Not for nothing was DJ Kicks once named “the most important DJ mix series ever” by
dance music bible Mixmag. In the 17 years since it started in 1995 with CJ Bolland’s
scene-defining techno set, via landmark releases by Kruder & Dorfmeister, Smith &
Mighty and Kemistry & Storm, it’s established a reputation for quality, forward-thinking
mixes by dance music’s big names. That’s a statement that holds just as true for the last
five years, which has seen UK synth poppers Hot Chip, New York retro-futurists The
Juan MacLean and London dubstep icon Kode 9, amongst many others, add their
weight to the franchise.
A big part of DJ Kicks idea is the exclusive track on each album: every artist doing DJ
Kicks has to write and include a piece of music that’s not available anywhere else. The
second Exclusives album, follow-up to the first collection released in 2006, collates all
14 of those DJ Kicks-only moments from the last five years.
The result is as wide ranging and eclectic as the series itself. Kieren ‘Four Tet’ Hebden
turns in a stunning performance on Pockets, fusing clattering live percussion to sweeps
of analogue synth and swirling electronics. My Piano sees Hot Chip on fine form,
weaving the piano of the song title into one of their trademark synth pop grooves.
Meanwhile The Juan MacLean conjure up a mammoth ten-minute slow-burn dancefloor
bomb that starts with a bubbling Giorgio Moroder-style arpeggio and builds to a crescendo
as glassy keys are piled on in multiple layers and Nancy Wang sings “You like it when
it’s too much”. One of the strongest DJ Kicks mixes of recent times is that by London
expatriate Scuba, who now lives in Berlin. His track M.A.R.S. bridges the two cities,
taking the techno aesthetic of his adopted home and grafting it onto a breakbeat
steeped in his dubstep roots. Then there’s Triangle Folds by techno wünderkind James
Holden, a mind-bending digital flight of fancy beamed in from the outer rim of human
consciousness. Oh, and Photek’s new exclusive track taken from his forthcoming mix,
the 39th incidentally, which is due out next year.