Over the last 13 years, Stefan Kozalla, better known as DJ Koze, established himself as one of the most playful producers in electronic music. Through numerous singles and remixes (not to mention an excellent remix compilation), he developed a cheeky and light-footed touch that was distinctive in a way few producers can manage. Amygdala is his second proper album as DJ Koze, and it arrives on his own Pampa label a full eight years after his first full-length, Kosi Comes Around. This time he's called in a few favors: eight of the album's 13 tracks have vocal appearances from old friends like Matthew Dear, Caribou and Ada.
Amydala is described in its press sheet as Koze's Sgt. Pepper, and there's definitely some truth to that notion. Over its nearly 80-minute runtime, Koze's wide-eyed, kaleidoscopic brand of dance music veers from lush, end-of-night house timbres to pastoral, waltzy electronica. But even with the heavy reliance on guest spots, it's very much the single-minded work of Koze. Unexpected instrumental flourishes abound: brief bits of live bass emerge from moments of retreat, as do squealing horns, spring-like bells, and even what sounds like an un-sampled Marvin Gaye ode.
Opener "Track ID Anyone" slowly evolves from a fuzzy vocal intro through tumbling, minimalistic swirls of sound before Caribou's soft voice enters from the front. Both of Matthew Dear's tracks—the wood-block shuffle of "Magical Boy" and the sample-littered strut of "My Plans"—use the American's well-screened vocals to explore some curious modes of self-examination ("when I'm climbing lemon trees of feeling / time on my hands when I'm running out of faith"). "Homesick" has a hip-hop swagger that's undercut by glinting bells and Ada's gorgeous vocal hook.
Elsewhere, Koze finds time to recline in the idiosyncratic minimalism of yesteryear. "Royal Asscher Cut" stitches strange, off-pitched samples into a whirling bit of house. "Marilyn Whirlwind" combines dark, almost acidic squelches with itchy guitar stretches to form one of the record's few after-dark moments. For my money though, Amygdala's most overtly joyous moment comes on "Das Wort," which begins on a tubby, almost inaudible beat before live bass introduces the track's central chime-like motif. And yet, just as you settle into this sunny little groove, there's that Marvin Gaye nod: "we're all sensitive people / soooo much to give." It's infectious and almost a little too odd, yet it's totally at ease. In other words, it's DJ Koze doing what he's done for well over a decade.