Moodymann: DJ-Kicks

For his installment of the long-running DJ-Kicks series, Detroit icon Moodymann delivers an engaging, highly affecting set that places the emphasis on the whole of the listening experience rather than simply looking to fill the dance floor.



Label: K7
US Release Date: 2016-02-19
UK Release Date: 2016-02-19

There is a distinct and knowing difference between those who know music and those who understand it. Those in the former tend to embrace the trivial minutiae surrounding styles, artists and eras, always quick to display their seemingly endless knowledge and often voluminous music collections. In the case of the former, these individuals possess both the former’s subject matter knowledge, but also an inherent understanding of music’s potential affecting the whole of the mind, body and soul. While knowledge can be accumulated and taught, understanding can only be felt and experienced.

Because of this, the DJ-curated mixtape is always somewhat of a dicey proposition. In their element, these artists are masters of assembling floor-filling beats built either from the ground up or from generally recognizable source material. When granted free reign to create their own mixtape, however, it often proves little more than a showcase for their obscure tastes and depth of their sprawling, often wildly esoteric record collections. In this they are doing little more than flaunting the rarity of their finds, records that fetch absurd sums on the collector’s market then driven all the higher due to their use and exposure to a wider audience, and accumulated knowledge.

While this option certainly holds a certain level of appeal to crate diggers and rare groove lovers, it often presents something of a disservice to listeners in that it lacks the necessary emotional cohesion to truly be effective on any sort of deeper level. These are superficial mixes that, while enjoyable ultimately leave little in the way of lasting impact. They are designed to appeal to the physical more than the cerebral or holistic response of the listeners. With his installment of the long running DJ-Kicks series, Detroit icon and highly revered techno pioneer Moodymann delivers a master class in understanding music.

Rather than deploying a series of obvious bangers and floor-fillers from the start, Moodymann (nee Kenny Dixon, Jr.) instead builds organically, placing the emphasis on tone and, for lack of a better term, mood. Over the set’s first half, the tempos creep exponentially along, rarely spending much if any time in the triple digit bpms. Beginning with Yaw’s somber “Where Will You Be", Moodymann almost imperceptibly builds each track on the next, deftly easing the listener in with a series of slowly simmering, soulful tracks both familiar and ever so slightly obscure. But rather than simply relying on the depths of his collection (knowledge) to create a mix full of impossibly rare sides mashed together, Moodymann here places the focus more on musicality and the establishment of mood to create a set that is more affecting than ass-shaking (understanding).

Where most would allow little time to pass before allowing the beats to take over, Moodymann instead embarks on a musical ebb and floor built on soulful, jazz-tinged R&B and hip-hop tracks that serve the overall aesthetic of the set rather than the ego of the DJ. In this, the set builds from a slow simmer to a gentle boil without ever truly erupting, making for a series of tracks that prove as thought-provoking as they are head-nodding. Rather than the night’s main attraction, this set is designed as a heady after-hours or pre-party collection of tracks grounded in reality rather than some hedonistic bacchanal.

It isn’t until nearly a third of the way through, when Julien Dyne’s “Stained Glass Fresh Frozen” drops in with anything even remotely resembling a typical four-on-the-floor beat. And even this is slightly skewed and abstracted, gradually dissolving into a series of more beat-centric tracks that continue to build on the previously established mood, however with the emphasis moved to the rhythm of each. Never allowing it to go too far, he then returns to center with the slightly left field of indie singer-songwriter Jose Gonzales’ "Remain". But it’s this type of duality and musical esotericism that help make his set one of the more compelling installments in the series, one built on the understanding of music’s impact on the whole of the listener and delivered completely in the service of and to the listener.

By set’s end, he’s allowed the tempos to creep up, the beats to become a bit more pronounced and the urge to move all but irresistible. It’s the euphoric payoff to which he’s been building throughout the set’s nearly 90-minute run time, finally allowing the physical to supplant the cerebral in terms of priority without sacrificing one for the other. And with the presence of so many just-off-the-map yet accessible tracks, this set serves as an entry point to a host of artists all sharing a similar aesthetic operating at different levels drawn together by an overarching understanding of how music works on multiple levels. In this, Moodymann’s installment of DJ-Kicks may well become the unimpeachably perfect bar against which all subsequent sets will be measured.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.