My Top 5 Most Influential Releases ~ Simon Murphy

by Simon Murphy

If you have ever been in my car, my house or even just seen inside my record bag, there is one thing that is blaringly obvious….. I have a small obsession with music. Well actually, who am I kidding really? I have a full blown, OCD laden, verging on unhealthy, obsession with music and have done so for as long as I can remember. I have hundreds of records, CDs, tapes, DVDs and videos plus hard drives FULL to the brim with every conceivable genre of electronic music from the last 15+ years of collecting. The collection fills any spare bit of shelf, cupboard, car or floor space that I have and then some. Am I concerned? Not at all…. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, when you have as much music as I do and somebody asks you to come up with 5 albums that have influenced you the most as a DJ it does tend to open up a Pandora’s box. It was my equivalent of someone asking a parent which is their favourite child in that even though deep down I had favourites, I felt bad for the others. It was no mean feat to come up with this list as I could have easily made it 20 or 50 influential albums but through a lot of thought I have managed to narrow it down to my top five.

This list is by no means a definitive list of the best or most defining releases across the whole scene. These are not necessarily the most highly praised releases across the genres that they cover or are they even necessarily the most highly regarded releases by the artists included. This is simply a list that captures where my headspace was musically at different times, where I have drawn inspiration from, and most of all, what has shaped my outlook on music and the tunes that I play. It was hard to prepare this list without sounding conceited or self righteous as I had to try to justify what were extremely tough decisions. Passion can easily be mistaken for arrogant self indulgence so I hope that this comes across as the former as this was my intention. The list naturally formed in chronological order as it follows what I was listening to at different times, a few explanations of the scene at the time (sorry if some were long-winded), my changing tastes in music and how I went from being a music-obsessed party-animal promo-whore to a…. well…. to a music-obsessed  party-animal who feels lucky to have the opportunity to spin the tunes I love (when people let me).

So enough of my rambling (or the start of a whole lot more rambling?) here are my choices……

1. The Prodigy – Music for the jilted generation (1994)

The Prodigy - Music for the Jilted GenerationAs a teenager in the mid to late 90’s I was, like everyone else, riding the grunge and punk waves. I liked music with a lot of energy but never really liked the more classic ‘rock’ sound per se. I got into dance music when I was pretty young and I’m not going to lie; a lot of the stuff I listened to was horrible stuff. Whilst bouncing around between these almost polar opposites, I found myself unknowingly searching for something that would grab me and shake things up. Enter stage right…. The Prodigy.

The Prodigy turned any preconception that I had of music on its head by merging the ideals of punk with the structures and sounds of electronic music. I blasted this through my walkman like there was no tomorrow. They were the gateway act that got me hooked on the good stuff and made me thirsty for more. With the little money I had from my part time job at KFC I would hit up Dixon’s and buy anything and everything from the ‘dance music’ section. Buying second hand CDs from Dixon’s, armed with minimal knowledge of what I should be looking for, meant my collection included everything from Detroit House to Rotterdam Hardcore, from trance to jungle, from commercial cheese to experimental Goa. Again, a lot of it was horrible, but it opened up my eyes to a whole new world of music that I fully immersed myself in. This exposure to such a wide array of sounds meant that I always kept an open mind about music and this is an ideal I still try to remain true to.


2. Sasha + Digweed – Northern Exposure : Expeditions (1999)

Sasha & Digweed - Northern Exposure ExpeditionsBy 1999 I had a bit more knowledge of the electronic music that was out there and had started to go to club nights and events around Melbourne. My weekend diet consisted of a whole lot of trance and a whole lot of techno. Like most kiddies I liked my music banging so there was a fair bit of hard house and other UK sounds in there too. I was still listening to anything and everything that I could afford and as I slowly got more involved in the scene I read about or got told about more and more acts that I should check out.

As is still true to this day, there aren’t many bigger names than Sasha and John Digweed so it was no surprise that I came across this compilation on my travels (I think I may have actually lashed out and bought this at Sanity Dance Arena). I’m not going to lie, at first listen I really wasn’t that impressed, it sounded like a chill CD and I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. After subsequent listens though, it all started to make sense. This double CD taught me that music didn’t have to be banging to be awesome. The music had so many layers, so many different sounds and the mixes were so long that you almost couldn’t tell where one track stopped and the next track started. Every time I listened I heard something different that I hadn’t noticed before and I loved it. This album is still one of the reasons that I still look for music with lots of layers and textures that can be played around with and used to make long mixes.


