10 Mixes: New Year’s Eve

Michaelangelo Matos counts down some of the best sets that took place on the biggest night of the year

If dance music is your meat, New Year’s Eve is mandatory. To get you in the mood, here’s a collection of NYE sets from throughout DJ culture’s history and spanning many of its stylistic shifts. Basically, there were no rules, other than the set(s) had to have been spun to a live audience on the night or morning of New Year’s Eve. There was a lot of competition, so much so that I decided to stop before the millennium – for auld lang syne. As with past editions in the Ten Mixes series, these are in chronological order.

Bobby Viteritti, New Years Eve Countdown (Poop Deck, Marlin Hotel, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), December 31, 1976 [Part Two Here]

The year 1976 was crucial in disco’s evolution, with classics from, for starters, Donna Summer, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Double Exposure. You can hear all those artists and more in these celebratory two-and-a-half hours that capped the year for some lucky Ft. Lauderdale dancers: roughly 9:30 PM to midnight, culminating, at the end of part two, with the countdown. And it’s a virtuosic display of early decks skills: Viteritti more or less melts together his selections: “Don’t Leave Me This Way” into “Down to Love Town,” Glitter Band into Donna Summer, Dr. Buzzard into El Coco. (A complete tracklist is here.) And the Salsoul Orchestra’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” takeoff is a gentle reminder that this took place in a world before Star Wars.

Roy Thode, The Saint, New York City (December 31, 1981)

Along with Alan Dodd and Jim Burgess, Roy Thode was one of the trio of DJs that opened New York’s legendary Saint on September 20, 1980. A former resident at Fire Island’s Ice Palace, Thode was a troubled perfectionist: “If somebody came up to him and said ‘You suck,’ that would ruin the rest of his night,” ex-Saint DJ Robbie Leslie told RBMA’s Barry Walters earlier this year. He decided to retire from the decks after New Year’s 1982, and his mammoth morning set – the above embed is part two (all four parts can be found here) – is a model of “sleaze,” the mid-tempo bump favored by AM groovers after more frantic overnight sets. Thode’s drop-in segues are casual but resonant, and he makes thematic connections as well as musical ones, as when Candi Staton’s “Victim” transforms into Tracy Weber’s “Sure Shot.” Alas, this really was Thode’s final set: He died in May 1982; as Walters notes, some friends called it a suicide, others an accidental O.D.

DJ Sy, Fantazia - Takes You Into 1992 (December 31, 1991)

Craving a head-rushing old-school rave throwdown? These 47 minutes are for you. With MC Robbie Dee going doolally on the microphone (at 11:42: “Gimme twenty pound and I’ll give you an E! Heh heh! Energy! E for energy!”), Sy kicks off with Manix’s “Oblivion (Head in the Clouds)” into Shut Up and Dance’s “£10 to Get In” into the Prodigy’s “Everybody in the Place,” and just goes on from there. It doesn’t take much in the way of hindsight to hear this aural bowl of Fruity Pebbles as Sy’s advance declaration of following the UK breakbeat brigade away from drum & bass’s self-seriousness and toward happy hardcore’s “jumping up and down” squad. As Sy crosscuts like a madman at 36:49, Robbie Dee assures us: “Don’t worry about me. I’m in the same state as you are.”

Cool Hand Flex & Brockie, Live at Telepathy (December 31, 1995)

“Champion bubblers, inside!” exults MC Brockie at about 34:20 on this nonstop-bubbling set: “Time to smoke your spliff and drink your champagne.” Founded in November 1990, Stratford’s Telepathy was one of the first London clubs to feature the breakbeat mutations that led to drum & bass, a contemporary of path-breakers like Rage. But jungle – as it was just barely still being called in 1995 – was settling into a cleaner and more minimally lined set of patterns, and this set from Kool FM stalwarts Flex and Brockie plays less as a-year-in-review than the-story-this-week, with Dillinja’s “Sovereign Melody” and Fire Fox & 4-Tree’s “Warning” breezing past. A caveat: The mixing is sometimes very sloppy, but the mood is right enough to override it.

Sven Väth, Live @ Omen, Frankfurt (December 31, 1995)

“You know Sven Väth,” Interference Festival 1994 co-founder Uwe Reinecke told RBMA earlier this year of the Frankfurt techno legend’s request to get on the decks, which turned into a marathon set. “You can’t stop him.” Oh, I don’t know: Judging from these 90 minutes at the club he cofounded in late 1988 with Matthias Martinson and Michael Münzing, a tank might have stopped him. Maybe.

