Let’s talk about NI’s STEMS.
This is super interesting, not least because it is an open, backwards-compatible format. It’s also worth noting that this idea has been around for ages – your very own Tide Pool netlabel was selling parts, oh, almost a decade ago, now, among several others.
What’s hip here is the instant integration into NI’s line of DJing controllers, and into their idea of a ‘Remix Deck’. Suddenly, the “live remix” that people have been talking about for, oh, a decade (actually since the dawn of DJing) is ‘way easier.
This has lots of potential to be very cool – especially as that four tracks becomes eight and then 16.
This also has potential to be nasty, in a way that I’ve been trying to articulate since Sasha switched to Ableton in 2004 or so: The danger of giving DJs full control over the music that they are playing is that it all sounds like them.
Consider myself: I love the long mix. I came up on John Digweed and early 2000s progressive house, and if you can hear a transition, by god, you’ve failed. This is a noble goal, but it sure can make for boring sets. If I had the power to loop out every tune, I’d for sure make each mix as smoooooooth as possible – probably to my detriment.
On the other hand, if I’m Just Playing Records, I am stuck with the arrangement of those records, and have to make do. This makes me work harder, and makes my DJ sets way way way more interesting.
The future that NI is pushing is of a middle-road between “putting on records in a row” and “permuting those records in compelling ways”. I don’t think the tools for NI’s vision are there yet (although that tool, still, might be Ableton), though I am sort of excited to see where that future goes. But, don’t forget about the other paradigm: David Mancuso and the idea of “letting the record speak” still have a lot of miles to go.