Shuffle | DJ-KiCKS
by Joshua P. Ferguson
To fully understand the evolution of Dialogue Incorporated and the music that we feature here, you can look no further than one DJ mix series: DJ-KiCKS. In its 18 years, the seminal DJ brand from the !k7 mothership has kept the pulse for a certain cross section of the culture, navigating classic techno, jazzy stoner music, dub, indie-dance, deep house, leftfield grooves, and, of course, bass. We've been following closely alongside it.
From our earliest days discovering all the varied pockets within this music, we've turned to this series. It wasn't just about the artists mixing, it was also about tracking down the artists and tracks featured so we could emulate the sounds we were discovering, from the mellow drum & bass of Kruder & Dorfmeister to the trip-hop of Kid Loco to the deep tech sounds of Booka Shade to the intelligent bass of Photek.
It's hard to imagine a year gone by that some installment of the series hasn't occupied our heads space for weeks surrounding its release and during the front-to-back, repeat listens that followed. Heading out to the record store (or in recent years, logging onto Beatport) to find our favorite cuts from the latest DJ-KiCKS so we could play them ourselves is almost as fun as hearing them in the mix for the first time.
Revisiting early entries in the series to write this post, we're amazed at how completely the strongest among them stand up (hats off to K&D and Smith & Mighty). Now, with two new mixes in the wings to close out 2013, we're calling out our top five releases in the series.
Vote for yours now at www.dj-kicks.com.
Kruder & Dorfmeister (1996)
Only the fourth act to grace the series, this pair of Austrians were breaking through a thick blanket of reefer smoke to change the face of chill-out music when DJ-KiCKS tapped them to contribute a mix. Downtempo was leaving the side room of the rave to move beyond ambient sounds and incorporate the trip-hop of acts like Massive Attack, the easy-going side of drum & bass, as well as dub, jazz, and soul, and Kruder & Dorfmeister was leading the way.
The pair's hazy, dubby, and jazzy style encapsulated everything we'd experienced and loved musically to date—from Lee "Scratch" Perry to Wayne Shorter—and churned it out as wicked, haunting, relaxing, and perfect to get high to. Not being ravers, the alternate reality Peter Kruder, Richard Dorfmeister, and their G-Stone label were creating was one we wanted to live in permanently. Re-listening to the pair's DJ-KiCKS, we realize that 17 years later, we still do. With tracks that chop up quirky samples and beach sounds, and put forth wave after wave of calming atmospherics, liquid breaks, dub reverb, bossa, and even bhangra, Kruder & Dorfmeister's contribution to the series is as timeless as they come.
Smith & Mighty (1998)
This mix has and forever will represent what drum & bass means to us. Bristol's alternative to Massive Attack, Smith & Mighty has been defining the early sound of breakbeat and trip-hop since the '80s. As More Rockers, the duo (and sometimes trio) navigates harder territory and we'll never forget those lazy saturday afternoons in college, dragging our speakers out onto the porch so we could blast our favorite More Rockers tunes full blast and freak out our neighbors. Needless to say, Wisconsin wasn't as into the Bristol bass scene as we were.
But Smith & Mighty's unforgettable DJ-KiCKS mix dishes a healthy serving of all of it—the soulful dubby beats of "Walk On" and "Same" and the heavy hitters like "Night Fall" and "Show Love," tracks that will always signify the genesis point in our enduring love of bass music and still sound fresh today.
Henrik Schwarz (2006)
While the years between '98 and '06 offered unforgettable moments in the DJ-KiCKS discography (particularly Thievery Corporation, Truby Trio, and the Glimmers), it was German deep house savant Henrik Schwarz that set the next high water mark in the series for us. Part of it was Schwarz's early adoption of next-gen DJ technology, allowing him to lace an arsenal of disparate sounds that ranged from the mysterious techno of Drexciya, to the stomping funk of James Brown, to the spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders seamlessly together with his signature deep thump.
More than that, it was sheer track selection. Who else in the deep house and techno sphere was churning out mixes as diverse as this? You knew it from the moment his Moondog intro began. Schwarz made a deep dance music mix that consisted of very few "deep dance tracks." There was balearic trip "Woman of the World" by Double, D'Angelo's latinesque "Spanish Joint," Womack & Womack's "Conscious of My Conscience" (which we still play), and of course Schwarz's own hybrid productions, like "Jon" and his remix of Coldcut. The latter is a track we'll never forget. The debate it sparked about where downtempo ends and deep house begins—is it the vibe or is it the 120bpm tempo?—still has the jury out.
Ever the emotive techno auteur, Apparat represents another significant source of inspiration for Dialogue Incorporated. Our awareness of his work is longstanding, but it took his mix for DJ-KiCKS to get us to pay real attention. We haven't stopped since. In fact, if you scan the archives, Sascha Ring may rank in our top five most blogged about artists. His moody mix of techno, bass, glitch, and alluring gloom has changed what we listen for in electronic music. It is in large part thanks to this man that our tastes have grown darker and more sophisticated.
And his DJ-KiCKS serves as a pristine snapshot of why. Dark and melodic, it moves from moments of quiet beauty, as on his own contributions, to slick techno, thanks to tracks like Martyn's "Miniluv" or Pantha Du Prince's "Welt Am Draht," to emotive bass, courtesy of Joy Orbison, Four Tet, and Burial. Ring's mix sits at a cross section of styles that we've since camped out at (and refuse to leave).
Maybe it's because Rupert Parkes has been doing smooth bass music since the mid-'90s, but his Photek mix for DJ-KiCKS brought us back to those early entires from Kruder & Dorfmeister and Smith & Mighty. His is a mix that isn't afraid to break tempo or take advantage of artistic interludes or shift in energy without losing the thread of his musical statement. In fact, his DJ-KiCKS has some of the most artful transitioning we've heard. More than just an exercise in execution, it also speaks to the evolution of his particular brand of liquid bass—a selection of tracks that updates the classic d&b everyone knows him for with snapshots from the current trends in bass and deep house.
We probably weren't the only ones pleasantly surprised to hear a Hot Toddy track in the mix or to discover what Photek can do with midtempo acid on his Pinch collabo "M25FM." And, of course, there are also the multiple contributions from L.A.'s DJG, solidifying another instance where a DJ-KiCKS mix carried more weight than just the artist at the helm.
John Talabot (2013)
Now, with 2013 coming to close DJ-KiCKS continues with a hotly anticipated installment from Iberian balearic master John Talabot. The release hasn't come out yet (so we haven't heard it), but as is often the case with DJ-KiCKS, we're chomping at the bit for our first chance to absorb how Talabot carries the series forward. Here's a glimpse straight from the source:
"It's not a mix to dance to," says Talabot in the mix's press release. "It starts really slow, 90bpm or something like that. It has some dance tracks towards the beginning, but as it progresses it chills out. It's not an easy mix. It's quite strange. It doesn't really build up in the way many mixes do. A lot of the tracks I've never played in a club because they wouldn't work. It's definitely not a club mix. When I DJ in a club at 4am, I play a dance-oriented set, but I wanted my DJ KiCKS mix to show a different side of me, where I come from and what my influences are."
Sounds right up our alley.
Sounds right up our alley.