First, a bit of background:
Despite the name on my promo copy, this is not really an authentic entry into !K7’s highly regarded DJ Kicks series. You see, in Europe, !K7 Records and MTV have a joint distribution deal that allows !K7 to release various discs with the MTV brand logo and imprimatur.
Isn’t that something? European MTV actually wants to expose you to good music. What a concept.
Anyway, this disc was originally released in Europe under the title MTV Mash Presents !K7 Clash. Apparently in Britain there’s a program called “MTV Mash”, that spotlights the huge underground “mash-up” trend. If you’ve never heard of mash-ups, the idea is to take two or more pop songs and mash them together in order to create something entirely new, different and hopefully fun. While club DJs had been doing this for years, producing limited run white labels of whatever fun mix they had concocted, the advent of the internet and cheap sound manipulation software such as Cool Edit Pro made what had been an occasional fun oddity into a phenomenon.
So, if you mash up Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious”, you get “Smells Like Booty”. If you mash up Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” with Kraftwerk’s “Numbers”, you get “I Wanna Dance With Numbers”. It may sound silly but both of these are real and very famous tunes on the other side of the Atlantic.
For the most part, and probably as a result of the music industry’s very palpable desire to limit the spread of anarchy, the mash-up craze has yet to really put down roots in the States. Last year saw the release of Richard X’s phenomenal debut, Richard X Presents His X-Factor (on Astralwerks), which was summarily ignored by pretty much everyone despite being one of the best albums in any genre released in 2003. If you’ve heard the Don’t Give a Damn Mix of the Sugababes’ “Freak Like Me”, with the a capella version of their hit of the same name set above a very recognizable sample from Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”, you know just how snazzy and fun the concept can be when done well.
SST & Superdefekt’s Black Edition mix follows in the proud footsteps of 2 Many DJs’ various As Heard on Radio Soulwax mix CDs (which are only available—and will probably only be available until the end of time—as Belgian imports). The Radio Soulwax series took the mash-up concept to new heights, featuring dozens upon dozens of the most recognizable tunes from the pop, dance and rock worlds and boiling them into an indefatigably fun stew. Imagine a world where Nena’s “99 Luftballons” gets down and jiggy with the Detroit Grand Pu Bahs’ “Sandwiches” and Iggy & The Stooges’ “No Fun”, and you might just be able to visualize the sheer sonic anarchy.
The difference here is that instead of the entire spectrum of pop music, SST & Superdefekt are working exclusively with !K7’s highly eclectic catalog. It’s a testament to !K7’s versatility that you don’t really get the claustrophobic feel that most label comps can impart. Everything is here, from Princess Superstar’s hardcore bubblegum rap to Tosca’s dark and brooding jazz to Tiga’s playful electro. Sometimes it’s enough to give you whiplash—as when they mix from the Jamie Lidell remix of Herbert’s mournful “The Audience” to Tiga’s cheeky cover of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” with barely a Chicken Lips track to keep the two dissimilar objects from mingling.
!K7 has long been one of the most joyfully cosmopolitan labels in all of music. The effect of experiencing their diverse catalog in such a wholesale info dump is akin to getting an hour-long crash course in the recent history of high-class electronic music. As always, there is a Eurocentric focus to the mix, but that is to be expected, since most (not all, but most) prominent electronic music artists hail from the other side of the Atlantic. But the relentless eclecticism serves to demolish any and all appearances of snobbery or elitism: this is merely good music, made with care for listeners of discriminating taste.
Last year !K7 released a juggernaut of a label comp, the two-disc !K7 150 set (there was a limited edition with a DVD of superfluous videos as well). It was a pretty damn good selection, but it suffered from the same deathless air of boosterism that dogs even the best label celebrations. The Black Edition is a perfect antidote to this malady, showcasing the many and varied treasures of the !K7 library while managing to deflate any hint of pomposity that might have lingered from the latter collection. They obviously had a lot of fun making this, and it shows, because it’s a lot of fun to listen to as well.