The latest edition of the long-running and critically lauded DJ Kicks series sees DJ, producer, and vocalist Matthew Dear spin the tunes that inspire him. As one would expect from a man whose output has ranged from intricate minimalism as Audion to more full-on, in-your-face techno as Jabberjaw, his selections are hugely eclectic, demonstrating the various facets of Dear as an artist. It is a fascinating mix that fully embraces the idiosyncrasies of a man who has put his heart and soul into the underground.
For fans of Dear’s oeuvre, there are three brand new and exclusive cuts from the man himself. Two under his Audion alias and one under his name. These bookend the mix and are as unpredictable as the man himself. To make things even more personal, snippets of his friends and family are diffused throughout the mix. In effect, this comes across as a very intimate set with the listener privy to Dear’s thought processes. That said, it is still very accessible. The mix can simply be enjoyed as a whole, while there are plenty of deep cuts and left-field choices to satisfy even the most knowledgeable electronic music fan.
The whole thing starts on a slightly downbeat note as he elects to begin with a somewhat mournful and introspective piece from Nils Frahm. It’s a bold move, but it works as something of a palette cleanser, setting up the first of Dear’s contributions all the more successfully. “Wrong With Us” (written in collaboration with Simian Mobile Disco) perfectly showcases his sparse, airy, and less is more approach. As ever the laid-back drawl of the vocals give the track a trippy, late night/early morning vibe. Happily, it stands up against anything else in the mix and proves to be an undoubted highlight. The lenitive atmosphere of the first three tracks, which includes the Hypnotic “Ongaku” by Mahal, suddenly gives way to a glitchy, more experimental tune courtesy of Monsieur Georget. From then on things get a lot more interesting indeed as Kreon’s jazz-tinged epic “Silo Sol” builds casually to a wonderfully distorted, malfunctioning finalé.
The sheer diversity of his choices is demonstrated by his decision to include the relatively more obscure Thatmanmonk remix of Caserta’s soul infused deep house future classic “Ricky” rather than the Deep Mix. This is seamlessly paired with Gwilym Gold & Doc Daneeka’s “Lust for Sale” with the whole mix benefiting from the introduction of Gold’s languid vocals. From there, things take a darker turn as Smoke’s almost 15-minute slow-burning dub techno “Nuutri” takes center stage. It encapsulates everything that is right about the mix as it incorporates sudden stabs of synths before shifting to gloomy, claustrophobic dub beats. After such a kaleidoscopic and epic journey, what better way to recover than with some classic acid house courtesy of Decius.
From there the trajectory is most definitely up as Vin Sol’s jittery techno gives way to Groovesh’s thumping house tune “Glowing” to get the blood pumping. The mix stays airborne but takes a decidedly stranger turn with what follows. Duff Disco provide an unsubtle, wacky mix of disco, funk, and house, building to a cry of “look at that freaky shit” before enigmatic production brothers Alex & Digby add far out, esoteric, Japanese inspired melodies. Just as things look like they can’t get any weirder, Dear drops in Gary Sloan and Cloan’s frankly batshit crazy “Harmonitalk”. It is a supremely confident and bold mid-section highlighting the ingenuity of the taste-maker behind it.
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It would have been impossible for things to get any crazier from there and, happily, Dear doesn’t even try. Instead, he drops in Markus Enochson’s banging house classic “Hot Juice Box” following it with the stern and frugal return to form of“Staring at All This Handle” by Simian Mobile Disco. It segues perfectly into “XLB” by Pearson Sound which is equally as exacting and meticulously crafted. It leaves you hanging on for the bass and boy is it worth it as it suddenly switches to an energizing pick-me-up of a tune. Soulphication keeps the pace up with swirling, distorted beats but also acts to make the mix subtly more threatening and ominous. This leaves the way clear for Audion’s two entries. “Starfucker” is a grubby tune with a dark and battered heart. It builds tension towards droney sections that buzz and hiss.
Dear still shows signs of his flirtation with German minimalism, but the tune sounds like the perfect fusion of the two distinct sides to his Audion output and it works majestically. “Brines” is a brighter affair that perfectly illustrates his ability to create beats and hooks from fractured and dissonant sounds. Dear brings the curtain down on his mix with DJ Khelab and Baba Sissoko’s Mailian infused Afro-beat in the form of “Kumu”. It’s a perfect conclusion and an appropriate tune that you can imagine listening to as the sun comes up.
This album is an inspired mix from Dear and a worthy addition to the DJ Kicks series. It is clearly scrupulously thought through but never comes across as overthought. Additionally, Dear was wise to keep his work to a minimum here. Any more and they may have overshadowed the mix as a whole and impeded on its success as, what is on here, is a triumph. It’s a classic sounding yet contemporary mix that would sound just as good at a freaky after party or in your car on the way to work.
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