DJ Koze, ‘Amygdala’ (Pampa)
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Stefan Kozalla, the Frankfurt minimal-techno producer known as DJ Koze, has been the most creatively restless dance musician of the past decade, and perhaps the best. By the time he got to Kompakt in 2003, he was fully ready to flex. In 2004, he had gospel organ erupt into the tensile minimal techno of “Let’s Help Me,” and let giddy noise bursts interrupt the hypnotic pulse of “Brutalga Square.” In his hands, no groove was safe from gleeful deconstruction — which, in turn, only served to strengthen the grooves.
Koze grew more elaborate, more restless, and more willful (a friend calls him “DJ Crazy,” adoringly). He also became more unerring, more daring, and uncannier, especially on remixes: The best were collected on 2009’s Reincarnations, including the gorgeous disco gauze of Matias Aguayo’s formerly huffing-and-puffing “Minimal” and a Battles job that makes the original track sound like “Chopsticks.” In between, as Adolf Noise, he savaged “We Are the World” (as a hidden bonus track) by fearlessly imitating every single singer on the original, and placed the utterly baffling “Zouzou” on the Kompakt anthology Total 9: dank Coil sonics remade as beguiling bubblegum. Who the fuck was this guy?
An adult, it turned out: Soon after Reincarnations, Koze started his own label, Pampa, and began issuing short, neat albums by such like-minded vets as Ada and Robag Wruhme. He seemed to be settling down, artistically. Not a chance. Amygdala is the most fearless and most accomplished thing he’s ever made: a smorgasbord of sonic possibility, a new idea around every corner, each vibrantly alive in a wide sound field. “Magical Boy,” for example, unfolds like a diorama with jaw harp, fraying horns, and Matthew Dear singing, “When I’m climbing lemon trees of feeling” through a filter that turns him into the Grinch. Doesn’t sound appetizing, does it? But Koze makes it move like the wind.
The beats here are fleet-footed, and the crafty bass lines are a low-end-lover’s dream, especially on “Marilyn Whirlwind,” a lean, buzzing nod to Daft Punk that the Frenchmen themselves should scramble to remix. But more importantly, Koze has written real songs that stay in your head: From Apparat singing, “It’s fully black / Inside your hat” on the pastel-tinged “Nices Wölkchen” to the cooing background “mmm-mmm” vocal sample of “Homesick” (featuring Ada), there are hooks galore. That’s one reason this monstrous work earns its heft (nearly 78 minutes). Another is Amygdala‘s pace, gentle and dawn’s-up: the hedonistic, international techno nightlife of the Berlin-centric post-minimal generation reaching day two-and-a-half, both blurry and lucid. This is their gift to us.