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In the record bag: Mark Birtles

by Shaun Mckenna

Staff Writer

Born in Nottingham, England, Mark Birtles began DJing in Leeds before coming to Japan in 2008. He is one half of the Tokyo Indie events team, which has hosted DJ gigs with touring bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Metronomy, Mystery Jets and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He let us have a look in his record bag and made a mix of some upcoming Japanese acts he’s been listening to (see bottom of this story).

Opening Number: Blue Hawaii — “In Two” and “In Two II” [Arbutus]. Label mates and friends of singer Grimes, Blue Hawaii have released the best album of 2013 so far with “Untogether.” The record is put together with an ear for the most microscopic details, and tremendous production. Strictly two tracks that run together as one, “In Two” and “In Two II” shift nicely from an ethereal beginning into a dance-floor beat — perfect for getting people in the zone.

Golden Oldie: Whodini — “Magic’s Wand” [Zomba]. A friend of mine recently unearthed some mini discs that had my old mixes on them, which I thought had been lost forever. Listening to the eclectic stuff I used to throw on there really took me back to a time when I was trying to emulate the cut-and-paste style of Coldcut, Liam Howlett and Lemon Jelly. This was one of the stand-out tracks on there and it reminds me of past summers, my belt-drive turntables and my dad shouting at me to “Turn it down!” Happy days.

New Classic: Sophie — “Nothing More to Say (vox)” [Huntleys and Palmers]. Sophie caught my attention last year with his great remix of Auntie Flo’s “Highlife.” In February, he followed it up with this record. For me, it takes everything great that is going on with the underground dance scene in Britain at the moment, distills it down and adds a big-room twist. The best description I have heard of his sound is a “poppier answer to Jam City’s neo-classical curves, all simmering big room hooks, haughty grunts and diva coos laced to irresistible swing rhythms and escalating, polychromatic synth-bursts”. Think that says it all.

Floor Filler: DJ Mujava — “Township Funk (Radiocl*t Remix)” [This Is Music]. This is probably the track I’ve played most over the past few years and never fails to get people moving. I love the story behind DJ Mujava, too. He rose to fame by getting local taxi drivers to distribute his CDs to their fares around Pretoria. It is a dichotomy of a track; on the one hand it sounds intrinsically African, yet also sounds like nothing made on Earth. Of the remixes, and there are many, the Radiocl*t Remix is my favorite because it really shakes up a tired dance floor. The drop comes out of nowhere and those in the know will be grinning during the build up and those who are hearing it for the first time will be left thinking, “What the …?”

Must-Listen: Chvrches — Recover (Cid Rim Remix) [Glassnote]. While Chvrches are receiving a lot of plaudits at the minute, I find them a bit pedestrian to be honest. They remind me too much of the Ting Tings, which is not a good thing. This remix however, absolutely blew me away. The first two minutes build and build with wandering fingers on a Casio keyboard and then Cid Rim throws a massive curve-ball as the beat kicks in. I like watching people’s reaction to this song when they hear it for the first time. I expect big things for Cid Rim in the near future.

Set Closer: Nathan Fake — “The Sky Was Pink (James Holden remix)” [Border Community]. This is the ultimate 5 a.m. tune — best played outdoors as the sun is rising. It provides one last hands-in-the-air moment before cooling off the dance floor perfectly. The version I usually play out is my own personal edit (not available on YouTube, sorry!), which layers the vocals from Late Night Tuff Guy’s track “I Get Deeper” over the top. It really adds another dimension to an already fantastic track. Clocking in at 10 minutes long though, it often annoys club owners who are eager to switch on the lights and get everyone out!

Mark Birtles plays the Tokyo Electro Fest 2013 at Daikanyama Unit in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on June 21 (11 p.m.; ¥3,000 at the door; 03-5459-8630). He also plays the London Calling 6th Anniversary at the 06S party at Womb in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on June 22 (11 p.m.; ¥3,500 at the door; 03-5459-0039). For more information, visit www.tokyoindie.com.