On a basic level, WFMU is record heads playing music for other record heads. On My Castle Of Quiet, William Berger played Krautrock by Can, Amon Duul and Kraftwerk. Stan followed, saying Bill's set led him to play Golem from the set Krautrock Archive Volume One. DJs with freedom are like musicians--listening is as important as playing.
It's fascinating to hear a DJ join extremely natural sounds with spit-shined, modern production. Creative freedom allows experiments in sound texture. Irene Trudel this week played Amina Alaoui, Miriam Makeba, Rickie Lee Jones and Caetano Veloso, before the gleaming torch song of "I Confess" from the new k.d. Lang And The Sis Boom Bang album. Done wrong such segues can protrude like sore thumbs. But Irene used the mellow tones of all this music so the tracks complimented each other perfectly.
Therese made a similar move using soul: listen to the rich, organic harmonies of Labelle covering "Something In The Air/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," next to the ultra modern sounds of Beyonce's "Countdown." "Beyonce of WFMU?!!!" you shudder? Remember, music's sound is influenced by its context. Labelle's master vocals make you hear Beyonce's in a way you would never on a hits station.
But organizing music with obvious links can also create a rewarding set. Mike Van Laar's set from this week grouped British psychedelia and art rock, featuring Gong, Hawkwind, Tomorrow, and The Scaffold. On Dark Night Of The Soul, Julie ran the same play far more broadly--threading 1966 and 1972 music by The Kinks, and Ray Davies solo, with bands ranging from The Fall to The Jam to Herman's Hermits. Long and diverse, ambition can make such a set chaotic if the DJ is not careful. (Listen to how many well-intentioned mix tapes falter when there is all diversity but weak links.) But shrewd Julie uses the Kinks angle to weave her grouping tight.
Free form DJs fly without a net--OR make their net as they go along.