I don´t know why I suddenly felt compelled to write a review about James Holden´s Dj-Kicks but it might have something to do with the fact that I saw him play the most outrageous DJ-set I´ve ever seen at Berghain in Berlin just a few days ago and that ever since I´ve been listening to this record on loop.
It starts off slowly and serious with a kind of avantgardesque typewriting-ish song called “Wintersport” by Piano Magic as an intro before “Disco” by Grackle let´s loose the ghost of the mix which will take you through amazing acoustic sensations throughout the whole record. “Olde Wobbly” by Mordant Music sounds like the music that massive soundsystems (like the infamous Berghain-PA) should be playing all time and all night and “No more Sages” by Maserati is a perfect follow up to it, while “Lemon Yoghurt” by Caribou turns into a safe (click-click-clicking) tunnel that leads you to a lake upon which the sun is setting: Luke Abbot´s “Soft Attack”. What follows is THE contemporary Holden-epos: the 10mins remix of Mogwai´s “The sun smells too loud”, which shows us Holden´s new perspective on club-music with its drum-wads and undefinable psychedelic sounds which sum up to a modern shamanic symphony. Here is where you hear how much of a nerd James Holden is – the word nerd in its most positive meaning that is. After this trip we´re all released into the seemingly more structured “Departure” by Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, which is like a cold but not unpleasant wet towel on our dreamy faces. Before you light your next cigarette “Punkte” by Ursula Bogner comes in like a challenging but warm the-day-after-feeling. You can picture yourself getting up and starting the day and facing all of yesterday´s consequences but then “Auto Dimmer” by Eric Copeland starts and kind of reminds you of something you will not regret by sticking around for a little bit longer. And at the blink of an eyelid you´re caught in the polydimensional Luke Abbott-remix of “Rauch” by MIT. The hypnotic power it emits makes you feel like you understand now what synthesizers are made for. ARP´s “Potentialities” is one more perfect example for Holden´s excellent taste in music and his A-level mixing skills – what a massage for eardrums! You don´t even realize that a new song has been mixed in and suddenly you only hear Lucky Dragon´s “Open Melody” and you wake up stranded on a different shore and still drugged with sleep from the hypnosis you went through. Now Holden plays “Triangle Folds”, the only song composed by himself in the whole mix – an acoustical beauty! You are drawn into an atmosphere where sounds fly around you like colorful birds on an undiscovered island. “Defintion” by James Ruskin takes you up on a plateau and like in a computer game you have the feeling like the next level is reached in a minute. And there we go: “Flight of Jupiter” takes you to in the middle of a techno club, which sounds more 80´s than the 80´s themselves, and you feel like dancing and turning up the volume. You might start to miss the trippiness from a little earlier but before you can think of anything else you would want to listen to everything dissolves into the beautiful and poppy “Gaberdine” by Walls and you think to yourself – that´s it! Vocal samples are mixed in gently and before the poppyness gets too cheesy you´re put on hold(en) with a vocal mix of “Never Fail” by Lukas Nystrand. It´s like a rising waiting loop you lose yourself in and suddenly you don´t remember how it started. The last mind-blowing highlite on James Holden´s DJ-Kicks is “Arwen, Namarie” by Didier Paquette. It´s a moment to drop a tear and go inside and feel thankful for what´s there in a true, honest, warm and loving way without bearing a grudge against nothing. The journey ends with “Catacomb City” by SS Pyramid Snake and the ghost seems to tell us “Stay aware… and take care. To each thing there´s an opposite and to each story there´s an end.”
James Holden is one of the most outstanding musicians these days, and his influence on music to come is greater than many might give him credit for. His label “border community” is a conglomeration of advanced electronic music releases (to name but a few artists: Nathan Fake, Extrawelt, Petter, Luke Abbott) and its success speaks for itself. It follows its own ideas and managed to become well-known for its compelling unique sound and therefore is not comparable to any other label.
- Jan Fabritius