The studio mix has played a major role in the development and presentation of a number of genres and sub-cultures in the history of electronic/dance music. Mix CD series — like Fabriclive and DJ-Kicks — offer, at least ostensibly, the most polished studio mixes around, proposing near-album levels of focus and conceptual underpinning, but in the last half-decade platforms like Mixcloud and Soundcloud have effectively removed the limitations on who can compose a mix, what can be included (not being beholden to the licensing process, or at least less beholden), and what sorts of outlets can host mixes. Today, the best mix series tend to be hosted on an array of blogs, magazines, online visual art platforms and labels, providing an almost-constant stream of new material from every genre, geography and technology imaginable. This is undeniably a positive development, but it does lead to issues of quality control, both on the part of DJs and hosts.
Simon Docherty aka Pure Joy has composed a series of complex, densely studio layered mixes over the past year, starting with “E M P Y R E A L” in February. Techno, angular club forms, contemporary synth music and bizarre corners of the avant-pop comfortably fit together, often in blend form, in Pure Joy mixes, which tend develop with the tensile quality of a methodical art film. Songs are introduced and quickly unraveled, matched with unlikely partners and boiled down to the essential elements needed for that particular segment of the mix. Docherty is a mathematician by day and a self-described “techno logician” so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his mixes are so cogently thought out and meticulously planned, but Pure Joy mixes manage to miss the predictable quality of so many ostensibly mathematical techno mixes, offering a range of color and emotion more often associated with DJs working in grime and other club forms.
I think the simplest explanation for what I do is that I aim to do the kind of things the best grime DJs do in the blends, for lengths of time more associated with techno, with music that isn’t necessarily anything to do with either of those two genres.
Alongside Docherty’s solo aspirations with the Pure Joy project are his work with the Truants website, specifically the Functions of the Now series, a sadly defunct mix/interview series focused on the experimental extremes of contemporary club music, and the Wild Combination party, thrown in conjunction with partner Maya Kalev. Both projects, the former running from July 2013 to December 2015 and the latter beginning in January of this year with guests Nidia Minaj, DEBONAIR and Reckonwrong, offer insight into Docherty’s personal taste, but are more indicative of an open approach to dance music that prides artists who have established their own idiosyncratic path over those who are, as Docherty notes in our interview, “simply a cog in the dance music machine, outputting genre exercises.” We exchanged emails with Docherty about Pure Joy, Wild Combination, London club culture and the qualities he looks for in a DJ. His Astral Plane mix is the fourth in a series that began with “E M P Y R E A L” and includes “P H Y S I C A L” and “C O L L A P S E” (hosted by Tobago Tracks). All are well worth your time and feature some of the best blends you’ll hear all year. The next Wild Combination party features SKY H1, MM, Yamaneko, Dis Fig and a special guest. Attendance is required for our London readers. Hit the jump for our full talk and a track list that features Abyss X, Air Max ’97, Hodge, Lexxi and more. Enjoy.