Brisk @ Club Kinetic - NYE 1996-1997

Brisk, Club Kinetic (December 31, 1996)

Happy hardcore was at its dubious height right around the time the Longton Leisurebowl, in Staffordshire, rang in 1997, and Brisk was as high (so to speak) as the style got. Hands down the most nutzoid thing on this list – possibly the most nutzoid thing on any list, period – this hour-long kandi-coloured brainpan-scour is not for the fainthearted. Point blank, if you’re looking for soul, funk, deep feeling, or any other humanistic verity, move well away. But if you have even a tiny taste for beats that are frantic-unto-hilarious beats, ridiculous riffs, vocal samples so sped-up you can practically see the singers’ pupils dilate, and an MC who barely sounds like he’s holding on in the midst of the eye of a hurricane occurring in the world’s largest bowl of Lucky Charms – well, your Mickey Mouse gloves are probably glowing already. (See also.)

Pierre B2B Karotte, Live @ Stammheim, Kassel (December 31, 1997)

Nope, it’s neither Chicago’s DJ Pierre (Nathaniel Pierre Jones) who, with Phuture, invented acid house, nor Brussels’s Pierre (Noisiez), now at the club Fuse for 20 years and counting. Pierre Blaszczyk became the resident at Kassel’s Stammheim in the mid-’90s, and this NYE, recorded when he was 23, came early in his long run there. On the decks with the young Karotte, they paint an exuberantly populist picture of the era’s techno: What other year could this exact Dave Clarke retooling of Gary Numan’s “Cars” have come out? But they doesn’t take long to hit stride on gems like the Global Communications remix of Azymuth’s “Space Jazz Carnival” and Hardfloor’s eternal “Circus Bells” remix.”

Cari Lekebusch, Orbit, Leeds, England (December 31, 1998) [part two; part three]

Swedish techno legend Cari Lekebusch has been in the game since he was a teenager, the kind of lifer you might start to take for granted, until he gets you in his crosshairs on a good night. By the late ’90s, techno was becoming more loop-based and less fuck-shit-up creative, but little of this oddly configured three-part set (20 minutes, 74 minutes, and 25 minutes, respectively) remains static. The occasional aural fluff – early in part two, both a train-wreck and an audible disconnection – adds period flavor, as does the occasional post-industrial guttural vocal. You’ll never believe Lekebusch emerged from SweMix, the same lab that spawned the late big-pop idolmaker Denniz Pop.

Terry Mullan - Live at Get Down Again '98 (Part 1 Side A)

Terry Mullan, Live at Get Down Again (Better Living Centre, Toronto) (December 31, 1998) [all four parts here]

Having listened, in fairly concentrated fashion, to a lot older DJ mixes in recent years, what’s become clear is that in the mid-’90s, Terry Mullan was the greatest DJ in the world. Monuments like 1995’s New School Fusion Volume 2 or Live at Equal, Milwaukee (January 19, 1996) are as sustained as the period got, in any category, and testament that his live sets jump as crazily as his carefully made studio mixes. This elastic two-hour set from a Toronto year-end bash (Mullan was billed second, after Darren Jay and MC GQ, but ahead of Barry Weaver, Christopher Lawrence and Misstress Barabra) is another primo example. Mullan keeps it moving even within tracks, as when he cuts some “Feel My M.F. Bass” into “It Doesn’t Matter.” He lives to entertain, and we all benefit.

Frankie Knuckles, Stars X2 (December 31, 1999)

This isn’t typically billed as a New Year’s set, but at 26:08, right in the middle of Armand Van Helden’s “U Don’t Know Me,” the DJ gets on the decks and says a friendly “Happy New Year, everyone!” It was recorded at the Eclipse in Coventry and bootlegged soon after by the club’s manager, Stuart Reid, who was eventually sentenced to four years in prison for laundering money made from the Stars X2 series, as well as from selling drugs. It’s hard to blame Reid for wanting this one out – it’s one of the peak hours of Frankie’s career and a definitive late-’90s house time capsule. Van Helden leads off a triumvirate of unassailable anthems (I won’t spoil the others), and Knuckles raises gooseflesh out of the oh-no-he-didn’t transitions. Elsewhere it’s very jazzy and very bourgie-bourgie, the kind of thing you’d want to lead a champagne toast to. Perfect, in other words, for New Year’s.

By Michaelangelo Matos on December 18, 2015

On a different note