[21 February 2014]
Compilations and DJ mixes are notoriously difficult to cover. When it comes down to writing the review, I can’t really discuss the music from a compositional point of view, since all of the featured artists deserve a special and separate write up. What I can talk about, however, is the curatorial aspect of the release, its flow, structure, and of course selection. The good news here is that Studio !K7 has been releasing its DJ-Kicks series for nearly two decades now, with the very first instalment kicking off with C.J. Bolland in 1995, so the imprint knows just how and who to pick. For their 48th entry, the Berlin-based independent label brings us Brandt Brauer Frick, a German techno project consisting of Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer, and Paul Frick.
The trio has already recorded and released a few albums and EPs on Studio !K7 as well as the label’s offshoot, !K7 Records: 2010’s You Make Me Real, 2011’s Mr. Machine, and 2013’s Miami. The group has a particular aesthetic when it comes to producing their music. Their sound is very organic, consisting of much acoustic instrumentation, pushing the exploration of techno and tech-house just a bit beyond the typical nightclub atmosphere. For their DJ-Kicks mix, Brand Brauer Frick continues the trio’s pursuit of the human element, which is often lacking in electronic music and digitally assembled computer mixes, by recording their entire set live on vinyl during a daytime session at the Berlin club Watergate. This particular approach is immediately evident through a warmer-EQed sound of some recognizable pieces and a few less-than-surgically-perfect track transitions.
The 28-track eclectic journey begins with a minute-long excerpt from an ambient piece by Jan Jelinek, and immediately drops into a disco-house track by Inkswel off his Australaborialis EP. Two minutes in, and we’re into a deep house category, courtesy of Theo Parish’s 1998 classic “Electric Alleycat”. Backtracking even further, suddenly we’re in the late ‘70s, surrounded by William Onyeabor’s funky afrobeat, only to wake up with some jazzy house grooves, followed by UK garage off of Kindom’s 2011 release Dreama EP. The mix progresses somewhere around the housey territory from the likes of Alfabet, Fantastic Man, and of course Brandt Brauer Frick. Things break down a bit rhythmically half way through the mix at the end of a very groovy track by Galaxy 2 Galaxy titled “Transition”. As if embracing this fact, the vocals on a track proclaim: “There will be people who will say, you don’t mix this with that, and you would say, watch me.” And thus, taking that chance the trio dives into a deep bass track by Peverelist.
I’ll spare you from more spoilers of all the twists and turns, and stop the further deconstruction of this multiform trip at the half-way mark of the mix. Rest assured, the remaining voyage is just as diverse and exciting (there’s even a surprise appearance by Machinedrum). It’s also important to mention that this mix includes three new tracks by Brandt Brauer Frick, as well as previously unreleased pieces by Dollkraut, Le K, James Braun & Troels, Glenn Astro, and Cosmin TRG. Because of these exclusive contributions, Studio !K7 also released a double vinyl featuring ten more tracks. While shopping at the label’s store, I highly recommend you pick up other DJ-Kicks installments, including the ones by Apparat, Thievery Corporation, James Holden, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Nightmares On Wax.