Sunday, February 05, 2012

As we enta: the wonder of the intro tune

Check check: intro tunes.



As a DJ, I’m obsessed with…

Intro tunes.Why?

Intro tunes have things to say, they say “here we are.”  You’ve begun, arrived and that other DJ, he’s finished now. For the next hour or ideally more, you’re in tune to us.

Intro tunes also say “this is who we are.” Those other tracks, by that other DJ they’re gone now. That was his vibration; this is ours. This is what we’re about, where we’re beginning from and as of now on you’ll begin to see where we’re going to.

Sometimes I wish you could have two intro tunes, but it doesn’t work like that.

Why? Because the second tune’s power is diminished by the first. There can’t be two firsts. That power is what makes intro tunes unique and so magical. And because they’re your first track, it has infinite potential. No crowd will leave after one track… I just can’t imagine how bad it would have to be, so far away from their expectations for a crowd to leave en masse after one tune alone. Yes it might be possible to empty a room with one tune, but it’s… unlikely.

(As an aside Dusk and I have emptied a room with five tracks but not one, but that was because Ghetts, Logan and 34 MCs had just left the stage of his “Freedom of Speech” album launch party all at once and took the crowd (their crews/mates) with them… oh and and technically the bar staff and two lads we’ve since realized were Elijah and Skilliam were still there, but who’s counting.)

So your intro tune is completely free, utterly unbounded by expectation. It is utterly liberated from any of DJing’s confines. And DJing does have basic parameters and confines under which it operates, just like dance music production, and it’s better for it, lest it descend into a chaotic, amorphous mess. The genius then is not how you can remove those confines (“I don’t need to mix! I don’t need decks! I don’t even need music!” “Err, OK mate, now what…?”). It’s who can find a new twist or a unique space within those confines.

Personally, I love a beatless intro.

To play beatless tracks in the middle of a set, well, you either have to be looking to grind things to a halt to segue into another direction (a garage -> jungle switch for example), have mind-melting amounts of influence like Wiley did during the “devil mix” era at Sidewinder or are just looking to be a little contrary. I recall some quote from techno godfather Derrick May saying that a good DJ should be able to take things down to nothing and back up. In any event, if you drop something beatless mid set you’ll need to rebuild all the momentum you’d built prior to that.

But with an intro tune you have no momentum, you’re starting from absolute zero and in some ways beatless intro’s are perfect for that. They’re like a palate cleanser, wiping away the expectations and momentum from the previous DJ and resetting things from which to rebuild.

Some DJs like to come in with an absolute banger; I’ve seen that a lot from dubstep DJs who are singularly focused on hype. The problem is: where do you go from there? If your intro tune is a 10/10, you better have about 9 more 10/10’s in the bag otherwise your set is an anticlimax. It’s that old adage about there being “no loud without quiet,” you can’t get louder than loudest, by definition (time for a “turn it up to 11” Spinal Tap reference? No, thought not…). Actually, thinking about it, those DJs who do intro with bangers, their sets tend to take a different shape. Instead of steadily building up in intensity, which I prefer, or declining in intensity, which seems a little perverse, each track is mellow/hype cycle in itself. 32 bar chilled intro followed by massive dynamic range change, mid-range drop and lots of compressed “loud” sounds… before the next intro comes in… Repeat cycle for an hour.

I also like the ability of beatless intros to express an another emotion other than hypement.  Yes I saw certain critics slewing of the James Blake/emotional end of the dubstep spectrum but really as a DJ what I’m looking to do is generate strong emotional reactions – and that doesn’t just mean “arrrrghfkjskJFKKEK RELOADDATBUMBA!!!!,” though that is fun. I’d also like to create intense warmth/happiness, heartbreak/melancholia and even introspection as well as disorienting and overwhelming urge to dance with every cell in your body. Because of their power and potential, intro tunes are a good place for that kind of emotion.

Intro tunes: as we enta.


Anonymous said...

always enjoy your think pieces

Eddy said...

Absolutely great post.

Anonymous said...

wicked piece,, so whats your favorite intro tunes then?

James said...

I opened my set at Fabric in the Sonic Router room with 'Gama' by General LOK last year, it went down a treat. Kinda opened with a bang then took it deep with Loefah and LHF etc before easing in the colourful stuff & funky...

I do find myself reaching for beatless intros a lot though. 'Rainy Dub' by Actress, 'Mud' by El Kid and 'Zones Under Influence' by Stella OM Source have all been recent go to openers for my radio sets. All pretty beatless at least for a while.

My favourite intro track I heard was Mala dropping some Terry Riley or something at DMZ in Leeds before going right into some dubplate or another. The transition from that to pure bass and beats was heavy as hell on that Iration Steppas soundsystem.

Blackdown said...

yeah Mala's use of that beatless Mark Prichard track was a case in point, total headfukkk... amazing.

James said...


Pretty sure that was the name of that Pritchard track. He killed it with that'un.

Anonymous said...

great piece. if only more dj's realised this

Anonymous said...

A great read, thanks for sharing. Your bit about the second track actually made me think of a restaurant review I read a while ago that stuck with me. I think there are some parallels; here's the meat of the post:

"This course (as well as many others) was literally a single bite. Thomas Keller is famous for saying (concerning the law of diminishing returns), 'The initial bite is fabulous. The second bite is great. But by the third bite - with many more to come - the flavors begin to deaden, and the diner loses interest.' I do believe this is true to a certain extent, but when something tastes fabulous ... I really, really want a second bite. When there is no second bite and my brain just keeps craving the taste of the flavors one more time, it starts to become a little frustrating... The second bite is IMPORTANT."

Blackdown said...

>whats your favorite intro tunes then?

Mine currently are:

Balistiq Beats “Concrete Jungle [Yardman riddim] (Beneath remix)”

Logos "Kowloon"

Logos "Atlanta96"

Dusk & Blackdown ft Farrah "Lonely Moon (Android Heartbreak)"

808hypnotic said...

oh yea looove the opportunity of the intro to shake things up/make a statement and set a boundary from the prior three hour dancehall show(@KTUH FM HONOLULU!) lately been dropping some of the real spaced out beatless jeff mills track he is doing as Something In the Sky, Actress Gershwin, Rustie Globes !!!, Sully Toffee Apple is a real wake up call, some of the vocal tracks off gilscott v jamiexx....

808hypnotic said...

the second track is another matter...that is always a tough one, where your actually heading.

scott epoch said...

I love this, sometimes I wish I could play a whole set of intro tunes.

Been thinking that Haunted tune by Nico Lindsay would do the job. Would definately be a good bass test.

Or something from Madvillain/Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - those records stay in my bag for that exact reason haha.

But what on the all important outro tune?

sectionfive said...

Nothing like Mala drawing for that Count Ossie Bongo Man thing haha.

Or Skream with Lemon many moons ago

Intros don't have to be big but they should always set tone. I likes ones that are exactly what you came to hear but still feel like a bit of step forward, fresh and have a bit of WTF. Curiosity draws you in.

This, regardless of the name

jojo said...

Yeaaa, I opened my set tonight (KTUH FM Honolulu!) with the Mark Prichard track, "?" . Sick! Thanks! Love me Discogs!

Phil said...

this makes me want to be there for one of your dj sets, man.