[SOLOMUN GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: HAMBURG]

It’s midway through the Germany Vs Ghana World Cup match on June 21st when the iconic cover shots for the latest Global Underground mix were taken: possibly not the best time for a DJ/producer brought up in Hamburg to be working (it), but at least cheers could be heard from all the surrounding public houses nearby. Needless to say, when the match came to an end, the streets of Hamburg were utterly rammed – but this time it was because one of the city’s most celebrated sons, Mladen Solomun, was due to play a show at his home club EGO in the red light district, which also happens to be the club’s very last party under its current ownership. And just like at his Pacha Ibiza residency, the real magic eternally starts happening around 3AM, when Mladen takes to the decks for one last dance… and the place erupts. Indeed, one girl decides to climb onto the DJ booth to dance and is later seen swinging (although some say dancing) from the actual ceiling. Yes, it’s that kind of party. Connecting and interacting with the crowd and with his signature arm wave  present and correct, it’s a night of great music and dancing and the party is still going strong at seven in the morning – again, not unlike his epic Sunday nights on the white island. This time, however, the focus is very much on Hamburg. “This is the city where it all started,”smiles Mladen. Global Underground main man Andy Horsfield was at the party until 8 in the morning. “Solomun is a magician – it’s a simple as that,” says Andy. “The way he weaves his music together is simply magical.  He's the best DJ/producer in the world right now.” 

Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and raised in Hamburg where many of his close friends and family members still live, Solomun doesn’t do things by halves, as his summer schedule always attests.  “At the moment I play a lot and importantly, I also have the energy,” he says. “I had a plan to not play so much this year but that didn’t work out! Last weekend for example, I worked out that all in all I played for 38 hours and it was super crazy, party, after-party and then the travelling and I did it from Thursday until Monday. It took me two days to come back! I really enjoy it. We had my Sunday Solomun + 1 party at Pacha but this past Monday I made a villa after-party after Pacha and there were 500 people dancing until the evening.” Having taken his acclaimed + 1 party back to Pacha in Ibiza for a second super-successful season and with gigs across Europe for the majority of the summer, kicking back was never going to be an option for Mladen. Luckily, he has a sensible rider to keep him balanced. Well, fairly sensible. “On my rider is a bottle of white wine and fruit. And still water. But I try to eat fruit every day!” He also feels centred back in Ibiza. “Ibiza IS home,” he smiles. “Every Sunday when I came back from the tour, I am always happy to come back. And I can say that honestly from the depth of my heart.”

As we so emphatically stated before, Solomun doesn’t do things by halves: which is true for pretty much everything except for the very mix you now hold in your hands. Solomun’s GU mix is very much a game of two halves and quite purposefully so. “This CD was six months of my life,” he starts. “When I started, I thought: do you ask colleagues for new stuff or do you pick timeless stuff – every artist has a big pool of tracks but the good thing is the CD is split in two so my concept was to have a melodic, romantic smooth mix on the first side and then the second mix is more dance-floor, but it was not so easy to find the right tracks. I changed a lot of tracks long the way. As a DJ, you play every weekend so always change your set 10-15 percent and try and go with the flow so for me it was important to get CD1 and CD 2 right, it needs to be a journey. Of course, I also included some old tracks I love; I wanted to make a journey and I hope people understand that journey.” The last GU mix was beamed in from the Nevada desert by Carl Cox back in 2010 but we think this one was worth the wait. So what made Mladen say yes? “I like the concept that one artist stands for one city… there was always a big buzz around the series and during the last two years I had some offers and was always not sure and I was planning my own mix and then I got the Global request and I decided the fact that there was a break for 4 years was a good thing. I didn’t have to think about it!” 

The mix HAD to be set in Hamburg of course. Like fellow Hamburg house hero Tensnake, Mladen has been very loyal to the German city where the Beatles cut their live chops and where clubs like Front gave the city its beating house music heart in the early 1990s. “Of course, there was no other city, I grew up in Hamburg and lived there all my life and of course I the end, it was cool timing to do. The closing party was a very nice finish. I never had the feeling that I had to move, I got everything in Hamburg and it was little but also cosy – there are 2 million people in the city but where I lived it was like a village, you know where to hang out and where to grab a coffee. My sister and my mother and my best friends all live there… Hamburg will be always home.”

Opening with ‘Blind’, the soulful new glitch-house burner from Christian Löffler and gliding gently into ‘Simply’, a brooding, late night vocal standard from Moorync (AKA German producer Marek Hemmann] before ‘Captain Trollig’ by Sevensol & Bender eases into earshot, CD1 is a mix that takes its cues from the epic electronic output of forward-facing labels like Kompakt and Krakatau. Sensibly, the mix takes its time to peak and when the chiming melodies of  ‘Cirrus’ by Bonobo starts to shimmer, Hamburg goes truly stratospheric. “Every track is personal somehow and the people who listen will listen at home so they will be connected,” he reasons. “Bonobo is doing his own thing and has his own style and is super-creative but what he did [with ‘Cirrus’] I think is a masterpiece.”And the props don’t stop there. “’Sie Ist Schoen’ by Jonas Mantey is absolutely a beautiful string masterpiece, the feeling he creates is so beautiful and I always love to play this track in the morning. And Jai Paul, the way he made and cut that track and the vocal, the mood is incredible and one of the tracks I listened to more at home before.” CD1 comes to a close with ‘The Wheel’, a stunning, stirring chillwave ballad from Sohn, a super-talented English songwriter now based in Vienna. It’s a fitting and distinctive end to the first mix. 

CD 2 takes things towards a more peak-time vibe but crucially, the emotional resonance remains.  “The Voiski track is still part of my set and is a super-trippy journey, the arpeggios and the whole track is fantastic,” says Mladen. “And of course, the Radio Slave track [‘My Bleep’] is a little older but still fits into the sound I represent. The remix is from Roman Fluegel and Roman is one of the all-time best artists ever, so for ten minutes this track never gets boring. And of course, when we get ‘BUM BUM’ by Ada at the end, the track my be 8 years old but we all love and respect her since we started to make music. This track is for me is super-outstanding and is a track I will always play.” Andy Horsfield is equally effusive about the overall mix. “Solomun can covert the magic he creates in a club to the album format, not all great club DJs can do this and in itself this is a true skill and means that when you buy one of his rare album mixes, you get the true sound of him.” Listening to the mix again on a sun-kissed Monday morning, we can’t help but be taken back to some of the seminal tripped-out mixes from Sasha and John Digweed in the late nineties: like Sasha’s still-incredible Global Underground (San Francisco) mix, the care and attention to sonic detail over two hours is second to none. What would be Solomun’s ultimate ambition for his mix, we wonder? “My claim was always that music is all about moments…” He pauses for just a second. “…so I hope people will find the right moment to like this mix.”

 Photograph by Dean Belcher

Photograph by Dean Belcher