chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + jazz \ jas \ n + house \haus \ n
In the era of Soundcloud and Boiler Room, it's easy to argue the irrelevance of the commercial DJ mix, or at least question its place in the digital landscape. Berghain in-house label Ostgut Ton did just that last year when it shifted its long-running Panorama Bar series to be a free one, accompanied by 12" releases featuring the mix's exclusive tracks. Its reasoning? There are less constraints on length and DJs are uploading free mixes daily—many as good or better than what we got from the last installment of Balance or Fabric anyway, so why not join them. So how does a commercial DJ mix compete? At the start of the year Actress gave us his take on what a more conceptual approach can sound like with his DJ-Kicks and now, marking the 50th release in the series, Pampa Records head and consummate joker DJ Koze does the same.
But "same" is a relative term here. There isn't much DJ Koze's installment shares with anything else out there. It's odd and irreverent. It's filled with segues and interludes. Almost all the tracks bear massaging from Koze himself, edited to work together when they ordinarily would not. In fact, after the first couple listens I still wasn't convinced they did. His original inclusion, "I Haven't Been Everywhere" sets the tone with a voice over from Koze's "neighbor" greeting us 'freaks' to a selection of tunes that make Koze 'feel over nice.' It's pristine jazzy boom-bap and does well to recall the DJ's hip-hop roots. A smooth intro, it's immediately followed by tracks from the likes of Dimlite and cLOUDDEAD, kicking the weirdo into over drive, particularly the latter whose "Dead Dogs Two," remixed here by Boards of Canada, features a quintessential nerd rap tale of zombie dogs in Oakland.
This woozy hip-hop pacing dominates much of the front end of the mix with a Dilla-esque cut from Mndsgn and heavy Stones Throw representation from Madlib and Homeboy Sandman. Sandman's highlight "Holiday" burrows its way into your head thanks to a phone clip of a young French boy singing the chorus, Koze's nod to the standard-issue rap album answering machine interlude. Later, his mash-up of Hi-Tek and Hot Chip offshoot The 2 Bears lends an almost lullaby-like quality, slowly rocking you into a dream state that conjures fantasies of cabaret piano and spoken word from William Shatner. Except this actually happens with "It Hasn't Happened Yet." Its entry just past the half way point is a cheeky reminder that if you thought you had this mix figured out, well, it hasn't happened yet. So Koze does you one better, with a lightly swinging cut from Marker Starling, who suggests that you take it "In Stride."
Koze does eventually work his way around to the sound we're most familiar with from him of late and the one you might have expected to dominate this mix. Hypnotic house selections that include the deep and dubby "Bring the Sun" from Scissor & Thread's Frank & Tony, the soulful indie looping of "Hyuwee" from Session Victim and the airy throwback techno of "Jaz" from Marcel Fengler, while maybe more within the clubby wheelhouse are no less well placed here.
In his second to last cut, Koze sends one more wink our way with the beautiful house ballad "Surrender" from Portable. It's Koze's final nod to what a commercial DJ mix doesn't have to be—namely, linear, monochromatic or built for the club. This entry into the already formidable DJ Kicks catalog is the opposite of that. It's a collection that defies the very idea of what much of deejaying is, very similarly structured songs strung together, to give you something delightfully weird instead. It shouldn't work, but it does. It works really well actually and that's exactly why I find myself coming back to it again and again.
— Joshua P. Ferguson