Music Review: DJ Koze – Knock Knock

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DJ Koze

Knock Knock

[Pampa; 2018]

Rating: 4.5/5

In a 2013 interview with FACT, DJ Koze said that he’s “turned on by melancholy.” To hear a techno artist who plays to sold-out nightclubs, Ibiza beach parties, and crowds of nocturnal dwellers say something of the sort was initially confounding, but hearing his music, it’s easy to see how DJ Koze’s iconoclastic output of electronic music is equally ready for both blown-out soundsystems and lonely, tangled pairs of headphones. Hidden in the corners of the club are intangible bubbles, mixed bags of feelings, waiting for the right drop to burst. And who better to move that process along than Stefan Kozalla? The looming monolith of techno always loomed over creators far and wide, but Koze had different plans. His welcoming, genre-agnostic self could suddenly help 88 BPM feel as much at home as 130 always had.

2013’s Amygdala may have been one of the most intriguing and criminally overlooked electronic albums that year. From one vibrant, pulsating composition to the next, DJ Koze encapsulated the joys and pitfalls of being human with a treasure trove of sample-heavy deep house. A world of guitar strokes, earth-shattering bass, and relentless movement stood shoulder to shoulder with everything from the dissonant refrains of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to the mournful vocalizations of Hildegard Knef. Add stellar guest appearances by the likes of Matthew Dear, Milosh, and Caribou and it became apparent that Amygdala was an exciting in-depth investigation of emotion, whose kaleidoscopic sensibilities and pastel-colored melancholia stayed true to the album’s namesake.

If his previous full-length was a shade too blue to be a “true” techno album, Knock Knock is Koze’s beating heart of a record with the vitality of a child refusing to sit still. Wondrous and touching, the album bears little resemblance to Koze’s techno and house peers. Rather, it sits in a bold corner of its own, drawing inspiration from the disparate galaxies of dream pop, crackling funk, angular trip-hop, and ASMR-inducing ambience. And while much of the album finds Koze re-adopting some of the tried-and-tested methodologies of blissed-out electronica, he doesn’t compromise on keeping things constantly engaging, thanks to a relentlessly imaginative approach to genre blending.

Devoted Koze-heads will relish in tracks like “Pick Up,” which are instant throwbacks to the luxurious, balearic vibes of Andrés and Pepe Bradock. Sibling cuts like “Seeing Aliens” wash over with an effortless, open-armed embrace. For those less engrossed with the world of Roland 808’s and breakdowns, it’s each sticky melody, crooning vocal ditty, and uplifting string section that pulls you deeper into the record’s warm, inviting environment. Kicking things into high gear, second track “Bonfire” deliciously manipulates a sample of Bon Iver’s autumnal “Calgary” into a head-nodding delight. The early placement of the track serves as Koze’s aesthetic statement: a truly extraterrestrial kind of house music that’s not quite right for a deafening dancefloor, but perhaps for the sound system inside a car speeding past it in the dead of night.

Lying underneath the balmy sheen of this entire record is the core personality of a pop music lover; the tumultuous journey toward shining, glorious melodies is one that must be achieved here, regardless of the vehicle. And so, things also take a moody turn quite often; Róisín Murphy’s enigmatic vocal performances throughout are placed atop understated nocturnal shuffles; if songs like “Moving In A Liquid” reflect the glory of a perfect sunrise, deeper cuts like “Scratch That” are the unsettling sunsets that precede them. The pensive cloudiness of “Muddy Funster” contrasts nicely against the twinkling refrains of the cleverly titled “Baby (How Much I LFO You.)” Even “Music On My Teeth,” which sounds like a customer-support-please-hold music-induced psychedelia, bursts with understated color.

Vocals, both sampled and performed, play a critical role in constructing the album’s sound. Breaking down the complex layers of gospel vocals and Sophia Kennedy’s emphatic phrasing is a legitimately difficult task, as words and sentences bleed into each other to create sprawling, expansive chaos. Both her and the aforementioned Murphy bring charismatic performances that feel tailor-made for Koze’s psyched-out compositions. And when you see Kurt Wagner on the guest vocal roster for a deep house record, you know you’ve struck gold.

