For over six years, Teneil Throssell, aka HAAi, has been kicking out single tracks and EPs of propulsive, enveloping, often narcotic dance music. The kind that could kick up clouds of smoke in a packed club but also cradles a listener lying still, alone, with a set of good headphones. Her music, which houses sometimes frantic vocal loops and other seemingly found sounds in mid-tempo excursions, is infectious, and her time as resident DJ in Brixton club Phonox paid off, as her debut album, 2022’s Baby, We’re Ascending, so deftly demonstrates.
So, it only makes sense that she would curate the 80th release in what might be considered DJ culture’s most celebrated series of the last 28 years, DJ Kicks. As she joins such recent editors as Peggy Gou, Cinthie, and Laurel Halo, she uses the term “ascension” quite literally, sprinkling this collection with sounds made by influences, friends, and, here and there, her productions. Her choices are as contagious as they are inspirational. The Blessed Madonna’s “Strength” skitters along a Bo Diddley-esque thump as a voice coos, “Oh Lord, give me strength to carry on.”
UK collaborators Jaco’s 1992 house classic “Show Some Love” gets a re-mix that positively slams forward as a chopped voice delivers melody, synths pile on, metallic percussion appears, and various layers drop in and out across the track’s six-and-a-half relentless minutes. Russian Hard House duo Radiotrance’s 1997 screamer “Plasma” builds until it’s nearly unsettling before splitting open only to re-gather itself across ten overwhelming minutes.
But HAAi also leaves room for lesser-known producers and DJs, using this series to connect the music across decades. Surusinghe’s “Bet” places a beat you could skip to underneath a wobbly, descending waver that’s nearly goofy. Welsh-born producer Koreless’s “Seven” is quiet and spacious, transmitting rhythmic pulses and blips from a distant haze.
This collection places older, more well-known artists such as Pan Sonic or John Selway in the company of a slew of less well-known or contemporary DJs for a set that offers insight into how dance music, in certain hands, can be a transportive experience. In the process, her “always ascending” concept has erased the 30-year time span over which these tracks were created.