DJ Kicks mixes are not necessarily meant for the dancefloor, or any club setting, for that matter. As its name suggests, the series is meant more as a chance for renowned DJs to share some of their favorite stuff, what they listen to and get their “kicks” from. As such, these mixes can be eclectic, unpredictable, and sometimes disjointed. The very nature of this platform and the freedom it affords have led to success, as the series has run for over two decades, becoming renowned in its own right and spawning many imitators.
British DJ Matt Cutler, aka Lone, mixed his DJ Kicks in his living room with the idea the listener would feel they were just hanging out with him, spinning some tunes. Accordingly, it makes its way through multiple styles and moods with tracks spanning several decades. It isn’t haphazard, though, as it has a clear beginning, middle, and end. The overall feel is loose and chill, even when the bpms pick up.
Opening tracks on DJ mixes like this are crucial, and Lone nails his here. “Go Hawaii”, a turn-of-the-millennium-vintage track from Casino Versus Japan, is a stunning attention-grabber. Over swirling synthesizer chords, a female voice talks about how “in Hawaii people will never know the joy of coming out of a six-month winter find new grass growing on the ground”. Then an analog rhythm box kicks in, and the synths keep swirling. If being alone outside in the middle of a powerful blizzard or floating in the cold vacuum of space could be blissful, this is the soundtrack.
The mix quickly makes its way into indie hip-hop, first of the instrumental sort with Lone’s own pleasantly slack “Brooklyn Banks”, an exclusive, and then with appearances by the late rapper Camu Tao’s raw “Hold the Floor” and a 1999 gem from Lootpack, “Hityawitdat”. Then there’s an interlude of ambience, with Lone’s “Arc” coming on like a giant, glimmering sheet of ice, followed by Boards of Canada’s little-heard,cerebral “Orange Romeda”.
One interesting facet of Lone’s <i>DJ Kicks</i> is it contains some very ’80s and ’90s-sounding tracks that are, in fact, new. Gnork’s “U” is trippy, propulsive, trip-hop-flavored house. Though it easily could have come from a mid-to-late ’90s Shadow Records compilation, the track is from 2016. Likewise, the electronic handclaps, Syndrums, and icy analog synths of E. Myers'”Untitled” and Ross From Friends’ “The Outsiders” are not vintage Chicago house tracks. Neither is more than two years old. Lone himself gets in on the retro groove with the acid jazzy “Saturday Night (DJ Kicks)”.
After a couple more abstract, leftfield ’90s-vintage tracks, DJ Kicks – Lone ends as starkly and beautifully as it began with the mournful pitter-pattering of Radiohead b-side “Worrywort”.
More than many other DJ Kicks releases, this one comes across like a cassette mixtape, with Cutler trying to get in a bit of everything he likes in under 80 minutes while giving it some sense of design and flow. It’s not going to be the soundtrack to a club night, or probably not even the chillout room. But as far as lazing around Cutler’s living room, or yours, it’s pretty great.