Cripes, what took you so long?
I found the Camelot Wheel, that’s what took me so long. The Camelot Wheel is a round thingy developed by Mixed in Key that maps out the relationships of musical keys to one another. It’s a brilliant little tool that makes it a lot easier to keep a music mix sounding sweet and fluid without the need for endless experimenting, perfect pitch, or even a brain.
So here’s how it works, in a teeny, tiny nutshell: You’re spinning a track that’s in G-minor. Find it on the wheel. It’s on the inner track in the six position (6A.) If you want to select something that goes well with it, something that won’t clash like Joby, the one-man-band tumbling down the Odessa Steps, you choose a track with a key that’s either to the left, to the right, or to the next position outer or inner, depending on where you are. So from G-minor, you could stay in G-minor or you could go to 6B, or 5A or 7A. Get it?
Are you all done caring about it?
Well, all right. Hit play. Or download it by hitting the button on the player below.
(By the way, since this mix is all about the smooth transition, I decided to upload the mix as a single mp3 file rather than separate them and zip them up. Without getting too technical, encoding to MP3 often leaves a tiny gap of silence at the beginning and end of each track, which is just milliseconds long, but is still very noticeable. I’d rather get rid of them entirely. Thus the single track.)
Salt – Bluster (Auscultate, 1996)
Kicking it off in E-MINOR, which, according to one random website I visited, elicits complaisance and calm. “Lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears” There’s nothing complaisant about the gut punch of this song from Swedish band, Salt. Tough, yet melodic and graced by singer/lyricist Nino Ramsby’s soaring, kick ass voice. Back when this album first came out, (in 1996, I’m certain, because I remember reading the CD jacket while I listened to the disc over a cup of coffee at the Earthling Bookshop in Santa Barbara,) I read an interview with Ramsby about how she wrote her lyrics in English because she liked the economy of the language. You can say a lot with a little. She knew the language well for a Swede. “Auscultate” isn’t a Swedish word. It’s English, and it describes that act of listening for a heartbeat through a stethoscope. Rad.
Royal Blood – Figure It Out (Royal Blood, 2014)
We remain in E-MINOR for part two of the opening one-two punch. Royal Blood is just two guys, carrying on the tradition of other great two-person bands, like the Spinanes, and then later, No Age and the White Stripes. That’s a huge sound coming out of just two dudes. And whereas all three of the latter bands were guitar/drums, vocalist Mike Kerr plays bass. There are no normal guitars here.
I used to play bass—a BC Rich Warlock. I would spend an hour tuning it to perfection and then bash it into the amp and stage dive from the couch. I was a better bassist in my imagination than I was in real life:
RAC (feat. Kele and MDNR) – Let Go (single, 2013)
Staggering down to F-MAJOR for no reason at all. Hey, you know how when you meticulously tinker with a music mix for weeks, then decide to jettison the Ting Tings song you had for this slot for no reason and just drop in something completely different?
Yeah, me too.
There’s no key matching here. No beat matching. Just a swan dive into something completely different, and sometimes the next good choice in a mix tape is the one that’s least warranted.
Anyway, RAC (which stands for “Remix Artist Collective”) is actually just one guy these days, André Anjos, who has made his mark by remixing the work of a bunch of modern artists. Here, though, he’s doing his own stuff. The thing about RAC that I love is the sheer exuberance of his groove. F-major, if you look at the readings, is pastoral, down to earth, grounded. I dunno if that’s present here, but it’s a nice break after the openers, like stumbling out of a barroom brawl into a nice, sunny afternoon.
(In case it’s familiar to you, the main voice belongs to Kele Okereke from Bloc Party.)
The Landing – Then Comes the Wonder (How Strange to Be [EP], 2015)
A-MINOR (and a giant tempo shift) – Which would have made sense if it hadn’t been for my RAC spaz out, because A-minor is adjacent to E-minor on the Camelot wheel, and would have been a logical step, key-wise from Royal Blood. It somehow works, because I think there’s a rule regarding the Camelot wheel about taking two steps in one direction and flipping to a different ring. I don’t have enough music theory background to understand it.
There’s not too much info out there about The Landing. I’m pretty sure they’re from Australia, but I’m not sure how I know. I think Chris Douridas said as much on KCRW (which is where I first heard this one.) By the way, Chris Douridas has my dream job. By day, he’s a music supervisor in the film biz; by night, he’s a DJ at one of the greatest radio stations ever, AND he had a small role in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Respect.
Dexter Story – Eastern Prayer (Wondem, 2015)
If we jump one step to the outer ring of the Camelot Wheel from A-minor we end up here at C-MAJOR. Dexter Story is a musical giant from the LA scene, but his influences and taste and style range over the whole planet. The album, called Wondem, is a global trip:
“Borrowing from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya, this collection of East African-influenced music is a testament to Story’s decades of dedication to artistic excellence.”
And it’s got one of the coolest covers ever.
And since we just talked about Chris Douridas, I’m gonna confess that I’m stealing this song combo from him. Blatant theft. Drag me to court. “But, Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury… have a listen!” (And then, as I imagine it, I play music in the courtroom and we all end up dancing in the streets and drinking too much elderberry liqueur and getting matching tattoos.
Sofi Tukker – Drinkee (single, 2015)
Dropping back down to A-MINOR here. We’re staying on course in this mix. This tune, by NY-based Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, is one of the reasons it took so long for this mix to come together. It’s utterly unique, at times, spooky, at times exuberantant, and for the life of me, I couldn’t decide what was gonna come next. I don’t have much in my record crates that goes well with it. And believe me, I tried many, many combos. In the end, I went completely sideways and went with…
New Order – Tutti Frutti (Music Complete, 2015)
Yeah, we’re staying on the inner ring, just a step further to D-MINOR, which, according to the Internet is “somber and pious.” Really, Internet?
