DJ Koze - Amygdala
Over the course of a long career, Hamburg based electronic auteur DJ Koze has worn a lot of hats. From his early roots in hip-hop group Fischmob, to his stint as part of trio International Pony, and through to his celebrated remix work, his output has been marked by both quality and a committed eclecticism which has naturally extended to his original solo material. It's this material that has taken Koze furthest into unadulterated house and techno territory and, augmented by his reputation for raucous DJ sets, has become one of the things he is best known for, at least in certain circles.
It is this strand of his output that he adds to with his new album Amygdala, his first record in nine years barring Reincarnations, a compilation of his remixes. As a late entry into such a comparatively lengthy amount of time served, it proves to be an effective avatar of his career as a whole. Though thoroughly grounded in the techno that served as his principle recorded home right up until his sabbatical period, the album still possesses a fundamentally exploratory spirit, resulting in a techno record so atypically varied as to hold a great deal of appeal to listeners that would usually have little interest in such things.
One signifier of this records far reaching appeal has also proved to be one of its more noted talking points; its tracklist comes extensively stacked with additional credits from a wide spectrum of collaborators, ranging from fellow German electronic peddler Apparat to slightly less obvious but no less well suited artists like Caribou and Matthew Dear, acts that similarly take electronic sounds out of their natural environment in order to gently twist them into new ones.
All three of these guys help out with highlights on a record full of them, particularly in the case of the Dear assisted 'Magic Boy'; it may be his poppier turn on 'My Plans' that has so far been singled out for the most praise, but his manipulated vocals here emphasise Amygdala's greatest strengths. The expected four to the floor throb is there underneath Dear's distorted, loved up crooning, but its sharing space with brass and winding, syrupy bass. It's these moments that come out the most satisfying, moments that combine more traditional dance textures and marry them effortlessly to disparate organic sounds. Even when the album strays furthest from its roots, as on the out and out German-language ballad 'Das Wort' with Dirk von Lowtzow, it maintains its collage style appeal; a brief snatch of melodic bass here, a sly Marvin Gaye sample there.
In some ways it's the album's signature trick, but it takes a little while to uncover. The record and its individual tracks are long, and like much good techno they often attain their moments of transcendence through repetition. Additionally, even the songs that hew closer to more standard tech and house tropes are propulsive in a mellow and low-key way rather than an overpowering one, resulting in dance music that's just as well suited to headphone or background listening as it is to shape throwing.
As such, it can take some time to discover the slight flourishes that give Amygdala its character and colour. Slowly sifting through music this immersive and hypnotic, though, is a pleasure in itself, and discovering those flourishes just adds another level of fulfilment on top of an already multi-faceted and uniquely satisfying piece of work.
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