By David Rolland
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There are interludes on Joris Voorn's latest major mix compilation, 2009's Balance 014, that are so momentous they might move you to tears. The two-disc set charges like a ghost train roaring out of the moors — its ethereal ambiance giving way to cirrus-level strings, its blunted calm opening up to boiling cauldrons of bass.
Given that his father is a classical composer, his mother a music teacher, and, as a child, Voorn practiced violin for an hour a day in the Dutch countryside, you could see how his musical storytelling might resonate with symphonic sensibilities, even if he has since moved on to traditionally nonsymphonic instruments.
The 32-year-old was born in Rotterdam, came of age in the Dutch town of Tilburg, and now resides in Amsterdam. As a teenager, he took apart radios and tried to make his own distortion units. In the mid-'90s, he was laughed at when he sought a now highly collectible '80s Roland TB-303 Bass Line machine. But when he was steered toward the purchase of a contemporary 303 redux, a Roland Groovebox, his parents began wondering about the then-19-year-old's priorities.
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About the time he discovered 303s, Voorn won a local DJ competition, paired up with friend Edwin Oosterwal under the DJ duo name Rejected, and found success as a refined and melodic techno practitioner. By the mid-'00s, he was shaping remixes for noted labels such as BPitch Control, getting booked for DJ duties at the likes of Berlin's Tresor, and hearing his tracks played by none other than the late John Peel.
With his recent mixes, the spinner follows in the footsteps of British star DJ Sasha, who, along with techno luminary Richie Hawtin, pioneered the use of Ableton Live software for building mix-CDs; it allows tracks to be sliced, edited, and looped into the mix with the push of a button. Elements of eight or more songs can be played at one time — it's the revenge of the long tail, where the world's fringe music comes back together in dramatic fashion.
And despite these majestic aspirations, Voorn argues a DJ is still a journeyman, there to move you, top to bottom, in both the spinner's own empire and yours. "You can't make DJing too experimental," he says. "You're there for the people."