VA: DJ-Kicks: The Exclusives

Those running the DJ Kicks series are definitely crafty. Not content to corral a top-ranked dance music producer into overseeing a given mix, they also request that the artist in question contribute to said set an exclusive track not available elsewhere. As a result, an exceptional collection of originals accumulates rather surreptitiously over the years until enough have been stockpiled to merit a full-fledged release in its own right. A case in point: this second Exclusives set, which follows an inaugural 2006 collection with thirteen DJ-Kicks-only cuts issued during the last five years. And what a line-up it is when Four Tet, Kode 9, Gold Panda, Apparat, Soul Clap, and Photek are among those appearing.

Kieran Hebden's 2006 cut “Pockets” kicks off the collection with five trademark minutes of Four Tet rambunction, the explosive drum playing reminiscent of his delirious Everything Ecstatic and the electronic-synthetic swirl offering a hint of forward-thinking things to come from this ever-evolving figure. “L.O.V.E.” by Motor City Drum Ensemble (Danilo Plessow) offers a tasty, vocal-based jam, its wiry bass line lifted from “Beat It” and its soul-funk vibe sweetened with hand claps and jazzy electric piano chords, while “M.A.R.S.” by Scuba (Paul Rose) presents a slinky slice of raw dub-techno that sounds like Monolake at its funkiest. “Fountainhead,” credited to Photek & Kuru, offers a promising harbinger of what's hopefully to come on Photek's own forthcoming DJ Kicks mix. The track's a snappy marvel of taut dubstep-influenced design that suggests Rupert Parkes isn't deaf to what's currently developing despite having been a creative force since the ‘90s.

A few cuts liberally stretch out to good effect. Henrik Schwarz brings a soul-funk vibe to the set with his feverish “Imagination Limitation,” a bumping nine-minute number bolstered by synth stabs, acoustic piano, and an hypnotic vocal chant. NY outfit The Juan MacLean begins its ten-minute dancefloor burner “Feel So Good” in lightspeed disco mode before working its charging groove into a lather when Nancy Wang adds vocals to the fray (“You got me feelin' so good”). Elsewhere, Kode9 sprinkles a bit of Latin dust over a tight blend of dubstep and electro-funk during “You Don't Wash,” and the epic roar of guitar and pounding drums helps lift Apparat's panoramic “Sayulita” into the stratosphere. On a poppier tip, Hot Chip takes the titular instrument in “My Piano” for a rollicking stroll through a fiery synth-laced zone emblazoned with hook-heavy vocal melodies.

The set's eclectic range is nowhere more evident than in the inclusion of Chromeo's “I Can't Tell You Why,” a mercifully short cover of The Eagles' hit, and James Holden's “Triangle Folds,” a synthesizer cruise through the galaxy that's light years removed from the collection's clubbier offerings. The thread linking the tracks is therefore more conceptual than stylistic, but no more justification for the release is needed beyond the offerings themselves, with those by Four Tet, Schwarz, Scuba, and Photek alone ensuring a solid return on one's investment.

February 2012