Motor City Drum Ensemble was unknown to me and this DJ Kicks album had totally passed me by until I happened to read about it whilst cavorting (for which read: sitting in the sun) a few weeks back in hot sunny France. It turns out the MCDE is actually Danilo Plessow, who had originally risen to modest fame as Inverse Cinematics. Plessow started working under the guise of Motor City Drum Ensemble when he moved away from the minimal techno sound he favoured as Inverse Cinematics towards a more soulful, disco influenced chicago house sound.
I've already previously noted that the DJ Kicks albums are on something of a run of late with both the Juan Maclean and Apparat turning in particularly good efforts recently. Generally I only bother picking up on something this late after release if I think it is worth it and this is no different - Motor City Drum Ensemble has made the best mix album I've heard all year.
It is pretty straight forward - Motor City Drum Ensemble doesn't do anything much more complex here than drop together a great selection of tracks, placed them in a brilliant order and then mixed well. It's not rocket science, but it's just exceedingly well done.
Things start laid back, soulful and a little jazzy with numbers from Sun Ra and a lovely remix of Electric Wire Hustle's 'Again' by Scratch 22. It's a doped up, gently perspiring intro that gradually and almost imperceptibly ratchets up to a deeper minimal house climax. Along the way it takes in the echoed disco house of Peven Everett's 'Stuck" and Rick Poppa Howard's glorious simple classical house on 'Can Your Love Find It's Way'. As the latter melds into the squelchy melodies and delicate keys of Stone's 'Girl I Like The Way You Move' you pretty much have the perfect soundtrack for summer - chilling by the pool, warming up for nights out - and it only gets better when Plessow drops Fred P's 'On This Vibe", a beautiful spiralling piano house masterpiece.
Things are considerably harder on the album's second half, with Robert Hood and Philippe Sarde contributing a darker trip into techno, but there are still moments of contrast and sunshine such as the loose and funky Walter Gibbons mix of 'I've Been Searching' by Arts & Crafts. Motor City Drum Ensemble's own 'L.O.V.E' perfectly encapsulates the druggy, loved up feeling of this record - sitting midway between daytime chilled listening and something much more 'peak time' friendly, it's both intimate and sophisticated.
Towards the end things loop back around to a more soulful sound before settling on Timo Lassy's hip swaying hands-in-the-air jazz-soul epic 'African Rumble' on the penultimate track. It draws things in to a beautiful close and I cannot remember a single mix album that ends things so well - Lassy's track is that good.
And that is ultimately all there is to say - Motor City Drum Ensemble's DJ Kicks album is one of the finest mixes I've heard in ages. It has more balls and more ideas than I've heard in every other mix album I've listened to this year and you would struggle to find a more perfect soundtrack to lazy summer days and hot summer evenings. Classy, bold and passionate.