New efforts highlight the work of some of Madison and the Midwest’s eccentric selectors.
As abundant as DJ mixes are on the Internet, a well-curated mix series can still provide a vital retreat for everyday listening, a space that’s at once refreshing and comforting. A couple of Madison’s less-appreciated electronic music institutions recently began new efforts on that front: Downtown bar and seven-nights-a-week DJ hub Nattspil with its Nattspil Nightly Mixcloud account, and electronic/hip-hop label Catch Wreck with Catch Wreck Radio on SoundCloud.
So far, both mix series are more curatorial than completist. Natt Spil Nightly isn’t actually attempting to document every single DJ set the place hosts during the week, but Jordan Ellerman, who DJs under the name Umi and helps to run the local Foshizzle electronic collective, is running the account with an ear toward Nattspil’s variety.
"I'm hoping the podcast will paint a more complete picture for those wondering what the hype is all about,” Ellerman says. "That being said, the focus of the podcast is documentation as opposed to promotion.”
The 10 long, generous mixes currently up (on a typical night, DJs at Nattspil spin from about 10 to 2), range from one of Umi’s own gorgeously spaced-out house explorations to a pair of effusive “Disco Brunch” sessions from DJs Zukas and Vilas Park Sniper. Ellerman hopes to consistently update the Nattspil Nightly Mixcloud, and on the Foshizzle front, the group is bringing back some of its Friday parties in James Madison Park and planning an all-day Saturday event there too with some guest DJs from Chicago.
Like Nattspil's DJ lineup in miniature, the result is flexible, laid-back, and not too concerned with genre parameters. "Even if you're familiar with the DJ, it's hard to say what style they'll be playing on any given night,” Ellerman says.
The mixes in the new Catch Wreck series are much shorter and less tied to live DJ sets, though it launches as the label tries to get a sporadic new dance night, Wipe Me Down, started in Madison and occasionally other places in the Midwest. The first was in January at The Frequency, and featured DJ sets from label co-founder Ian Carroll and producer Kenny Hoopla. Jed Sachen, a Milwaukee-based producer who is doing most of the work on Catch Wreck Radio, made the first mix, and Aaron Granat, a filmmaker and UW-Madison communication arts professor who’s often done live video for Catch Wreck shows, made the second. While the Nattspil mixes showcase the many ways in which a DJ can read and sculpt the mood of a room, these ones are more experimental and indulgent—Granat’s mix draws on everything from Drake to Goodfellas dialogue to electronic master Holly Herndon’s supremely creepy track “Lonely At The Top.” Another Wipe Me Down night is in the works for March, and Catch Wreck hopes to have some other shows this year, but like Ellerman, Sachen says he wants his mix series to be more than just window dressing for live events.
"The plan is to put out a 20- to 30-minute mix every other week” with different guests, Sachen says. "We hope it connects with our friends and the community in general to become a staple for some ears out there.”