SummaryNot 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 wŁnderkind 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.
Surprisingly, perhaps, for an album compiled from sources with no connection other than DJ Kicks, which by its nature is a broad church, it hangs together satisfyingly. well. The common element? This is the sound of electronic music's great and good at their very best. It's what DJ Kicks is all about. Long may it continue.