- The sound of a well-honed DJ at the top of her game.
- By the time Avalon Emerson started working on her DJ-Kicks in an East LA bedroom, the pandemic was in full swing. But she had already planned for that: she relocated to Los Angeles from Berlin two months before the pandemic. The idea was to focus on songwriting and producing, and get away from the slog of the tour life.
Avalon has a penchant for big melodies, pop structures and catchy vocals, and she's also one of the most technically skilled DJs on the festival circuit—she's as much a DJ's DJ as she is the kind of DJ whose set you could put on at a party with mixed company. This is what her DJ-Kicks is all about. It begins with her own cover of the Magnetic Fields classic "A Long Forgotten Fairytale," complete with deadpan vocals and a cutesy karaoke-style video. It's not quite a new Avalon Emerson, but something has matured.
Avalon says her DJ-Kicks is for "long car rides and at-home listening," though that doesn't flip the script of her mixing style much as adjust it. The club bangers and the more pop-oriented material meet somewhere closer to the middle, especially with the handful of new tracks from Emerson herself. They carry the melodic shimmer and attractive gloss of older tunes like "The Frontier" in a freer, more song-oriented approach.
Emerson's DJ Kicks floats and crests over a number of climaxes, with tender pull-backs—not the kind of linear arc you might expect from a regular mix CD. The most obvious example of her approach takes place right in the centre, as Oni Ayhun's pitch-bent "OAR004-A" transforms into Oklou's vocal pop song "Just Level 5 Cause It's Cute." The transition between the two isn't exactly virtuoso fireworks, but it is clever. It might be the greatest facet of Emerson's DJing—not mixing merely beats or tempos but eras, aesthetics and moods, like Ken Ishii at his prime. The second half of her DJ-Kicks is almost a show-off in this regard. You get old-school filter disco from Sound Stream mixed with the futuristic house of Oceanic or the Dirtbombs into the Thomas N' Eric remix of !!!'s "Hello? Is This Thing On.". Elsewhere there's acid from the early '90s, low-slung '00s tech house and a florid remix of Canadian dream pop group Austra, which is a fitting way to close a mix that began with a Magnetic Fields cover.
This DJ-Kicks showcases how DJing can be refined over the course of a career. It becomes not just about beat-matching or building tension, but putting together imaginative music in truly imaginative ways, connecting the dots between things that seem otherwise dissimilar. With pop covers, dips into post-punk and blog house, Avalon Emerson's DJ-Kicks might not be what you'd expect from a career-defining mix CD from one of the biggest DJs in the world in 2020. The fact that it could work on a dance floor as easily as it could soundtrack a long, leisurely drive is a testament to Avalon Emerson, who has found a genuinely unique niche in big-room house and techno by playing exactly what she wants.
01. Avalon Emerson - Long Forgotten Fairytale
02. Avalon Emerson - Wastelands & Oases
03. Butterfly - Tranceonic
04. Waveform - Breakers In Space (DAT Remix)
05. Avalon Emerson - Rotting Hills
06. Anthony Acid - Doe Doe Doe
07. Little Mike - Dirty Pusher Man
08. DJ Sense - Finest
09. General Midi - The Future
10. Oni Ayhun - OAR004-A
11. Oklou - Just Level 5 Cause It's Cute
12. Oceanic - Yellow Cone
13. Smith & Hack - Ultra Range Process
14. Soundstream - 3rd Movement
15. The Dirtbombs - Shari Vari (Avalon Emerson's cybernedit)
16. !!! - Hello? Is This Thing On? (Thomas N' Eric's Rub And Tug Throwdown)
17. Avalon Emerson - Poodle Power
18. Lady B - Cruising Around Motor City
19. Regular Citizen - Ultramarine Dew
20. Austra - Anywayz (Avalon Emerson 14th Life Version)