How To Curate The Perfect Compilation Mix With Late Night Tales

From the tune selection, to the mixdown and end result, Late Night Tales reveal all.

The art of DJing is not just about how many hours you’ve spent honing your transitions, how many records you own, or how technically savvy you are. The best DJs in the world – big and small – are usually excellent curators. How you pace your set, delivering innovative blends and out-the-box creativity, is part of that skill and is an artform in itself.

As a DJ, a recording artist, a producer or musician, you are a curator in your own right. You’re bringing to life your own musical influences through sound and it’s a talent that once tapped into, can really take you to the next level of your journey. And, it’s worth remembering the skill of curation is not only reserved for those with a natural flair for it, it’s something that can be built over time.

Late Night Tales invites the world’s best artists to delve deep into their music collections to create the ultimate “late night” selection; they’re considered the crème de la crème of music compilations. Putting out releases for over 20 years with artist-curated compilations from likes of Zero 7, Nightmares on Wax, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins, Khruangbin and many more, to be invited to host a Late Night Tales of your own is an accolade many artists would only dream of. So, who better to impart advice on what brings the perfect compilation together, from the selection of tunes, to the mixdown and end result.

A selection of Late Night Tales compilation albums

We caught up with cheekypaul of Late Night Tales. Read on for his tips on how to curate the perfect compilation mix.

1. The music selection

Know your music. Listen, listen and listen again to your compilation tracks. Only use music you know and love inside out. Not every track needs its own back story, maybe you just love it, and as long as you do love it, that’ll do. Start with a pool of around 25-50 tracks, but we won’t use them all. Aim for an hour’s worth of music, whittling it down to around 20 tracks.

2. The story

What opens and closes this mix? And which tracks do not open or close? How will this particular unmixed bunch be presented as a singular musical journey? Create your first running order and listen back, making notes as you go. Anything that sounded out of place, or too loud, too fast, too noisy, too long, move it to where it sounds right, then listen through again. This process of iteration creates the story, the backbone of your compilation mix.

3. The final edit

Don’t be afraid to drop tracks along the way. Maybe the mix is starting to out stay its welcome. Any that start to jar with the overall vibe can be dropped, don’t be afraid. The whole is more important than any single track on a great compilation.

4. The tech

Record the mix. Use any method you’re comfortable with. Live, Logic, Pro Tools, Reaper, etc., they all work. If you’re playing it ‘live’ then make sure to record at 24bit or higher. The occasional key clash is inevitable, so where needed change the pitch to smooth out anything abrupt. Sudden frequency or volume changes at mix points can really upset the ear. What about bpm changes: slowly move up or down tempo, or let tracks fade and bring the next track in at the exact right point? It’s up to you.

5. The end result

Listen to the mix all the way through non-stop. Any moments that feel rushed? Any places that make you reach for the skip button? Make further sonic adjustments, honing the sound in ways you feel will enrich the listening experience. And don’t be afraid to start again, with a whole new running order. That’s all part of the learning process.‍

Discover more Late Night Tales mixes on Mixcloud.