I’d been looking for an excuse to do a DMZ only mix for a while now. And then my good friend Javier from Serie B mentioned that he’d never heard any of the early and classic DMZ releases until I linked him to the audio from the recent Red Bull Soundclash. I’d found the excuse I needed to do the mix. The idea was simple: do it like we used to back in the days when you’d put all your best songs on a tape for a friend to turn them onto something. Only this time the tape would be digital.
I spent most of the Easter weekend putting this mix together – it went from an all-out, in depth retrospective to a more measured attempt at a ‘best of’, or at least my ‘best of’. I’d originally got it just under 90 minutes to keep with the mixtape vibe but then realised I’d forgot a couple of tracks I absolutely wanted on there so instead of binning it and starting again I just added them and the result is 46 productions in 100 minutes – all tracks by Mala, Coki and Loefah including at least one track from each of the DMZ label releases plus key releases and remixes on various other labels including Tempa, Deep Media, Hotflush and Tectonic among others.
The following blurb about the mix is rather long so if you just want the music skip to the bottom of the post for link, tracklist and stream option.
Putting the mix together and listening back to it got me reminiscing about my own DMZ history and love story with the label, the artists and their music. It all started in 2005 on a rainy evening in London sometime after the summer. I randomly bumped into Steve Kode 9 – who at that point I hadn’t seen in ages – somewhere in Shoreditch who told me to come through to the Old Blue Last pub where he was spinning with some friends that night. I changed my plans and headed to the pub to find him alongside Mala from Digital Mystikz spinning upstairs to a small crowd (I think this night was part of the pub sessions which took place in 04/05 around London if memory serves me right…). And that’s when I discovered DMZ as a label and a sound for the first time.
I’ll never forget that night – every track Mala dropped had me rushing to the decks asking ‘what the hell is this?!’ before jumping around like a lunatic. I must have made a right tit of myself but I walked away that night with a grin on my face like never before and a phone full of release names and one label in particular, DMZ. In many ways this is also the night I ‘discovered’ dubstep again if you will, a few years after being first introduced by Kode to the dark garage mutations taking place in south London after he took me to some early FWD>> sessions at Plastic People and played me his early stuff.
The next thing I know I was in Blackmarket looking for DMZ releases and I went to my first DMZ dance in Brixton, the last one held at Third Base. The second one I went to was the now infamous night where they had to stop the party halfway through the night and move everyone from Third Base to the club upstairs, Mass, where they have been since because the crowd outside was stretching around the corner and there was no way Third Base would hold that many people.
It’s been nearly five years and in that time my love and respect for DMZ has only grown stronger. As a label they are for me one of the most consistent in the quality of their output, making them as fundamental to the sound and history of the music as Hyperdub, Tempa or Hotflush. As Mala and Loefah have both said in interviews, DMZ is a sound. It’s not dubstep, it’s the DMZ sound. It may be a part of dubsptep, but only as much as Hyperdub is or Tempa or Hotflush, to keep the comparisons with what I see as the other 3 key labels in the history and evolution of the music.
As a sound I never stop marveling at just how powerful the productions of these three individuals have been and continue to be. From Mala’s incredibly addictive percussive experiments to Loefah’s minimal sub assaults and Coki’s wobble experiments. These guys are responsible for creating, willingly or not, templates for the sound which have become standards. What’s more remarkable though is how they’ve steered clear of the pitfalls others so willingly fell into. They have always stayed true to their craft and their love of the music, and that’s not only visible in the productions, and their longevity (some of the tracks in this mix are 6 or more years old now), but also in their bi-monthly dances.
Going to a DMZ dance is something anyone who has ever felt something for their music should experience at least once if they can. I remember shortly after, and before, the dances became popular following the Mary Ann Hobbs special on BBC Radio 1 people would come to London from all over the world, literally, to witness the DMZ experience. The atmosphere, the people, the music all combined for some of the most intense and memorable live experiences I’ve ever had. When I left London for two years to go to Japan the one thing I always wanted to return for and missed the most were the DMZ dances.
