The irony of a mix CD is that it is a CD. A DJ takes the sounds generated from two turntables (and in this case much more than that) and puts the end result on CD — a medium of audio transport often shunned by the hardcore mixmaster. Then again, we’re talking about Richie Hawtin, who’s built a reputation on being someone outside the ordinary. Ever the concept man, Hawtin has a way of paying attention to seemingly every last detail. Whether it’s a party (anyone at the most recent "Consumed" party will recall the black plastic-covered walls, perfectly setting the mood as a companion for the album), a record (even the packaging of Consumed takes into account the album’s spaced-out depth) or, in this case, a mix CD.
In contrast to the echo-driven forays of Consumed (released under Hawtin’s Plastikman moniker), Decks is very much a DJ set with dance floor intentions. But, in typical Hawtin fashion, it moves beyond a typical dance set. His DJ skills are invariably present, but added to the mix here is his production savvy — it’s as if the two personalities of Richie Hawtin the DJ and Plastikman the producer finally agree on something.
Cuts by Jeff Mills are thrown in along with portions from Quadrant, vocal bits by Santos Rodriguez and Nitzer Ebb — and, of course, Hawtin’s own "Orange," a discombobulated beat-assisted insistence on carrying the Yello legacy. But by the time he’s done with them, the listener’s recognition of many of the tunes is peripheral to Hawtin’s continuous use of the 909 and other distorting effects.
Decks asserts the notion of DJ-as-musician rather than simply a beat-matcher. Those still "konsumed" with the "koncept" behind this CD need only observe the liner notes. Inside, a grid details the placement and overlap of the various song segments, each running about two minutes in length. For the average bloke, it becomes something of a mystery; but for the aspiring DJ, it becomes a guidebook for success.
Decks, EFX & 909 single-handedly takes and successfully merges the best of what the Plastikman and Richie Hawtin entities have to offer. Don’t make the mistake, however, of considering this a replacement for the live experience. A Richie party is still a Richie party, and, with Decks as yet more proof, one never knows exactly what to expect from any of Hawtin’s personae.