3. Dave Clarke – World Service (2001)

Dave Clarke - World ServiceBy the time I heard this album I was well and truly hooked on the Melbourne scene. Whilst I was at uni I was promoting around Melbourne so that I could go to all the events that I wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend otherwise. After listening to enough trance, hard house and hardcore to turn anyone sterile I began my techno honeymoon with this double CD being one of the key catalysts. I am pretty sure it must have been in the @mosphere DJ’s contracts to have a copy of this on vinyl as the tunes on here received a fair caning and formed part of the soundtrack to that period of time. As a promoter for @mosphere I met a bunch of the techno faithful and didn’t look back. I was promoting for crews like Hardware, Wetmusik, Melbourne Techno Massive etc and my brain was well and truly rewired to run on techno time. Even though I cross between genres a bit now, techno still forms the basis of the majority of what I play and Dave Clarke still reigns as one of my favourite DJs (Ben Sims still takes the cake as the best DJ I’ve ever seen though – sorry Dave).


4. Vitalic – OK Cowboy (2005)

Vitalic - OK CowboyIt’s blatantly obvious to anyone who has been around more than a couple of years that after years of techno domination, electro hit the Melbourne scene in a BIG way and before it became a taboo word due to commercial oversaturation, there was a thriving scene with some exceptional music. By this stage I’d been heavily involved in promoting, running events, writing reviews & other press, event photography etc and I had always been quite content to let others do the DJing. This was probably due to minimal funds whilst studying full time and working casual jobs but also because I never really felt the need. Heaps of my mates were DJs and I’d go to so many events I could always hear the tunes I wanted to hear. I was happy with this arrangement.

When I finally jumped behind the decks I did much the same as when I started buying CDs, I bought records (a lot which were second hand) that crossed a number of genres. From early on I got hooked on the heavier electro sounds of artists like Anthony Rother, The Hacker, Fischerspooner, Black Strobe and of course Vitalic. Seeing Vitalic smash out his set at Two Tribes in ’04 was a set that resonated in my mind when I was first buying records and when this album came out it was definitely a major influence in the sound I was aiming for. The Melbourne scene had some great electro gigs and DJs which definitely contributed to the sound I was playing. Sometime around this point I went from being a bedroom banger with absolutely no desire to play in public at all, to getting a couple of random gigs around the traps and then BANG…. my vinyl addiction morphed into a burning desire to play gigs.


5. Trentemoller – The Last Resort (2006)

Trentemoller - The Last ResortAfter electro got destroyed by hideous electro house I was looking for something new (note: before anyone jumps up and down there definitely was/is some very good electro house around, it just got totally paled in comparison to the amount of absolute trash around). I moved back to my techno roots but in a new form; minimal. Much like when electro hit the scene in a big way, minimal threw a net over the scene and I got hooked (again, there was some terrible minimal but there was also some amazing music around at this time). Trentemoller’s music acted as a catalyst for me as his music bridged the gap between my taste for electro/early electro house and minimal.

One of my very early records was a white label of Trentemoller’s Beta Boy. After falling in love with the track, I went on a search to find anything and everything that Trentemoller had anything to do with. His EP’s on Poker Flat plus a long list of remixes were staples in my sets and they never left my record bag. This album was released about a year after I had first gotten into his music. I had loved his previous work but this album definitely struck a chord much in the same way that Northern Exposure: Expeditions had done all those years earlier. This album is a beautiful piece of amazingly structured melancholy techno. It re-taught me the value of quality production, texture and layers in music. This album made me really listen to the music I was playing and is probably partly responsible for the OCD I have now about finding the right tunes for the right set. Since this album I have immersed myself in a lot of down tempo, melodic and often melancholy music that really did changed the way I played my sets.



