- The South Korean star's eclectic approach falls short of her best work.
- Peggy Gou has the kind of powerhouse millennial career that has only been possible recently. She is a hit-making house producer and a classy DJ, with sharp tastes for Aphex Twin and '90s Detroit techno. She is also huge on Instagram and has been the face of advertising campaigns for shoes, watches and luxury cars. Such visible success—Gou's face was on a giant billboard outside my office earlier this year—can make her seem, at least by underground dance music standards, like an untouchable celebrity. But on the South Korean's mix for DJ-Kicks she offers us a closer look. The 19-track mix is said to take you "straight into Peggy Gou's living room where she plays you the formative tunes from her collection." Varying greatly in tempo and style, DJ-Kicks sounds less like a polished artistic statement than a low-key mixtape from a friend.
Charming as this approach may be, it doesn't tell us much about Gou's creativeness as a DJ. Such a simple, everyday idea for a mix CD requires clever execution to elevate it. In 73 minutes, DJ-Kicks takes on house, jazz, techno, acid, dubstep, synth-pop, breakbeat, electro, ambient, IDM and experimental field recording. The mixing, though neat and tidy, feels flat and rushed. Sometimes two disparate genres simply don't flow. The quick blend between chugging acid (Pearson Sound's "Earwig") and muscly '80s synths (Pegasus' "Perseguido Por El Rayo") works decently. The fade from slamming breakbeat techno (Shade Of Rhythm's "Exorcist") to spacey dubstep (Kode9's "Magnetic City") does not. Towards the end of Black Merlin's "Kundu," Aphex Twin's "Vordhosbn," an early 2000s classic with the power to be a big moment, enters with as much excitement as hitting the next button.
Still, you have to appreciate all the hot tracks tucked into this DJ-Kicks. They're mostly in the mix's strong middle and the very end, where Gou moves through a range of stylish dance tunes. Perhaps the nastiest one is JRMS's "3," a stepping and funky techno cut that'll be released on Gou's new label, Gudu Records. Hiver's "Pert," an exclusive track, and Deniro's "Epirus" are sublime cuts of atmospheric techno—the first is a floor heater, the second flutters towards the stars. In addition to these relatively new tracks, Gou has as many throwback bombs. Sly & Lovechild's "The World According To Sly & Lovechild (Andrew Weatherall Soul Of Europe Mix)," from 1990, is smoldering deep house with an aching and soulful vocal. There are also two machine workouts from Derrick May's Transmat label, R-Tyme's funky "Illusion (Mayday Mix)" and Psyche's dreamy "Crackdown."
Undoubtedly, Gou's DJ-Kicks radiates good taste, pulling from several of dance music's precious eras and corners. But strong curation is not necessarily the same thing as creativity. What makes a mix stand out is its ability to build a journey and unexpectedly connect the dots. Gou's DJ-Kicks, though filled with some stretches of sleek club music, struggles to find an overall thread to hold it together. The personal angle is not enough. Each of these tunes may hold a special significance in Gou's life. But to the listener, they don't quite reveal the story.
01. Spacetime Continuum - Fluresence
02. Peggy Gou - Hungboo (DJ-Kicks)
03. Pearson Sound - Earwig
04. Pegasus - Perseguido Por El Rayo
05. Sly & Lovechild - The World According To Sly & Lovechild (Andrew Weatherall Soul Of Europe Mix)
06. Dorisburg - Rytm804
07. Hiver - Pert
08. Kyle Hall - Flemmenup
09. DMX Krew - EPR Phenomena
10. JRMS - 3
11. Shade Of Rhythm - Exorcist
12. Kode9 - Magnetic City
13. The System - Vampirella
14. Black Merlin - Kundu
15. Aphex Twin - Vordhosbn
16. R-Tyme - Illusion (Mayday Mix)
17. Psyche - Crackdown
18. Deniro - Epirus
19. I:Cube - Cassette Jam 1993