DJ Koze: Amygdala
It would be a mistake to see Stefan Kozalla's new DJ Koze collection as primarily notable for its collaborations with guest vocalists Caribou, Apparat, Matthew Dear, Ada, and Milosh, among others. Yes, they do figure significantly into the work and the impact it makes, but Amygdala (issued on his own Pampa label), Kozalla's long-gestating full-length sequel to 2005's Kompakt set Kosi Comes Around, is very much Koze's show, something repeatedly evident in the madcap arrangements the producer fashions for his guests to emote over. The material's range is notable, too, with Amygdala featuring everything from deep house (“Magical Boy”) and African-inflected guitar meditations (“Don't Lose My Mind”) to sultry jams (“Homesick,” “Amygdala”).
Koze's trippy style is immediately evident when the opening “Track ID Anyone?” stitches quirky squeals and marimba accents into an infectiously grooving shuffle before Caribou enters, his soft voice clearly audible alongside the music's psychedelic haze. Apparat's also-appealing vocal presence graces “Nices Wölkchen,” which receives a sharp boost from its own wistful vocal melodies. “Magical Boy” finds Matthew Dear's cryptic drawl enunciating bizarro lyrics (“When I'm climbing lemon trees of feeling / Time on my hands when I'm running out of faith”) within a deep house dazzle Koze sprinkles with purring saxes, electric piano, and soulful bass pulses. At the other end of the spectrum is a beautiful bit of downtempo hip-hop entrancement called “Homesick” whose luscious sparkle is elevated by Ada's soothing counterpoint. With apologies to Dear, Ada's turn makes for the album's most magical moment.
The listener naturally gravitates towards the collaborations, many of which are, in fact, stronger than the solo Koze pieces. But even the most seemingly throwaway of the latter still impresses in one way or another. Consider how arrestingly “Royal Asscher Cut,” for example, weaves its oddball sounds—random horn noises, organ shimmer, vocal murmur, field recordings, and the like—into an hypnotic house-flavoured flow. Koze has a knack for earworms, arresting fragments and samples that lodge themselves firmly into one's cranium (consider the Jew's harp twang that introduces “Magical Boy” or the background vocal squiggle in “Homesick” a case in point). Even the oddest sound becomes captivating when embedded within the playful collagist's detail-packed arrangements (might those be samples from Reich's Electric Counterpoint threading their way into the plodding techno jam “Marilyn Whirlwind”?).
Admittedly, the album isn't perfect. It's overlong at seventy-eight minutes and not every track is at the level of “Magical Boy” or “Homesick.” But Koze's superior ear for sound design and arrangement ensures that even the most filler-like track has something to recommend it. Just as one is about to dismiss “La Duquesa” for being excessively long at ten minutes, for instance, it catches one's ear with its syrupy strings and frothy groove and ultimately wins one over as a perfectly credible club track.