It’s a weird combo, yeah, but somehow it works, lifting the mix out of the swampy darkness and dropping into a sweeter place. This particular track is a blend of the extended dance mix and the the album mix. See if you can hear the transition.
Oh, never mind, it’s bloody obvious. At least I tried.
mtbrd – Phone Call (no official release, 2015)
C#-MAJOR – All right, taking a break here with “Phone Call,” an odd little confection Jon Brion composed for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, here remixed by mtbrd. It’s not an official thing, by any means, and he describes it on his Soundcloud page as simply, “Crunchy beat I made last summer.”
The things which used to distress you will become inconsequential.
Massive Attack – Take It There (Ritual Spirit [EP], 2016)
Changing things up again musically (don’t want it to get too boring, now, do we?) and diving into D-MINOR with a glorious new thing from Massive Attack. If you type, “when I first heard Massive Attack I was…” into Google you’ll get “in a deep, dark hole with a shattered heart and half-empty bottle of bourbon,” because these guys are the epitome of all that is dark and sleek and cool and Mezzanine is a desert island disc worth owning if you frequently find yourself venturing into deep, dark holes. (Happens to be a hobby of mine, like spelunking without a helmet and with a gaping chest wound.) Back in ’99, when I was still reeling from another stupid breakup, Massive Attack showed up in my life like some demented messengers from the Netherworld and showed me a way out. Massive Attack, I love you so. Let’s never break up.
Q-Tip – Wait Up (Amplified, 1999)
So this is a neat trick. You can shoot straight across the Camelot Wheel to the same position on the other side and sometimes get a cool combo. In this case, we jump from D-minor to G-SHARP MINOR. And it works. Not only does the key mesh well, (amping things up in the process,) it’s a cool stylistic blend as well.
So then how does the dialogue clip fit into things? Good question. I have no idea. I just wanted a break here and this was the first piece of dialogue I thought of. Yeah, I know right? I’ve seen more movies than any normal person ever should. Bonus points to whoever ID’s the main actor, and especially the movie it’s from.
Anderson .Paak – Am I Wrong (Malibu, 2016)
We’re back to E-MINOR, right where we started this mess. But now we’re in an all-new vibe. Anderson .Paak is tearing up the cool radio waves, especially with this slice of funky, buttery deep house. Unfortunately, when I recorded the mix, I think I had the midrange dropped a bit too low. It’s got crystalline highs and a round, deep back end (not unlike me, on some days) but still manages to build up a cool, jazzy groove. Play any KCRW music stream for ten minutes and you’re likely to catch this one.
Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (Silk Degrees, 1976)
I’ve been wanting to share this tune since I started the mix series. So imagine my joy when I discovered it has the same bpm as “Am I Wrong,” and in a perfectly compatible key of B-MINOR? You don’t have to imagine; I’ll tell you: I was squealing like a little boy rolling in a herd of fluffy puppies. This song plays and all of a sudden I’m in hazy afternoons, offshore breezes, corduroy shorts and terrycloth O.P. shirts… life was simpler then.
Feder (feat. Lyse) – Goodbye (Alex Schulz remix) (single, 2015)
A-MAJOR. Finally moving into the final sequence, we push off with an odd tune that, for all its nice, rolling loveliness and hazy, late-night vibe, probably has the shelf life of a slice of mild cheddar in a heat wave. But this is the MIXED IN KEY edition, and as the opener to the Ace Cosgrove tune that follows, it works perfectly.
Ace Cosgrove – Making Moves (USvsROBOTS, 2014)
This is why you mix in key. It’s seamless.
I don’t understand why this is on all the DJ charts right now when it’s two years old. But there you have it. Atlanta’s Ace Cosgrove put this out on his USvsROBOTS mixtape a while back, raising eyebrows in those musical circles populated by the kind of people who often gather around and do funny things with their eyebrows. Isn’t that chord lovely, though?
Adam Freeland – We Want Your Soul [Infusion Mix] (single, 2003)
Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes. I spun this one at Amoeba Music during one of my three DJ sets there, and I almost missed the next track cue because there was a huge crowd at my feet demanding the name of the artist. Well, not a huge crowd. More like a small group of… Well, two people. But one of them was really cute.
This track pretty much describes how I feel when I’m stuck in a room where a television is on, like the waiting room at Brake Masters. It’s torture. That’s why I bought my TV Be Gone.
I happen to like my soul. You can’t have it. Go away.
Onetram (feat. Sasha) – Heaven to Hell (From Heaven to Hell [EP], 2015)
As the edgy key of E-minor fades, we slip to the outer rim of the Camelot Wheel into the soothing embrace of G-MAJOR. And this is how I wanted it to end, and why it took so long for this mix to come together. It had to be just right. And also, Sasha, a demigod in the world of EDM. His fingerprints are all over this.
Hey, Internet, what do you say about G-major?
[bleep, bloop, bweep] “Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love. In a word, every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.”
Thanks, Internet. And thank you all for listening.
Chris Gethard – Alan Rickman (My Comedy Album, 2014)
Oh wait, hey, it’s Chris Gethard! Actor and comedian wraps this up with a story that only the coolest parents will tolerate. This is long, but it’s worth it. In the memory of the late, great actor… a story about fellatio. Don’t play this for your children. Or wait, I don’t care, do what you want. Your children can take it. In fact, please do play this for your children. Sex over violence any day. That’s my motto.