Given his renown, you'd think Jeff Mills would have quite a few commercially released mix CDs out there to choose from. Not so. In fact, until the release of The Exhibitionist on his own Axis label in 2004, Mills had only one mix on the market, his Live at the Liquid Room disc from 1996. And to make matters more frustrating for fans, that mix was a tough one to track down stateside, as it was released by Sony Japan and React overseas and was generally out of print. A shame that was, because Live at the Liquid Room is one of the most astonishing techno mixes you're ever liable to hear in your lifetime. It's trademark Mills -- he blazes through innumerable tracks, many of them his own productions, often overlapping them and rarely letting any given track play out for more than a minute or (maybe) two, all the while throwing in some Detroit techno classics simply for the sake of doing so. The Exhibitionist is similar. Here Mills again showcases his trademark mixing style, dropping an astounding 45 tracks over the course of a single disc, about half of them his own productions and a couple of them bearing the Made in Detroit stamp (i.e., Octave One's "Blackwater" and the Aztec Mystic's "Aguila," both of which are standouts). The chief difference between the two, then, is track selection. Liquid Room was recorded back in 1996, while Exhibitionist dates from 2004, and though the sound of techno didn't change too much over that span, Mills did broaden his selection for the more recent mix, incorporating a number of outside productions. These outside producers (e.g., Ben Sims, Oliver Ho, Samuel L. Sessions) share Mills' aesthetic -- hard-driving minimal techno with ample rhythmic density -- and fit in well, often as mixing tools that Mills uses to segue between two of his own tracks. Of note is the run from tracks six through ten, which includes the lushness of the aforementioned "Blackwater" and a festive foray into Latin with UK Gold's remix of "Bateria-Latin Impressions." Of further note are the older Purpose Maker productions of Mills that have become staples of his mixes over the years: "The Bells," "Tango," and "Alarms," the latter appearing in the form of its Ben Sims remix. But for the most part, Mills sticks with his more recent productions rather than older, well-known ones from the '90s. That, above all, distinguishes The Exhibitionist from Live at the Liquid Room: both are similar in style, one that is characteristically Mills and only Mills, and both are representative of their points in time, which are nearly a decade apart. You can't go wrong with either mix; they're both great. If anything, it'll probably come down to whichever you can find, and if you're serious about either Mills or techno DJing, you are recommended to pick up both, for this is the apex of techno as it pertains to DJing. Few can hold a candle to Mills on the turntables.
by Jason Birchmeier