truper, The – Street Beats Vol 2
3. Junior Reid – One Blood
4. Newcleus – Jam On Revenge (The Wikki Wikki Song)
5. 2 Player – Extreme Possibilities (Wagon Christ Remix)
6. Funki Porcini – King Ashabanapal (Dillinja Mix)
7. Jedi Knights – Noddy Holder
8. Plastikman – Fuk
9. Coldcut – More Beats
10. Bedouin Ascent – Manganese In Deep Violet
11. Bob Holroyd – African Drug
12. Air Liquide – Stratus Static
13. Coldcut – Beats And Pieces
14. Coldcut – That Greedy Beat
15. Matt Black & The Coldcut Crew – The Music Maker
16. Coldcut – Find A Way (Acapella)
17. Mantronix – King Of The Beats
18. Gescom – Mag
19. Masters At Work – Justa “Lil” Dope
20. Raphael Corderdos – Parp 1 / Rock Creak Parp
21. Luke Slater‘s 7th Plain – Grace
22. Joanna Law – First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Acapella)
23. Harold Budd – Balthus Bemused By Color
24. Photek – Into The 90’s
26. DJ Food – Dark Blood (MLO Nu Blud Mix)
27. Jhelisa – Friendly Pressure (Acapella)
28. Hookian Mindz – Freshmess (Bandulu Mix)
29. Jello Biafra – Message From Our Sponsor
30. Pressure Drop – Unify
31. Love Lee – Again Son
34. Moody Boys – Free
35. DJ Food – The Dusk
The 8th in the legendary Journeys By DJ series, this mix was released in 1995. A time when dance music had already crossed somewhat into the mainstream while still remaining a resolutely underground pursuit at heart – a description that would also be apt for Coldcut, who had enjoyed chart success with tracks like Doctorin’ the House and The Only Way Is Up but then using the proceeds of these to form the remarkable independent label Ninja Tune.
Dance music was still far less splintered and sectioned off than it tends to be these days, where many fans will be annoyed if they hear the wrong kind of tech-house at the event they’ve gone too. Jungle/Drum & Bass was in its relative infancy, having grown from the hardcore scene, techno and house were gaining their own identities and trance was not yet the worst music ever known to man, having a lot more in common with techno than sewage treatment plants. Hip Hop was just exiting what is widely considered its golden era, and big beat was just on the verge of exploding across the indie scene.
Yet, even in 1995 the average DJ mix was basically one style, for an hour or so. This mix kicked the doors in, swaggered in, and boldly said “Fuck that”. Starting with an atmospheric flourish, it quickly gets down to business, with the machine-gun snare-rolls of the jungle of the era warning us to duck. Before you know it, reggae classic “One Blood” is being layered with the crashing breaks, a precursor to the mash-up culture that is often credited towards 2 Many DJs for their Radio Soulwax mixes.
The mix rolls on with its dubby, junglist style seemingly the tone that has been set, before out of nowhere they hit the switch from 45 to 33 on the technics, and the beat slows from frenetic jungle to deep, dubbed out breakbeat. One of those DJ tricks which at the time blew my mind – so simple, so effective. For some time I just thought that was the record, rather than them changing the tempo manually.
From here they drive onwards and upwards, through Plastikman territory, before again startling the listener with a curveball to get from A to B, this time using a Bob Holroyd track to act almost as palette cleanser while using a spoken word piece in fantastic style – “I think people should worship people. I like to worship something I can see, something I can get my hands on… seems like every time I find myself in a bind I always, nothing mystic came to help me, some man or some woman stepped up to say “We’ll help you…” “, nicely capturing the community spirit of the rave world, back at a time when free parties out in the middle of nowhere were still very common (ah, those days waiting to call a number at 1am to hear a message, then drive off to some spot in a forest, off some A road…)
We then step into a trance-inducing, acid-infused hip hop groove, while they start to cut up their name -“How cold” -“He cuts”-“How cold” -“He cuts” – “Cold” “cut” “Coldcutcoldcutcoldcut” – one of the first sparks in my imagination of what can be achieved with your hands manipulating a wax disc. Then the sheer impact of the “SO DAMN TUFF” moment – you’ll know what I mean when you hear it, especially if you’ve got it turned up loud.
I could bang on about basically every transition and every detail in this record, but at this point we’re only about 25 minutes into the mix, I already feel like I’ve skimmed a lot of important stuff, and I’ve written WAY more than I intended to when I sat down this Monday morning, and I have things to do! Suffice to say, I love this mix. If it were a woman, I’d probably not have the guts to ask it out, as frankly I don’t think I’m good enough for it. It’s a masterclass in the art of DJing, in the way you can make the atmosphere of a relatively short mix shift and pulse and evolve with clever planning and skilful execution. They used the limited technology of the time to assemble it “in a way Model T Fords were. In parts basically”, editing on a Kiss FM computer to bring the sections together.
It’s a mix that will make absolutely no sense to someone who loads up that youtube link and then skips through it – to them, it will seem a disconnected, disjointed mess. It’s the genius of how these disparate parts are brought together in such inventive ways that really sets 70 Minutes of Madness apart from the herd, along with a simply exceptional selection of tracks.
For anyone wanting to read more about it, there’s a great interview here reflecting on the mix 20 years on.