So there you have it. There were numerous other releases that I would have loved to include from acts like Daft Punk, Laurent Garnier, Sasha, Gui Boratto, Lamb, Joris Voorn, Shpongle, Booka Shade, Riccardo Villalobos, Protoculture, James Zabiela, Phonique, Trifonic, Lusine and well, the list goes on. Overall, I think that the five releases above are a good cross section to illustrate how I managed to get to the point I am at now. Hearing my sets, after looking at this list, you will hopefully be able to hear and understand where I draw a lot of my inspiration. The elements presented in these releases have all contributed to the ideals that I seek in music. I attempt, with varying degrees of success, to translate these core elements into my mixes and my sets. Add to this the huge amounts of quality local and international DJs I’ve been spoilt enough to catch playing around Melbourne over the last decade and you should also be able to see why I am still addicted to the music after all this time and why I can’t see that changing any time soon.

My Top 5 most influential releases ~ J-Slyde

by J-Slyde

After the interest that Taran M’s Top 5 article received, we thought it worthwhile getting the rest of the krew to write up their own list. I personally found Taran’s list extremely interesting to read, and felt it gave a great understanding of how he’s progressed as a DJ over his career. With this in mind, I hope to illustrate that with my selections.

I’ve opted to include purchase links to each album to encourage those that may be interested in the music to support the artists rather than downloading for free.

So without further ado, here’s my list of the top five albums that have not only influenced my desire to DJ, but those that have shaped the music I play.

1. Hybrid ~ Wide Angle (1999)

I can safely say that this album has influenced me the most, not just with my DJing, but also with my general appreciation of electronic music. When I first heard it I was a young and impressionable phat-pant wearing raver. Somewhat narrow-minded with what I listened to as far as electronic music went, my knowledge was restricted to Hard Trance, Trance, Hard Dance, Hard Style and pretty much every other genre with “Hard” or “Trance” in it. When I briefly came across a magazine review about the album, I was instantly intrigued. I’d heard a lot about these “Progressive” and “Breaks” genre’s, and had only briefly been subjected to them in side-rooms at larger events. On a whim I headed down to my local Dance Arena store (R.I.P) and picked myself up a copy.

At first I thought id purchased the wrong album, and had instead grabbed some kind of orchestral CD. But once the acidic intro of ‘If I Survive‘ filtered in, I knew I was in for something good. Almost instantly my taste in electronic music began to shift. Slowly everything I used to listen to started to sound bland and I began to crave for more depth in my music.

The album itself, for those that have not had the pleasure of hearing it, is a unique work that combines Break Beats, Progressive House/Trance and orchestral elements with a heavy nod towards string arrangements. All fused together, Hybrid create a cohesive journey that’s heavily emotive, at times dance-floor orientated, and ultimately, utterly brilliant. Put simply, it’s an electronic masterpiece of the highest caliber. Even 11 years on it still holds it’s own against current dance music. Every track stands on it’s own, with no fillers.

I could go on and on about how great it is, but will instead urge those that may be unfamiliar with it to give it a listen. It opened my eyes to a whole new world and was the main catalyst for pushing me towards playing Breaks and Prog – two of my most favoured genres.

Disclaimer: I opted to list ‘Wide Angle’ over their 2000 re-release ‘Wider Angle’, purely because it was the first version of the album that I heard. In comparison ‘Wider Angle’ is a much stronger release taking into consideration that they re-recorded a majority of the string sections and bundled it with a second disc of a live recording from one of their shows in Sydney, Australia. Not only do you get a feel for how they are in the studio, but it also shows how they adapted their music for the live stage.


2. Sasha ~ Involver (2004)

Hands down one of my all time favourite electronic albums, or any album for that matter, this is as close to perfection as Progressive music gets as far as I’m concerned. A unique approach to the tried and tested DJ mix compilation, Sasha and his talented production team (Charlie May, Barry Jamieson and co) took each track and remixed them to construct one of the best Progressive House albums of our time.

Some might classify this album as a straight up DJ mix compilation, but it’s far more then that. The amount of time and care that has been taken with the reworking of each track is mind blowing, and it shows! There’s not one stale part in the whole album – instead, each track compliments the other, blending together seamlessly to create an intensely interesting and highly emotive piece of art. The scope of artists included within the album is also noteworthy – from the intro track of Grand National’s Indie-Rock number ‘Talk Amongst Yourselves‘, to  UNKLE’s vocal Prog masterpieces ‘What Are You To Me?‘ and ‘In A State‘, through to Shpongle’s Psy influenced ‘Dorset Perception‘ – listening to any of these in their original forms instantly demonstrates just how much they were changed and adjusted to fit within the album.

