Knock Knock

Far away from mundane reality lies the music of DJ Koze. The German producer builds a fantasy world where aesthetic beauty soaked in memory can hold life at bay for an hour or two at a time. Given his dreamy predilections, his music never strives for relevance and it doesn’t care about the shifting fashion of the moment. He’s only competing with himself. Across a handful of albums, not to mention many dozens of remixes and a few full-length DJ mixes, he combines the crunchy propulsion of French touch, the liquid warmth of ’70s soul, the precise structure of Kompakt-style minimal techno, the head-nodding funk of boom-bap, and the nameless desire of dream pop. The thread through it all is a very specific emotional state: Sifting through his library of samples and pieces of original music, he finds the moments that express wistful longing, burrows into them, and then blows it all up to color-saturated widescreen.

Knock Knock, Koze’s new full-length LP, is his first since 2013’s Amygdala, though in 2015 he released a mix for the DJ-Kicks series, and the label he founded, Pampa, put out a sampler in 2016. For listeners, the lines between a new Koze album, a new Koze mix, and a label sampler he’s curated are blurry. Koze bends the rules of each form so that they come close to meeting in the middle. The mix and compilation included many tracks with Koze’s careful and effective edits, and his tweaks made each production sound more like his own. On his albums, he chooses an array of vocalists and essentially creates a sort of “mixtape” with all new music, where individual tracks are heavy with samples and feel as referential as a DJ set.

Knock Knock has a few familiar names among its cast of vocalists: Róisín Murphy, José González, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, and, a name we haven’t heard in a while, the rapper Speech from ’90s hip-hop outfit Arrested Development. The guests are generally used in ways that fit within the context of their own work—Wagner’s contribution finds him soaked in Auto-Tune, as on the last Lambchop album, for example—but Koze has a way of making the contributors seem like they were born to sing over one of his tracks. And if Knock Knock is a more conventional album than the more psychedelic and twisted Amygdala, it’s also a more affecting one. The fact that some of the guests appear more than once (Murphy gets two turns, as does Sophia Kennedy, the vocalist who released her strong debut album on Pampa last year) lends cohesion, and the production is extra lush.

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