And then we have “Planet Hase,” which plays host to an undeniably creepy surprise in its final minute: a fuzzy, voicemail tone-like voice singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands” in no discernible key. But this moment is no more surprising than a reverb-drenched lap steel on top of a sawtooth bass line, an acidic keyboard lead dotted by a glockenspiel, and a million voices singing in wildly ecstatic harmony. Knock Knock is full of surprises, and Koze is floating, in a meditative stance, watching over your shoulder as you revel in its resplendent glory.

DJ Koze transcends dance with new LP, ‘Knock Knock’ [STREAM]

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Producer and hardware extraordinaire Stefan Kozalla, known musically as DJ Koze, has just released an immensely soulful, unhinged body of work.

With a choice sampling from Bon Iver’s “Calgary” on “Bonfire” and features from a diverse cast that includes Róisín Murphy, Pampa Records’ own Sophia Kennedy, Speech from the 90s hip-hop outfit Arrested Development, and more, Kozalla transcends the dance music space he’s roamed for so long.

Knock Knock’s vast influences and coalescing styles are more than just a testament to his breadth as a crate digger; in fact, he’s poking fun of the repetitive nature of contemporary dance music with the lead single “Pick Up.” The mastery of his 70s influences and minimalistic Kompakt-aligned groove reigns supreme, too. Somehow, it not only works, but it sounds natural.

Knock Knock’s uncluttered. It flows like a DJ set — travelling seamlessly from one soundscape to the next.

Though his physical move towards a life of peace and quiet might suggest Koze’s departure from dance may be imminent, the music present here tells us differently of his legacy. There’s a reason why Koze is one of electronic’s biggest enigmas — but rather than questioning the motives behind such a work, we ought to just let it rest.

Stream DJ Koze’s New Album Knock Knock

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DJ-Koze-Knock-Knock-1525442129It’s been five years since the veteran German dance-music auteur DJ Koze released Amygdala, his last proper album, though he’s kept himself plenty busy in the years since. And today, Koze officially follows that album up with Knock Knock, his new album. It’s a long, warm, lush collection of oblique, longing melodies and restrained, immaculately … More »

DJ Koze releases hypnotic disco EP ahead of May album release

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DJ Koze is one of dance music’s most intriguing enigmas. Having moved from Hamburg to embrace simpler island living on the island of who knows where,  his music today is a far cry from his strange, experimental techno of the early 2000s. In less than one month he’ll be releasing his new album Knock Knock and in the spirit of the release, the German maestro’s shared an infectious disco-tinged EP.

As the guaranteed “Pick Up” oscillates between in its six-and-a-half minute groove, and the extended 10-minute version too, house-diva disco murmurs of Gladys Knight and Koze’s poised production pairing make it all the more clear that Knock Knock will be both a smooth and sound follow-up to 2013’s beloved Amygdala.

Photo Credit: Gepa Hinrichsen

DJ Koze – “Pick Up”

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Next month, DJ Koze, the veteran German master of warm, humid, meticulously assembled minimal dance music, is coming back with the new album Knock Knock, his long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s much-loved Amygdala. Given the way Koze puts albums together, we can practically guarantee a smooth, zoned-out long-player that will sound great in the background but … More »

Morocco’s Oasis Festival announces massive second phase of lineup with DJ Koze, Honey Dijon, Peggy Gou, Larry Heard and more

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Oasis Festival

Morocco’s Oasis Festival, the destination music festival held September 14-16 on the outskirts of Marrakech, has announced their second wave of acts for its fourth edition.

Joining the likes of an already fervent edition featuring Carl Cox, The Black Madonna, and more; includes DJ Koze, Bradley Zero, Romare, Deetron, Sassy J, Detroit Swindle, La Fleur, Larry Heard (live), Maribou State, Honey Dijon, Jane Fitz, Mr. G (live), Peggy Gou, Rødhåd, Mount Kimbie, DJ Python, and many more.