Introduced to me when I was first starting to play around with DJing Prog, this album showed me that not everything you play behind the decks needs to be peak-time bombs, and demonstrated the need for light and shade when attempting to construct a musical journey through the medium of DJing.

Later seeing Sasha live during his Involver tour in 2004, at the then Metro nightclub in Melbourne, changed me forever. Seeing one man command a crowd of thousands was astounding. For his entire 2+ hours set he had the whole venue in the palm of his hand. It was absolutely magic, and something I’ll never forget.


3. James Zabiela ~ ALiVE (2004)

Released as Pioneer was beginning to take a firm hold of digital DJing, this album played a huge part in the CDJ and EFX revolution. Zab’s first release on Renaissance, this was the album that got everyone’s interest. The digital wizardry contained within the two disc compilation was nothing that had ever been replicated before. Technically brilliant and precise, it showed Zab’s out-of-this-world skills whilst at the same time demonstrating the full potential of Pioneer’s CDJ1000’s and the EFX1000 unit. In my opinion, this album helped lay the groundwork for many of today’s digital DJs, and is in ways responsible for Pioneer now being the club standard world wide.

Not one to be shy about his technical prowess, Zab’s also included a play-by-play of how he constructed the two disc mix – giving an insight into the inner workings of his digitally geared brain, listeners were able to pin-point just how he crafted and manufactured the sounds, transitions and effects within. Thinking back to my first read through of the booklet, I was astounded at how he had pulled off some of the effects and digital tricks – a majority of what he’d done I actually thought were part of the original tracks! Another thing that stood out was his ability to accomplish such a polished and cohesive journey using a huge variety of different genre’s – Breaks, Techno, Prog, House, Electro, all flowing seamlessly throughout.

However, the most significant part this album played in influencing my DJing was in demonstrating the scope and advantages of the digital approach. Before I’d heard the album I was a Vinyl purist through and through – swearing against CDJs and getting on my analog-high-horse at any given chance. Once I heard it, I knew that I was putting myself at a disadvantage by restricting myself to just the one format; it made me realize that whilst there was still a big place for Vinyl in my DJing, that there was also more to it than just beat-mixing two records together.


4. BT ~ Movement In Still Life (1999)

A true pioneer of the electronic movement, BT is one of those producers that’s been around since the early days and continues to constantly change and adapt with the times. This album illustrated, as my previous selection did, the need for diversity, not only in the music that I listened to, but also later in how I began to approach DJing. Touching on everything from Nu-School Breaks in tracks like ‘Ride’ and ‘Movement In Still Life’, to the Prog-Breaks masterpiece of ‘Running Down The Way Up‘, all the way through to the Trance anthems of ‘Dreaming‘ and ‘Godspeed‘, this is a fantastic example of how an artist album should be approached. Not pigeonholed or confined to any one sound, BT broke away from genre constraints to deliver an extremely varied release that showed his diversity as an electronic artist.

I first purchased this album after hearing ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Dreaming’ – a big fan of Trance at the time, I’d never really been subjected to Breaks. This changed all that and was what initially sparked my interest in the genre.


5. Gatecrasher Black (1998)

Gatecrasher black was the first mixed DJ compilation I had ever heard. Before then, I had no real grasp on what a DJ was, or what they did behind their consoles. Previously I was of the mind that all they did was press play and stop. Black changed that. My first listen was somewhat confusing – I had no idea why there wasn’t any type of pause in-between each track. After repeat listens I began to hear that the tracks were somehow being pieced together. Further research revealed that the CD itself had been mixed by a DJ. Almost instantly my mind was opened to a whole new world.

If I could pin-point where my obsessive love for electronic music began, it would be this album. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard plenty of electronic music before this, cheesy shite like 666’s ‘Amokk‘, but none of it had the depth that this album displayed. None of it interested me as much. It sparked something in me that’s still apparent over 12 years on – a feeling that can’t be described in words – just a knowing. I can still remember traipsing round the streets as a young teenager endlessly listening to it on my Sony disc-man. Engulfed in the music, I knew that electronic music was destined for my ear-drums.


Next up in the series, Simon Murphy delivers his Top 5!