It's hard to ascertain to modern audiences just how important the mix CD was, but for the best part of fifteen years it proved to be one of the most enduring and rabidly consumed formats within electronic music. Since the very first one was delivered by Carl Cox and Dave Seaman in 1991 with Mixmag Live, they were integral components in judging a DJ's worth and their electronic savvy.
Long before recorded sets all over the internet were the norm they and radio transmissions were the only sense of permanency about a DJ set. And over the years there have been some belters.
Coldcut's epochal Seventy Minutes of Madness stands out for many as arguably the finest mix CD of all time, while the meticulously crafted selections by the likes of Sasha, Danny Tenaglia and John Digweed at the helm for Global Underground have also reached messianic status amongst devotees to the series.
Credit also goes to DJ Kicks (in particular Henrik Schwarz’s selection, an ode to the possibilities of Ableton), Australian series Balance and the Fabric and FabricLIVE collections, all have which have maintained a regular and consistent output even in the modern age.
But there’s one mix CD that still stands out for its jaw-dropping wow factor close to two decades after it first emerged; 2ManyDJs' offering As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt 2. Although existing in several bootlegged formats and versions varying in levels of legality, this compilation was a hammer blow to all that existed around it at the time when it dropped as an official release in February 2003.
At the start of the century clubland was in a weird vortex. A retaliation against the superclubs of the era was coupled with a growing disdain for the musical genres that accompanied them, with trance and progressive house dipping in popularity. This mix was the antithesis of everything that was staid about all that, a riotous explosion through pop, alternative and indie, with a pulsating electronic undercurrent stitching it all together.
It's hard to put into words just how ridiculously brilliant hearing Destiny's Child over 10cc was for a clubber reared on hours of repetitive beats, particularly when it would melt into Dolly Parton's 'Nine to Five', before a degree of normality resumed via Royksopp's 'Eple'.
This CD was the one everyone reached for at afterparties for a good couple of years, alongside Jacques lu Cont's equally mesmerising effort for FabricLIVE in 2003. It also unified audiences - dance music fans had become their own tribe but this mix paved the way for indie kids to get involved as well. I was at university when this came out, and everyone loved it; suddenly going clubbing wasn't just the premise of electronic fiends who wanted to stay up all night.
There was no doubt that electroclash, the genre with which 2ManyDJs were tagged, was a fad, but it did signify the point dance music and rock merged once more. Erol Alkan became a superstar, lu Cont (aka Stuart Price) ended up working with Madonna and then the coolest record label of it all spawned the most important band of the decade in LCD Soundsystem. It's still this mix though that seems to signify everything about that point in music, a milestone where dance music finally decided to turn fun again.
2ManyDJs themselves would go on to reach stratospheric levels within electronic music, both as DJs and with their band Soulwax. That block party aesthetic and magpie approach never left their DJ sets, and they began adding visual components to their music to further bend the whims of their creativity (their Under the Covers Vimeo mixes are a joy of audiovisual brilliance, check Part One above).
The Belgian brothers are exactly the kind of act you can guarantee to generate a scintillating, party primed atmosphere - a decade and a half on that talent remains undimmed.