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Ben UFO/Various – Rinse: 16 review

All the talk surrounding Ben UFO ahead of the release of Rinse:16 focused squarely on the fact his reputation has been built as a DJ, not a producer. In an age where the waters between the two have been muddied to the point of no return – far too many promoters book artists to DJ based purely on their production skills – this is an important point. Without a discography to speak of, it is DJing, along with curatorial responsibilities as co-owner of the Hessle Audio imprint alongside Ramadanman and Pangaea, that constitute Ben’s main creative outlets.

In this respect he has an obvious contemporary in Jackmaster – also a label boss (of Numbers) and DJ of considerable repute, but whereas the Glaswegian’s Fabriclive 57 mix from earlier this year showcased his fondness for complementing upfront neon-tinged jackers with judiciously selected party classics (such as the timeless “Don’t You Want It” by Davina), Ben’s opus is a calling card for his own idiosyncratic mixing and selecting style, which effortlessly joins the musical dots between London, Bristol, Berlin and beyond. This begins from the moment the A-Side from Kassem Mosse’s recent Workshop 12″ drops into the XDB edit of the late Aaron Carl’s “Crucified”, and what follows is a wonderful 29-track set that twists, turns, ebbs and flows, all the while retaining a pleasing rawness that is neither over-thought nor over-polished.

Like all good DJs, Ben UFO thinks one, two, three moves ahead. Before there is time for the flow to retreat into dark, undanceable corners, a sun-kissed curveball – be it the rapid-fire arpeggios of 2562’s “Winamp Melodrama” or the saccharine vocals of Champion’s “Sensitivity” – is thrown and the mix is yanked in a new, pleasing direction. The mixing is sharp and on point, layered but never cluttered, juggling broken beats and 4/4, with some tracks only remaining in the mix for a minute or two. The upward progression through BPMs is barely perceptible, and the deep techno leanings of the first half soon gives way to a more UK-centric vibe, with brilliant ’97 garage anthem “Keep Your Love” by Ordinary People leading the way into the darkside manoeuvrings from Pangaea, Shackleton and Kode9.

Spaced responsibly throughout the mix are a couple of YouTube anthems (“Swims” and “Sicko Cell”, the latter remixed by Pearson Sound), and some unreleased heat (a dubplate mix of Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn project), which serve as peaks for the casual listener. Of course Rinse:16 isn’t free from the kind of issues that plague all commercially released mixes: the fact remains that the best place to hear Ben UFO always has been – and always will be – in a dimly lit club with big speakers and a couple of 1210s, and licensing issues inevitably come into play (there would have definitely been some Livejam representation here were it not for the German label’s militant vinyl-only policy), but these are mere quibbles in the most worldly and outwards facing addition to the Rinse mix canon to date.

Aaron Coultate