Techno sounds especially appropriate during the winter.
Not that Courtesy’s Truancy Volume 195 (November 15, 2017) sounded bad during the mild mid-November in which it came out—or that Denmark is especially cold. (It’s actually fairly temperate, if a bit on the chilly side, and rainy;—not unlike the Pacific Northwest minus the heat waves.) But now that the snow is sticking to the ground in the Twin Cities, this 66-minute stormer sounds particularly right.
Courtesy (birth name: Najaaraq Vestbirk) was born in Greenland but raised in Denmark. She started as a journalist but soon graduated from cadging quotes from her DJ favorites to spinning alongside them. “I mentioned before that a lot of my music knowledge came from interviewing musicians, and that’s something I definitely miss,” she told the Truants blog.
A full eight of the sixteen tracks Courtesy mixes here are marked either “unreleased” or “forthcoming,” and that seems to fit even beyond the truism that DJ mixes, both promotional (i.e., free online) and licensed (a la a CD series such as Fabric), thrive on brand new material. (See this recent tweet from Brooklyn’s Jubilee: “working on an important mix plz send me EVERYTHING you ever made in your life.”) In this particular case, it denotes a bustling, thriving Copenhagen dance scene in which Courtesy is ensconced. And if the music’s tempo seems somewhat speedier than usual even for techno, that’s because it is: Truants’ interviewer refers to the style she plays as “fast 140 techno,” 140 being the upper end of the beats-per-minute limit before the music stops signifying as techno and stars seeming like something altogether harder, rougher, and less friendly (even though “gabber,” the term for that stuff, actually means “friend” in Dutch).
But Truancy Volume 195 isn’t just BPMs going berserk—far from it. Courtesy’s mix takes a good ten minutes to fully build from cosmic synth baubles (Qnete’s “Stomach,” “forthcoming” on the label 777) to the sketchy snare skitters of Meze’s “P.S. 14,” before Renart’s “Terreur Sur La Ville” takes it away, its whapping electro snares and off-kilter bleeps establishing the set’s groove with a lopsided grin. The tracks speed up in increments, and there’s even room in the middle for a good old-fashioned breakbeat-driven breakdown to cut through the electro jitter and the techno stomp.
The source for that breakdown is a real find, too: Red Ant’s “Seek and Ye Shall Find (Get the Point Mix),” a 1996 obscurity by UK house journeyman Pete Bones, which comes into Courtesy’s set around minute 31. The original 12-inch can currently be had cheap—Discogs has, as I type, 35 copies available beginning at $1.18—and its gnarly acid breakdown is worth at least that much. It’s a good indication of Courtesy’s depth as a DJ, not to mention her nous as a bargain hunter.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.