Offering a truly authentic North African experience on the fringe of the Atlas Mountains, Oasis mixes rich local culture and customs with world-class headliners who offer tasteful soundtracks from a diverse array of dance music.

oasis lineup

More information and tickets are available here.

Photo credit: Andrew Rauner

DJ Koze taps Róisín Murphy for swirling new track, ‘Illumination’

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One of Germany’s finest celestial dance auteurs, DJ Koze, has released the second single off his forthcoming studio LP, Knock Knock. Both Koze’s two new tracks “Seeing Aliens” and the non-album B-side “Nein König Nein, ” charted an exquisite return for the producer, though the style and grace of “Illumination” shows even more nuance and refinement.

A whirling house beat serves as the track’s earmark, but Róisín Murphy’s disco-diva vocal subtly sets it apart. Together, the two illuminate a plethora of creative possibilities for modern dance music on “Illumination.”

Knock Knock is out May 4 on Pampa Records.

Photo Credit: Gepa Hinrichsen

DJ Koze – “Illumination” (Feat. Róisín Murphy)

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This spring, DJ Koze, the German auteur of spacey and architectural dance music, is coming back with Knock Knock, his first full-on studio album since 2013’s great Amygdala. When he announced the album last month, Koze shared two new songs, “Seeing Aliens” and the non-album B-side “Nein König Nein.” They both ruled. Today, … More »

DJ Koze announces first album in five years, follows with two-track EP

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German DJ and hip-hop vanguard DJ Koze announced a new album, Knock Knock, is set for release on Pampa Records in May.

The 16-track LP marks Stefan Kozalla’s first since 2013’s Amygdala. Kozalla’s revealed the tracklist will feature an exciting number of guest artists. While some electronic artists run into an issue of having “too many guests” and thereby lack a signature sound, DJ Koze stands as an exception. Knock Knock will feature vocals from Bon Iver —though it’s just a sampling of the hit “Calgary” — Róisín Murphy, Mano Le Tough, Sophia Kennedy, and US rapper Speech (of Arrested Development).

Ahead of the record, he’s shared a kaleidoscopic new release, of “Seeing Aliens” and “Nein König Nein” on its B-side.

Knock Knock Tracklist:


01. Club Der Ewigkeiten
02. Bonfire feat. Bon Iver
03. Moving In A Liquid feat. Eddie Fummler
04. Colors Of Autumn feat. Speech
05. Music On My Teeth feat. José González
06. This Is My Rock feat. Sophia Kennedy
07. Illumination feat. Róisín Murphy
08. Pick up
09. Planet Hase feat. Mano Le Tough
10. Scratch That feat. Róisín Murphy
11. Muddy Funster feat. Kurt Wagner
12. Baby (How Much I LFO You)
13. Jesus
14. Lord Knows
15. Seeing Aliens
16. Drone Me Up, Flashy feat. Sophia Kennedy

Knock Knock is out via Pampa Records on May 4.

Photo Credit: Yves Krier

 

Primavera Sound drops spectacular 2018 lineup

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The vibrant affair Primavera Sound has announced a stunning 2018 lineup. Over 200 artists across a bevy of genres front the eighteenth edition set for May 28–June 3 in Barcelona.

Primavera Sound lends a glimpse into generational references with a pulse on contemporary music. The bill presents a push towards comprehensiveness, grrrl power, and once in a lifetime experiences in the live event sphere. With zero small print in the eminently danceable lineup, attendees can look forward to performances from Four Tet, French duo The Blaze, Chromeo, Jlin, Mount Kimbie, and Peggy Gou.

Hunee will go b2b with Antal. Both Seth Troxler and John Talabot have their own disco sets. Björk will perform her resplendent new album Utopia. Floating Points will perform both live and a six-hour DJ set. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein from S U R V I V E will perform the entire soundtrack from Stranger Things. Discwoman‘s Umfang and Volvox will go b2b. Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, DJ Koze, Lindström, Dekmantel Soundsystem, Palms Trax, The Black Madonna, Daphni, the killer DJ Shanti Celeste, and many more will see that euphoria and sweat reign supreme on the dance floor.

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More information can be found via Primavera Sound’s website.

Photo Credit: Stuart Philkill