There’s something so inspiring about how the forest grows together. So many different species all touching, supporting each other, living together in pulsing green harmony, slowly weaving towards towards the sun’s rays. For a while I lived near the foot of Mount Dandenong near Melbourne, Australia. A round trip through Sherbrooke Forest near my house took about ninety minutes. I wanted to craft a soundtrack to this walk, based on the bpm of my footsteps, evoking the dense interwoven layers.
The forest feels a bit like a church or temple sometimes, inspiring a feeling of reverence and respect as I softly step through. It is healing and calming, sometimes I match my breath to my footsteps and it becomes like a meditation. At times a shuffle comes to my feet as the music in my earbuds lifts and turns to a dance. Sometimes I'll turn down the volume to hear the forest noise mix with the music. A tumult of tiny tunes all slotting together into this tapestry of sound, blanketing the soft ferns with undulating clouds of melody and rhythm.
If I’m lucky, I’ll hear a multitude of different birdsongs in one spot, and the Kookaburra won’t sound quite right, then I’ll know it’s a Lyrebird, The elegant and ebullient male triggering it’s sampledelic masterpiece to impress the discerning females. Also known as Bulln-Bulln by the local people of the Kulin nation, the Lyrebird has the most complexly muscled syrinx (vocal organ) of any songbird, and it uses this to effectively record, cut up, loop and play back the sounds it hears in the forest.
For this mix I wanted to create a diverse but cohesive habitat for your mind to wander. I selected a wide variety of musical pieces from around the world (including Norway, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Holland, Mali, Germany & The UK) that sounded at home together on the forest floor. Like the lyrebird, I have deconstructed, looped and rearranged some of these pieces into a patchwork, not to impress the ladies, but hopefully to evoke the densely woven and multilayered forest, with it’s rich, moist fragrant soil, magical fungi, glitchy insects, fractal ferns, wise old trees, restless mammals and colourful, swooping birds.
I was asked by Rocco from the Spoor People collective to create a mix for their Trailmix series. They have been commissioning mixes along the theme of forest walks, and I thought it would be fun to take this very literally. The tracks needed to have a steady beat, but vary in tempo, so House was a natural choice of genre to start with. Although I've coloured far past the edges of this genre boundary, it serves as a uniting rhythm for the feet. I wanted to base this mix on the exact tempo of my journey, so I measured the speed of my footsteps at different points along the way. At the start of the walk there is a steep hill, so I walk at around 95 bpm. This gradually rises as the ground evens out, and rises further as I gain pace when the path opens up towards the end. On the way back down the hill I go a lot faster, around 120-125 bpm, so the rhythm of the mix becomes like a map of my footprints along the trail - just as many of the tracks in the forest are made by the tracks of the wallabies, wombats and lyrebirds, this trail mix is a track made of tracks, matching my journey almost exactly to the beat of the footsteps.
I have paid special attention to the intersections of these pieces. As on the forest floor, there are no gaps, everything interweaves. Pieces of things break off and take on a life of their own. Everything eventually becomes raw material. Of course, beat-matching is nothing new, it’s been around at least since Francis Grasso in the early seventies, but you may notice that some of the transitions are a lot longer and more complex than traditional DJ mixes. That's because I just love it when two tracks mate. If timing and key are right, a mysterious third song is born of that moment. I get such a kick out of finding these diverse and paradoxical combinations, to me it often seems like tracks were made for each other, I just need to introduce them and they get it on. It was so much fun putting this mix together!
I recommend you take this mix into the forest yourself, or just let it bring the forest to you.
Enjoy this journey, wherever and whenever you go.
I love weaving these magical audio journeys. I’d like to to be able to spend more time on this, so if you dig this mix, you can support what I do for as little as $1 a month on Patreon.
Cornelius – Brazil
Isan – Fire Damage
David August – J.B.Y.
Nicola Cruz – Mantis
Francis Bebey – Forest Nativity
Tinariwen – Tenere Taqhim Tossam (Four Tet Remix)
Mariah – Shinzo No Tobira
Ghost Feet – Doom
Space Dimension Controller – BBD Alignment
Greg Sheehan & Ben Walsh – Instant Hits
Matthew Dekay & Lee Burridge – Lost In A Moment (Dixon Rework)
Tipper – Spun Cookie
Typesun – Last Home
Boxcutter – Panama
Mr Scruff – We Are Coming (Max Graef Remix)
Herbert – The Last Beat (Twisted Dub)
Floating Points – Monparnasse
Sabo – Lunar Tom
Umoja – Umboweti
John Parsley – Marimba
Martin Iveson – Cobra xl (Freddy Da Stupid Edition)
Four Tet – Lion (Jamie xx Remix)
Stimming – Southern Sun (Dub)
Die Vogel – Mesmerize
Damian Lazarus – Adventures Of The Ancient Moons
Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – a2 (Max Cooper Remix)
? – Track 09 (Indonesian School Recording)
Flako – Lion’s Mane
Memotone – Small Good Thing (Live Version)
HNNY – Memory Tape One
Camille – Assise (I’ve Been Sitting)
Bugge Wesseltoft – Movement Eleven
RVKIT – Moon Rocks