Adventurous, often confrontational but always playful, a DJ set from LA's Ashland Mines, aka Total Freedom, draws dancers into a whirlwind of ever-evolving texture and sensation. Unafraid to assault listeners with jarring shifts in mood and tempo, in his hands, R&B-concrète collides with rap, grime and ballroom house, while sung vocals abruptly dissolve into swamps of syrupy, drugged-out noise. As akin to real-time sonic collage as typical dance music DJing, Mines' free-associative approach places recognizable hip hop and R&B traits within abrasive, rhythmically distorting sonic space, making the familiar thrillingly unfamiliar. Alongside friends and contemporaries like Nguzunguzu, Kingdom and Arca, he's poised among the vanguard of a vibrant, still evolving new aesthetic in club music.
Mines' disregard for simplistic definitions of so-called 'pop' and 'experimental' music was established early in life. Growing up in a strongly Christian household, he was encouraged to foster a love of music. However, since pop music was often considered inappropriate listening by his family, from a young age he began delving into the world of experimental music, digging for artists whose work was ambiguous enough to avoid his parents' disapproval. He started learning to DJ, and began to experiment with recording mixes, bootlegs and noise music.
Later, after moving to LA alongside long-term allies Nguzunguzu and discovering that the internet offered a vast resource for all manner of strange forms of club music from across the globe, he began to DJ with a focus on dance music. Honing his craft as a DJ at parties within the city - including Wildness, the now-legendary night he hosted alongside Nguzunguzu and Wu Tsang - he became part of the collective developing around the city's Fade To Mind label, set up by friends Kingdom and Prince William. He's since been a key supporting figure in the label's development and DJs regularly at Fade To Mind events.
Paralleling the rise of Fade To Mind into the global club music consciousness, Mines has acquired a deserved reputation as a formidable DJ, with his sets taking dramatic arcs through extremes of emotional impact, from soothing and enveloping to teeth-grindingly abrasive. His regular downloadable mixes, archived on Soundcloud, showcase this approach. So do his own bootleg edits, which attack recognizable rap and R&B vocals with distortion, warping textures and hard-edged drums taken from sources as disparate as grime, film soundtracks and metal tracks. Recorded for use in his own sets, they're bizarre yet enthralling, often drawing their power and emotional impact from their sheer improbability. Not only the underground has noticed though, in the last year his talents have been enlisted for remix work by artists like Bjork, Maroon5, and for a special project with Trina.
The intrinsic awareness of space and atmosphere that marks out Mines' approach to DJing has been informed, in turn, by his history of hosting and curating club and art events. Wildness, which he established with Nguzunuguzu and Wu Tsang in 2008, ran for two years and gained a reputation for its inclusive atmosphere; it's since been immortalized in Tsang's award-winning documentary about the party, Wildness. In 2012 he directed a month long performance series in New York called Blasting Voice, sharing a title and theme with the 2xLP compilation he arranged for LA punk label Teenage Teardrops the same year. He continues to be involved in hosting an 8 years running weekly club night in LA called Mustache Mondays, plays regularly at kindred spirit Venus X's New York night GHE20 GOTH1K, has been a part-time resident of Janus Berlin, and frequently creates events and installations in museums and galleries around the world. In recent years he's played in a host of venues across the globe, from sweaty basements in Chicago to the techno-cathedral of Berghain - events in spaces such as London's Tate Modern and New York's MoMA, as well as a few acclaimed boilerroomtv sets and guest mixes on London's Rinse FM and BBC Radio1xtra.