- The English artist crafts an essential entry in the DJ-Kicks series.
- What are the mixes that live longest in the memory? It's a difficult and subjective question, but I'd guess that if pushed many people would say mixes in the style of Leon Vynehall's DJ-Kicks. There isn't really a neat term for this type of mix, but you know one when you hear one. The DJ highlights a wide range of their taste, covers many moods, often without too much emphasis on the club, and the tracks aren't necessarily mixed. When done well, these mixes don't seem to age. They lend themselves to heavy repeat listening. I worked in the RA office in London until recently, and another mix in this style, Moodymann's DJ-Kicks from 2016, got played more than most other things I can remember. Vynehall's entry into the long-running series doesn't have quite the same crowd-pleasing quality, but like the Moodymann mix it's brilliantly executed.
It's released at a moment in which Vynehall is on a serious roll. His impressively rich and affecting album, Nothing Is Still, released in June, was one of last year's best electronic music albums. It featured a ten-piece string section, an accompanying novella, striking videography and an overall concept that was actually convincing. Vynehall played a small run of well-received live shows in support of the record, including three nights at New York venue The Kitchen. A few months after finishing a residency at Pikes in Ibiza, he turned in one of the strongest RA podcasts of 2018, a mix he described as "slightly more towards the dance floor, whilst still taking it left and right, up and down."
Comparatively speaking, Vynehall's DJ-Kicks leans away from the dance floor, at least in its first half. He's released a handful of great mixes over the last six or so years, touching on hip-hop, disco, dub and other styles in addition to house music, but this is the first time we've fully heard him exploring… well, it's difficult to label it exactly, but there are a lot of tracks here that have a murky '80s industrial quality in the vein of Throbbing Gristle. His trick, however, is to counterpoint the gloom with lovely songs. We get Kemikal's "Genie," a killer dancehall track with a '90s hip-hop slant, followed by Tomaga's "Giant Bitmap" and De Fabriek's "Loopy," a pair of instrumental electronic tracks covered in muck. It's important to stress how well this section works and how novel it sounds. The Bygraves' "Set Me Free" and Degrees Of Freedom's "August Is An Angel" could be, respectively, lost soul and pop classics, so it's curious that the grit of dgoHn, Bourbonese Qualk and Shamos provides such a comfortable contrast.
From DJ Zozi's "Mellow Vibe" onwards, Vynehall enters the club. He retains the exploratory spirit of the mix's first half but gives it a twist. Rather than balancing opposing energies we get mini-themes that stretch across a handful of tracks. RAC, Primitive and Crinan all feature in a particularly slick section of rare late '90s tech house and broken beats. Just as good is Vynehall's handling of the new and exclusive music, which appears in sequence from Ploy's "Pressure" through to Peach's superb techno track "Faxing Jupiter." (The Vynehall cut in this section, "Ducee's Drawbar," a sample-heavy house track in the vein of Four Tet or Joy O, shows he hasn't lost his appetite for writing club music.) Vynehall gradually slows down the Peach track, Technics-switch-off style, before launching an uptempo finale that covers jungle (Etch, Mirage), IDM (AFX) and footwork (Jana Rush). It's the only slightly predictable move in the mix, but the strength of the selections mostly makes this a moot point.
Robert Haigh is most widely known as the drum & bass act Omni Trio, but a tender piano piece under his given name closes the mix. This is fitting. Vynehall is also a respected artist with an uncommonly deep craft, as DJ-Kicks serves to emphasise.
01. Leon Vynehall - Who Loved Before
02. Kemikal - Genie
03. Tomaga - Giant Bitmap
04. De Fabriek - Loopy
05. Haruomi Hosono - Rose & Beast (薔薇と野獣 )
06. dgoHn - Force To
07. The Bygraves - Set Me Free
08. Degrees Of Freedom - August Is An Angel
09. Ellen Fullman - Over And Under
10. Bourbonese Qualk - Moving Forward
11. Shamos - Nuws
12. Genesis P. Orridge & Dave Ball - Sex & The Married Frog
13. Run Dust - Full Slice
14. DJ Zozi - Mellow Vibe
15. RAC - Fushigi
16. Primitive - Lapis Lazuli B2
17. Crinan - Killimanjaro
18. Ploy - Pressure
19. Leon Vynehall - Ducee's Drawbar (DJ-Kicks)
20. Pavilion - Happy Track
21. Peach - Faxing Jupiter
22. Etch - Unsung Hero Of Irrelevance
23. Mirage - Deep Rage
24. AFX - Children Talking
25. Jana Rush - Divine
26. Robert Haigh - Music For Piano