Music

DJ Koze: Kosi Comes Around

Tim O'Neil

Anyone who feels safe with a solidly circumscribed conception of what a Kompakt artist sounds like should hear Koze, because while there is definitely much of the label's trademark microhouse, there is also so much more than that.


Dj Koze

Kosi Comes Around

Label: Kompakt
US Release Date: 2005-09-13
UK Release Date: 2005-09-12
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I couldn't tell you who DJ Koze is or from where he hails. All I know are the same things which are self-evident to anyone who puts a copy of Kosi Comes Around into their stereo: Koze is a house music producer whose work is made available by Germany's acclaimed Kompakt label. I have yet to be disappointed by the Kompakt label, and Koze definitely does not disappoint. More to the point, anyone who feels safe with a solidly circumscribed conception of what a Kompakt artist sounds like should hear Koze, because while there is definitely much of the label's trademark microhouse, there is also so much more than that. Like the very best dance music, there is great variety of implications possible in the effects constructed atop a simple template.

Although an outside observer might see little variation in an endless repertoire of minimal house tracks, the invention which Koze brings to the genre threatens to burst its boundaries all together. Like the best electronic music producers, his sound defines itself less in strict accordance to any scene, but by a dogged insistence to allow the music to take him in whatever direction it wishes. Therefore, while much of his production hews reasonably close to the genre, there are enough additional elements added in just such a way as to render the product strikingly original. Different elements in juxtaposition can provide a striking context with which to appreciate familiar motifs.

The first track, "Estrella", begins with a distant, echoed plonk noise of the type which will seem familiar to anyone who has ever heard the genre before. But before the rhythm really begins, strange samples intrude upon the pristine sound: a human voice, disconnected guitar plucking, a xylophone. Under the burble of organic confusion, the rhythm slowly builds, allowing delicate arppegiated synthesizer riffs to grow increasingly complicated. Eventually an orchestral vamp emerges from the distance, and the song builds to vast, alien emotional climaxes on the strength of these multiple disparate elements caroming across each other.

"Raw" establishes a stripped-down, mathematical electro feel that brings to mind a less-crunk version of Detroit techno. Koze introduces increasingly complicated elements to the simple rhythm, adding gradual layers of variation through which the track advances, a continuous crescendo. "Don't Feed The Cat" could have easily been a club hit at the Paradise Garage when Larry Levan presided over the dawn of house -- the microhouse bass stabs have been altered slightly to bring about their striking resemblance to the primal, almost amniotic funk of Mr. Fingers and his ilk.

"Bedrock Am Ring" steps outside the house template entirely with a short instrumental interlude that brings to mind the Art of Noise, with all the ingredients of an easy listening radio hit spliced and reconfigured to disconcerting effect. "My Grandmotha" continues in this vein, with a rhythm constructed out of snapping fingers and clipped jazz snares, along with strange processed whispers and fragile percussion added at intervals. The effect is very much like Matthew Herbert remixing the Avalanches, with a spry, delicate touch gently manipulating some very lush sounds to achieve a tenuous, hand-crafted feel.

After this interlude the album returns to more insistent motifs with "Dangernugget" and "The Gekloppel Continues". While both maintain the sweaty precision of vintage house, the former is more stealthy and sensual, while the latter again evokes bygone days in house, with a repeated piano phrase playing a percussive amelodic refrain. If you've ever heard the Mortal Kombat theme, you know to what exactly I'm referring. The album climaxes with "Brutalga Square", a dark and foreboding exercise in cloistered mood that stretches out over the course of almost ten minutes, providing in that time the type of brooding, expansive emotional release favored by minimal house godfather Richie Hawtin, especially in his Plastikman guise.

"Chiminea" is the calm after the storm, featuring pristinely beautiful acoustic samples sewn together in such a way as to provide a rustic coda for the dangerous and energetic music that came before. Soft vocals waft in as if on a summer breeze as the album dissolves in a gauze of soft cotton wool. Such an avowedly peaceful statement might -- to some -- seem at odd with the relentlessly mechanized nature of much house music, but really only serves to reinforce the essentially malleable nature of electronic music. Even a minimal, highly ascetic branch of house music, in the right hands, can become the springboard for something deeply profound and transformative.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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