dj kicks

Album Review: DJ-Kicks - Digitalism DJ-Kicks albums have had some decent entries over the years, particularly lately, so it is somewhat of a surprise to see this new entry come from Digitalism, who are unable to check either the 'so hot right now' box or the the 'highly respected in their genre' box of the likes of Soulclap (upon release at least) and Apparat respectively.

Instead Digitalism seem to be on the verge of irrelevance. More than perhaps anyone else they came closest to mirroring Justice's stellar popularity back in the 2007 / 2008 Euro house distortion bubble (in both senses of the word distortion). And as they say, the harder they come... Justice's second album is one of the most derided sophomore efforts in recent memory and critically at least Digitalism's I Love You Dude faired even worse.

This DJ-Kicks offering at times suffers from the same noise-core fatigue but more often than not just misfires into slightly tired, boring territory. There are a slew of Digitalism tracks and remixes here and some of them are typically noisy - see 'A New Drug' and 'So Totally Good', for example. The trouble is that what made this sound appealing in the first place was its relative novelty and the way it combined it with allusions to pop music. 'Pogo' was a massive pop record wearing a punk leather jacket and cranked to 11. 'Digitalism In Cairo' could almost have been Daft Punk in their prime. None of that is here - nothing tempers the noise and as such nothing comes close to that initial buzz.

So Kölsch's 'Lorely' is hard and kitsch but devoid of any charm and Grauzone's 'Raum', remixed by Ata, sounds like the angular sounds of Zongamin about ten years too late. And what to say of Digitalism's remix of the Rapture's 'Sail Away', already a song that felt like Bono forcing a sherbet dip down your throat? Here you can witness it being turned into an overblown electro weepy ballad - it so badly wants to be a lighters in the air moment. Hell, it probably is if you are 17 and think Deadmau5 invented trance.

There are a few better moments. The squeaky bass and distorted shuffle of 83's 'Hey Today!' actually achieves what a lot of this album attempts and Alex Gopher's 'Brain Leech' has the feeling of walking away from a loved one at the end of a glorious day yet still feeling rejected... It achieves the pop-electro nexus that the Ed Banger and Kitsuné fraternity seem to have lost entirely.

Whilst this album may not be a total misfire it certainly isn't a convincing return to form and it represents a low point in the recent history of DJ-Kicks releases. But then again maybe this album isn't for fans of that series in the first place.

DJ Kicks by Digitalism is out tomorrow on !K7, available to order from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].

Album Review: DJ Kicks - Motor City Drum Ensemble

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.

BP x

DJ Kicks - Motor City Drum Ensemble is out now !K7, available from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].

MP3 Download / Album Review: DJ Kicks - Various mixed by Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap

Originally Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album was apparently due to be a 'versus' style affair but the respective duos obviously felt too much mutual love to compete and instead what we have is a four-way collaboration.

And the love here speaks volumes - this is a flirty, youthful house mix. Both Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap have been on the verge of greatness for some time - with increasingly regularity BlackPlastic will hear a lush slab of disco house somewhere only to go on to discover it is one or the other (or both) of the pair. This DJ Kicks installment seems destined to push them further into the collective consciousness.

Short-skirted and irrepressible, this is an album a little impossible to resist. It's not perfect - there are times when it feels like it's playing you for time... Just like a girl drawing out the thrill of the chase there are some spacers here - the equivalent of deliberately unanswered phone calls or text messages that never get replied to, the odd track just feels like a waste of time and the programming is so flawless it can become a little sterile. But like the heady days of a blossoming relationship the overall experience feels exciting enough to forgive the artists involved - from blissful ambience of opening intro 'My Man's Gone Now' this is a remarkably considered album.

Things are at their best when everything goes a bit twisted and paranoid. Soul Clap's 'Lonely C', featuring Charles Levine, is alienated and distraught (check out the download below) - making the huge, fat bassline of H-Foundation's 'Tonight' all the more welcome when it arrives. And this isn't a mix afraid to drop the bpm and get sleazy - Nicholas Jaar (whose album we reviewed earlier this week) seriously messes with mix album conventions on his tribal and dubby 'Don't Believe The Hype'.

Zev's 'We All', featuring Greg Paulus, is one of the real standout moments, with a collection of warm acid lines and big empty snares encircling the listener, but it is Benoit & Sergio's fairly messed up 'Walk And Talk' that steals the show. A big, warm tech-house monster - it's the most beautiful song about having a ketamine addled girlfriend BlackPlastic has ever heard. Yes, really.

Occasionally caught out by it's own attention to detail it may be, but when Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album dares to let the chips lie where they fall, as one should with this sort of collaborative effort, it manages to hit all the right notes.

As a taster, download 'Lonely C' by Soul Clap featuring Charles Levine here [right click, save as].

BP x

Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album is released on !K7 on 15 March, available to pre-order from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].