As file sharing capabilities have developed over the last few decades, we’ve gained access to an incredible amount of music. Spotify and Apple Music lead the way for album and track streaming, but services like Mixcloud and SoundCloud have given listeners the opportunity to consume full-length live sets. And, luckily, a few heroes have taken to uploading old DJ sets that can help us discover or re-live dance music’s history.
As Michaelangelo Matos at Mixmag points out, these sets are valuable for more than just aesthetic pleasure. Listening to these sets fills in some of the blanks left by the inevitable passage of time. Matos focuses on the Mixcloud user Unique Sounds of America, whose uploads have incredible sound quality despite their conversion. The early Chicago house sets uploaded by Unique Sounds is a definite throwback, and they serve as a good reminder of dance music’s early roots in disco.
Techno Time Machine 1990-2010, another Mixcloud user, uploads remarkable sets from the early days of the techno genre. One of our favorites is the 1992 Resurrection set featuring Carl Cox, Altern8, among others. You can also find historical hip-hop sets on these platforms. You can listen to the major developments in both genres, as turntable styles emerged and DJs developed iconic techniques.
One of the most exciting parts of taking the time to explore these old sets is the reminder of stylistic diversity that’s characterized dance music from the beginning. We tend to remember music history through the major names – Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold are some of the early artists who we still know and love. But it’s important to remember those other artists who have largely fallen out of the histories we tell and re-tell played a large role in shaping the genre. And oftentimes, sets by unknown artists are the most interesting because they’re just so novel.
Having this kind of historical document instantly accessible at any moment is absolutely incredible; no other period in history has been able to revisit their musical artifacts the same way that we can. So, if you’re interested in learning more about how dance music came to be what it is now, we suggest dancing your way through history along to some of these old sets.
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