Review of DJ Kicks Album by James Holden

Despite mastering his craft for over 10 years, James Holden is far from a household name. However, this is to his credit rather than to his detriment. Having chosen to remain loyal to his tastes rather than chase a spot in the charts or a Ministry of Sound compilation (see Prydz, Eric for reference). He has risen to and subsequently maintained his status as one of the most innovative DJ's / producers on the planet. For the man from Market Bosworth, Leicestershire is no (Kissy) sell out.

James Holden DJ Kicks Album

2003's Balance 005 and 2006's At the Controls became staples in any progressive addict's collection, as the Border Community Label boss layered sounds that combined atmospheric beauty with driving baselines - he has made up wait for this. Patience is a virtue and that is what this mix, the latest instalment in the long-running 'DJ Kicks' series, is all about. The 20-track selection transcends genres as you would expect as Holden takes the opportunity to include many tunes you wouldn't usually see in his record box.

It is worth noting that the mix includes his previously unreleased remix of Mogwai's 'The Sun Smells Too Loud' and Holden's first solo single for four years, 'Triangle Folds.' The rolling drums and filtered synths of the former juxtaposing the punchy pad work of the latter.

Three tracks in and the 3-note key change to Mordant Music's 'Olde Wobbly' is filled with more dread than a Superhans-crack pipe, feeding off hand-clap grooves of Grackle's aptly named 'Disco.' Maserati's 'No More Sages' blends in and out before label co-hort Luke Abbott's 'Soft Attacks' merges keys and pads with the intensity increasing just enough to get the palms warm.

A 20-track set, Holden waits until track 12, ARP's 'Potentialities,' for the first real sign of a grooving baseline. It's almost taunting for a minute and a half before it dispensing into Lucky Dragon's 'Open Melody' with the elegant charm of a twentieth century butler. The silent vocal whispers 'More tea sir?' as the baseline hints at Africa by drifting into a clockwork minimalism and we must wait a little longer.

Holden uses his own track 'Triangle Folds' to take an, albeit trippy, jump forward towards the impending drop. Without taking anything away from the plethora of genres on show, making you wait is what this is all about. If you like your drops coming thicker and faster than Lee Ryan on a speed then look away and don't look back because this isn't for you.

Tribal drums complete the move into Legowelt's thumping 'Flight of the Jupiter.' It's been coming for 15-tracks but still the contrast is startling. Walls' 'Gaberdine' begins with a real fist-pumping groove but layered with Lukas Nystrand's vocal it transcends into an eyes closed ditty and a smile wider than Nick Cleggs.

This isn't a mix for an after party nor will it get you started before you head out but that's not the point. Instead think of the Chemical Brothers' video 'Star Guitar,' staring out of the train window as the world flashes with nothing to do but listen to every intricate detail. I can't promise but it may even work on trains through Wales.


Alastair Thompson

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