Each WFMU DJ's show has a very specific sound. I often wonder how each DJ creates this.
Example: this week, Duane did a set composed mostly of soul. He used the band Odyssey from the compilation Motown's Mowest Story 1971-1973, and included Ruth Brown and Willie Hutch. Soul sounds fresher than most "oldies" genres, and Duane's soul set particularly so: this music is not worn by decades of radio overkill.
But Mr. Finewine also uses soul on Downtown Soulville, as does Small Change on Nickel and Dime Radio. Why is each different? Well, listen to this Downtown Soulville Set of Frank Frost, Billy Watkins, and The Mixtures. Mr. Finewine uses 45s featuring stripped-to-essentials, gutbucket soul sound.
Small Change uses a far more eclectic approach on Nickel And Dime Radio. In this show-opening set, he starts with "Lesson 2" a mix of classic funk by James Brown and Sly And The Family Stone by Double Dee and Steinski . But he then uses 1960s psych-blues-rock by the Turtles, "Buzz Saw," and beautifully obnoxious 1970s hard rock, "Bad Talking Lady," by Left End. Why does it work? Any good set has to have a thread, and here, it is the driving tempos and rhythms.
Here is another way to unlock the mystery of what gives each WMFU DJ their sound. How is the same song used differently? Let's take what may be the first progressive rock song labeled as such, King Crimson's 1969 "21st Century Schizoid Man" Hot Rod thematically linked it with Hawkwind's' Sonic Attack. The two tracks are very different, but are in the same British Rock Undergound ballpark. In a second archive, Hot Rod deconstructs the peice, editing the chorus into Kanye West's "Power." after playing Crimso's whole track. Against this modern backdrop, Crimson's early FM science fiction nightmare takes on a completely different aura. Mike Sin played a low-fi version of Crimson playing the song at a ''69 Filmore East show, contextualizing the track on Optical Sound as garage next to The Chocolete Watch Band. Scott Williams did the most risky deconstruction, playing the studio backing track as a bed for sped-up veteran radio announcer, Paul Harvey
When flying without the nets of playlists and formats, context and nuance are everything! It teaches a lot about why each WFMU DJ's show is unique when hearing the archives with this in mind.