All of which is a long winded way to explain that this mix is not only a present to a good friend of mine but also a way for me to say thank you to Mala, Loefah and Coki for their gift of music and the inspiration they have provided me in the last five years. Even if the label and dances were to stop tomorrow they would never be forgotten and will always live in my heart as some of the most important moments in my musical life. I spoke about this in more detail in my Red Bull Soundclash review, but one thing I realised after the clash is that to me DMZ, and their sound, are the musical epiphany equivalent to the jungle, hardcore and the early rave days of many of my British friends. I never grew up with rave and its offshoots, living in the south of France I was never exposed to that until I was 16/17 and moved to the UK. And while jungle and the post-rave mutations have been an important part of my musical make up, they haven’t had the same impact that DMZ, Hyperdub and others have had on me as a young man living in London who saw and witnessed the sound evolve, grow and become worldwide. I have a connection with this sound that is spiritual and goes incredibly deep. Like with rave music, I never knew about sound system culture until I was older and DMZ were key in helping me rediscover that culture and fall in love with it all over again.
Back to the point. You can download the mix below, or stream it, as well as find a complete tracklist. As I said before this is a best of Digital Mystikz (aka Mala and Coki) and Loefah productions – all of which are out, though most of the earlier ones are out of print and not all available digitally. All tracks mixed, mashed and dubbed in Ableton.
There are so many unreleased and lost dubs from these guys as well, many of which are for me incredible tunes (Mala’s Mountain Of Dread March, Eyez, Pop Pop Epic, Unexpected, Coki’s Lucifer, Loefah’s Boiler Suit and so many more) that I hope they one day see a release. In the meantime you should check out this amazing Joe Nice mix from the summer of 09 which includes a Mala only selection of all unreleased dubs. There are a few other mixes floating around with many of these lost dubs on there, so if you want more get hunting.
That’s it, all that’s left for me to say is enjoy and I hope you find as much inspiration in the music as I have over the last five years. And if you’re in London or Leeds when DMZ is in town be sure to come and meditate on bass weight – it’ll change your life.
Download A London Dub – A best of Digital Mystikz & Loefah (right click and save as) – 232mb, 320kbps mp3 file
Mala – Changes (Deep Medi 004)
Digital Mystikz – Mawo Dub (BAM 004)
Digital Mystikz – Lost City (DMZ 002)
Coki – The Sign (BAM 009)
Loefah – Horror Show (DMZ 002)
Coki – Officer (DMZ 004)
Mala – Learn (DMZ 012)
Digital Mystikz – Ancient Memories (DMZ 008)
Digital Mystikz – Chainba (DMZ 001)
Loefah – Root (DMZ 005)
Search & Destroy – Candyfloss (Loefah remix) (Hotflush)
Digital Mystikz – Haunted (DMZ 008)
Digital Mystikz – Thief in Da Night (Soul Jazz)
Mala – Alicia (White Label)
Digital Mystikz – Earth a Run Red (Soul Jazz)
Loefah – Disko Rekah (Deep Medi 003)
Digital Mystikz – Molten (Tectonic)
Mala – Shake Up Your Demons (Disfigured Dubs)
Mala – Level Nine (Hyperdub)
Digital Mystikz – Anti War Dub (DMZ 008)
Coki – Bloodthirst (FREQ 001)
Loefah – Rufage (DMZ 009)
Coki – All Of A Sudden (Deep Medi 003)
Mala – Miracles (Deep Medi 012)
Digital Mystikz – Neverland (DMZ 005)
Mala – Blue Notez (DMZ 010)
Coki – Spongebob (DMZ 013)
Coki – Walkin With Jah (Soul Jazz)
Digital Mystikz – Twisup (DMZ 001)
Coki – Triple Six (DMZ 014)
Digital Mystikz – Ugly (BAM 004)
Mala – New Life Baby Paris (Deep Medi 012)
Mala – Lean Forward (DMZ 012)
Coki – Goblin (Disfigured Dubz)
Mala – In Luv (White Label)
Mala – Forgive (Deep Medi 004)
Johnny Clark vs Mala – Sinners (Disfigured Dubz)
Mala – Bury Da Bwoy (DMZ 011)
Loefah – Mud (DMZ 009)
Coki ft. Mavado – Gangsta for life (White Label)
Loefah – Jungle Infiltrator (BAM 006)
Digital Mystikz – Conference (Soul Jazz)
Loefah – System (Tectonic)
Digital Mystikz – Misty Winter (Soul Jazz)
Coki – Shattered (Tempa)
Loefah – It’s Yours (Ringo)
Coki – Burning (White Label)