If you like: Caribou, Boards of Canada, Bon Iver, music from ‘noughties’ label “Anticon”, Bonobo, DJ Shadow, Burial, then you may also like Knock Knock, the most recent slab of melodious memory pie from Stefan Kozalla, aka DJ Koze. ★★★★☆
DJ Koze is wonderfully inconsistent. He’s one of the most interesting artists to ride the edges of the electronic music circuit. Because of this, his music is also infuriatingly cool, tricky to map, and hard to review. This sixteen-track album spans everything from stirring trip-hop and dewy-eyed dance anthems to heartbreak disco and seventies soul, dripping with sunshine.
Kozalla has managed to throw down the nameless desire of dream pop, but across loads of genres, by applying every chameleon-like production principle he’s learned over the past 29 years. What you get is a selection box of ‘what’s-it-gonna-be-this-time?’ surprises.
There isn’t a single horrible surprise in there; just tracks that appeal more (Drone Me Up, Flashy – ft. Róisín Murphy) or less (Scratch That – same) to my own specific sense of musical recall.
The landscape of feeling he paints in sound is a very specific one though:
It’s an acid trip down memory lane; Muddy Funster (ft. Kurt Wagner – of Lamb Chop) cuts deep pangs of nostalgia, which crawl through your ears and catch in your throat at Colors of Autumn, then creating butterflies in your stomach by Music on my Teeth (ft. Jose José González).
Two of us covering Farr Festival a few years ago ambushed Stefan, watery-eyed as he stepped offstage having just played Bibio – ‘Petals’. We were pretty weird, totally wired, and when I replay my few moments of ‘cool’ behaviour – this isn’t one of them.
To our surprise he recognised us (from the last time we stalked him at a festival), and tried to run away from his team, in a bid to buy us a drink at the artist bar. He made a detour through an emptying tent housing a grand piano; ‘come, let’s play?’ before deciding against it and pressing onwards into the night. Then we were intercepted, the festival crew catching up. ‘We need to go; you’ll miss your flight’. A moment of resistance, maybe a few, maybe none at all. A solid hug. ‘Byeeeee!’
I replay this anecdote in my mind as I write the review – and as I consider it immortal, I notice the homogenising effects of memory blurring the details, flattening the bumps, and sanding off the corners. It becomes harder to see in its detail, but easier to feel singularly.
This unlikely sequence of hilarity hangs, a bridge caught between a few different stages of reality. It connects a series of isolated musical moments, and somehow, it makes sense of them.
By Alex Durham