The esteemed producer and DJ guides us through her entry into the long-running mix series
Avalon Emerson is the latest DJ to grace the long-running DJ-Kicks mix series.
Although she grew up in Arizona, Avalon cut her teeth DJing at warehouse parties in San Francisco and the Bay Area, where she lived before moving to Berlin in 2014. During her six years in the German capital, she developed a reputation in the underground dance music scene not just as one of its more adventurous and technically dextrous DJs, but one of its best producers, too. Her track “The Frontier” became a contemporary club classic after its release in 2016, and her music caught the attention of Robyn, Four Tet, and Slowdive, who all tapped her to remix their tracks. Now based in Los Angeles, Avalon’s DJ Kicks mix summarises her past few years behind the decks, which has seen her as comfortable playing at techno temple Berghain as she is at pop and indie festivals like Coachella and Pitchfork Paris.
Her DJ-Kicks mix is a diverse selection. You can hear breakbeat rave tracks, dance-punk from Rub N Tug and the Dirtbombs, late 70s oddities like Tranceonic’s “Butterfly”, and some new tracks of her own, like the starry-eyed “Rotting Hills”. There are some revelations, too: the mix kicks off not with a dancefloor bomb, but Avalon’s synth-pop cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Long Forgotten Fairytale” – not the first time that she has used her own vocals on a song, but certainly the most upfront she’s been about it before.
Here, she breaks down the compilation in full.
01. AVALON EMERSON, “LONG FORGOTTEN FAIRYTALE”
Avalon Emerson: I started this in Lisbon, at Bullion’s studio. He has released a couple of really great covers records on his label, DEEK, called Covered in Gloria and 4 Down, which I loved. “Long Forgotten Fairytale” is one of my favorite Magnetic Fields songs, and I wanted to have a crack at it. I took the song back to LA and finished it with a bit of a tougher beat, and thought it would be a cute, surprising start to my DJ-Kicks mix.
02. AVALON EMERSON, “WASTELANDS AND OASES”
Avalon Emerson: This is a brief little song I wrote a couple of years ago and had always kept with me. I’m glad I found a place for it here. It feels at home with some of the other originals, and the energy was a nice contrast in between “Long Forgotten Fairytale” and the next track, “Butterfly”.
03. TRANCEONIC, “BUTTERFLY”
Avalon Emerson: I’ve really liked this wacky little song since Dark Entries reissued it in 2017. Tranceonic was originally a project between Carlos Perón and Boris Blank (who were founding members of the electronic pop band Yello) in the late 70s. I like using it as a tempo changer, like an uphill water slope for boats.
04. WAVEFORM, “BREAKERS IN SPACE” (D.A.T. REMIX)
Avalon Emerson: I love these dreamy breaky things from the late 90s. I picked this up as I was doing a deep Discogs dive through the back catalogue of Thursday Club Recordings one day – their stuff around this time was all fantastic. I love the dreamy breathing space that this particular song has, and it acts as a great bridge between the introduction and the more meaty, ravey parts of this mix.
05. AVALON EMERSON, “ROTTING HILLS”
Avalon Emerson: This is one of the more recent dance songs I’ve made. I went through a pretty unshakable bout of anxiety and climate/future-related depression for a large part of 2019 while I was making the decision to make some kind of change and move my home base back to the US for a while. I think you can hear some of that in “Rotting Hills”.
06. ANTHONY ACID, “DOE, DOE, DOE”
Avalon Emerson: This one is a wacky party song that I’m really glad found its way into the final mix. It’s trippy and kinda baggy, and reminds me of a lot of great nights out on tour. I played it out quite a lot in 2019. When we contacted Anthony Acid himself to see if I could include the song, he didn’t have a master on hand, so what you hear is a vinyl rip from my house of Nathan Micay’s copy.
07. LITTLE MIKE, “DIRTY PUSHERMAN” (ORIGINAL FILTHY MIX)
Avalon Emerson: This song is quite simple, but effective on just about any sound system, and always kicks up the energy when that bass comes in. Sometimes my love for this kind of house is just that basic.
08. DJ SENSE, “FINEST”
Avalon Emerson: This was the first song that I saw was cleared for licensing, and during that whole maddening process, after declines and blocks seemingly at every turn, I kept thinking, “At least I have ‘Finest’.” Here, I play it a bit slower than its native 137 beats per minute.
09. GENERAL MIDI, “THE FUTURE”
Avalon Emerson: ‘Rude.’
10. ONI AYHUN, “OAR004-A”
Avalon Emerson: I adore DJ Coolof, and all his Oni records were really special to me as I got into dance music and electronic production, so I’m glad I could include my favourite of his.
11. OKLOU, “LEVEL 5”
Avalon Emerson: I ripped this one from Oklou’s Bandcamp release of the Zone W/O People OST cassette, and played it butted up against some different tracks at a lot of my last gigs.
12. OCEANIC, “YELLOW CONE (UNISON)”
Avalon Emerson: I think Job (Oberman, AKA Oceanic) is one of the best new producers out there right now. He’s always surprising, with different directions and collaborations and remixes. I was torn between this one and a remix he did of Jungle by Night’s “Spending Week”, but this one fit best in its upfrontness.
13. SMITH N HACK, “ULTRA-RANGE SOUND PROCESS”
Avalon Emerson: Kind of the chop shop disco house version of a shepard tone. Smith N Hack is Soundstream and Errorsmith, so it is a natural, easy ramp up into the next song.
14. SOUNDSTREAM, “3RD MOVEMENT”
Avalon Emerson: An old old favourite of mine; Soundstream eternal. I started playing this out when I was first getting behind decks back in San Francisco, almost 10 years ago at this point. This, along with “Tease Me”, was one of the first dance music records I bought to play out. Soundstream and his music is always quite the fixture in Panorama Bar too, so I’m glad I could bring some of that vibe to my Kicks mix.
15. THE DIRTBOMBS, “SHAREVARI” (AVALON EMERSON’S CYBERNEDIT)
Avalon Emerson: Amazing classic from Party Store, an album of other Detroit techno covers. This is kind of a light cybernedit.
16. !!!, “HELLO? IS THIS THING ON?” (THOMAS N’ ERIC’S RUB AND TUG THROWDOWN)
Avalon Emerson: !!! has been special to me as a kind of bridge between guitar music and dance land when I was getting into it all in the mid 2000s, and I think this is one of the best remixes of that era.
17. AVALON EMERSON, “POODLE POWER”
Avalon Emerson: This one started as an attempt to make a cheeky little festival song, and it ended up staying on my USB and in my sets for quite a while after. I had a version of this that I played at my set at Dimensions Festival, closing the Clearing Stage in 2018 when we had to stop the whole show and black out the stage for 10 minutes because of intense light night. Feels like a complete other life now.
18. LADY B, “CRUISING AROUND MOTOR CITY”
Avalon Emerson: This song makes me feel tender when I hear it on a sound system. I really appreciated that Lady B did a remix/master of this when we reached out to put it in the mix. Cruising sounds better than ever.
19. REGULAR CITIZEN, “ULTRAMARINE DEW”
Avalon Emerson: It’s impressive how much Regular Citizen manages to contain in his simple-but-not-easy compositions on Presto!?, and I thought this was a beautiful bridging bookend.
20. AUSTRA, “ANYWAYZ” (AVALON EMERSON 14TH LIFE VERSION)
Avalon Emerson: I loved the original Austra song, and after playing it as my final track at one of my last Panorama Bar gigs before COVID, I knew I had to remix it. I think it fits really well as the big finish.
Avalon Emerson’s DJ-Kicks is out now