Wednesday 20 October 2021

The forgotten art of Cover CDs

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that I'm a bit of an archivist. I love gathering odd and curious releases that catch my interest, albeit sometimes digitally in the cases of really rare ones like Takashi Kokubo's BMW Cyber-Tech Sound. Still, I've managed to get quite a few physical ones in my time as well - and today is going to focus on a very specific subset of them - the magazine cover CD.

Picture slightly unrelated, this cover did come with a CD though!

It's a pretty simple concept: you buy a music magazine, you get a free compilation/mix or whatever CD from it as well, works to promote both your mag and the artist(s) featured as well. So I thought today I'd go over some of my favourite examples of them that I've manage to pick up. By far responsible for the most of them in my collection is MixMag - they've played host to some properly massive names when it comes to their cover CDs over the years, there's even a Felix Da Housecat album that until recently was exclusive to one issue of MixMag, but that's a tale for another day as today I'm going to focus on the actual Mix CDs.

Part of the reason I like collecting these, aside from the obvious appeal of finding new stuff of course, is preserving the mixes. It makes me sort of sad when things like this fall by the wayside as time goes on - but I guess that's to be expected after all as you don't get much more ephemeral than a release that came with a Magazine, even so it still bothers me a bit. Like how I've been unable to find any trace of Fotonovela's I'm The Masturbator With My Pocket Vibrator mix CD either physically or digitally - judging by the tracklist that mix looks brilliant.

Thankfully, it seems there are a fair few folk like me out there on the net with this archivist streak, while discussing this exact topic with some friends I was able to pull up most of them on YouTube (which of course means there are copies floating around in the P2P spaces as well). We're going to be starting with a MixMag offering first of all, with one that I still have my actual copy of from back when I was an Ed Banger obsessed teen: Club 75, mixed by Zdar of Cassius. This was around the time Ed Banger was rebranding a touch: their clothing line was being renamed from Cool Cats to Club 75 - and the Club 75 in the compilation's title was supposed to be a DJ Supergroup of Cassius, Justice, Busy P & DJ Mehdi (as detailed on the comp's cover).

That didn't quite pan out though and with the death of DJ Mehdi in 2011 the project seemed to have been permanently shelved. The compilation itself is a great listen though, a real time capsule back to 2009 with some big belting tunes on there - the Justice mix of D.A.N.C.E still gets a rise out of me to this day (It appears on this comp mislabelled as the MSTRKRFT Remix, but that too is a massive tune). Perhaps a little bittersweet now that both Philippe Zdar and DJ Mehdi are no longer with us, but what better way to recall them than by putting this on.

Another of my favourites from the MixMag ones is the Trance 'n' Bass mix from John B circa 2002. John B has a pretty eclectic style, if you look up pictures of him from discogs he looks more like the frontman of an early 00's emo slash pop punk outfit than a Drum & Bass producer (and also one unfortunate picture of him at like 16). Trance & Bass was a very short lived spin off of the two genres, but it made enough of an impression to get an entry on Ishkur's Electronic Music Guide at the time, the one that no longer works due to the death of Flash.

The mix shows off a great deal of variety from the genre, with a healthy dose of John's own productions in there too. The introduction is a pretty solid demo of the overall vibe - massive build ups a la Trance that release with waves of bass and frantic breaks, it takes a good 3:24 before the beats even come in on the intro! I would say that throughout does lean more heavily on the D&B side of things and keeps the BPM suitably high too, but the Trance elements are a welcome addition, especially in my case as I don't have a ton of variety in my collection when it comes to D&B. It gave me a laundry list of stuff to check out and introduced me to a great tune in Speedfreak from Plex - a tune very hard to search for now that all engines assume you mean Plex servers. It's quite an intense listen and doesn't let up for long, which can be a bit much for the full 74 minute runtime - but even if it's not your bag, I'd say it's worth at least a sample purely for the tagline on the cover: "Mentalist tunes to rinse your weasel"

And that'll be all for today, there are other mix CDs that could have gone in this list quite easily, but I figure I'll hang onto them for a future second instalment. It felt good to write something out long-form for a change as well given my output in recent weeks, I think I'll leave this one up for a little longer before returning to the bite-size format. I hope you'e enjoyed this brief dive into the world of cover CDs - there are some really fantastic ones out there if you go looking, and more often than not they're an interesting curio of the times if nothing else. Until next time, as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


No comments: