In the last 2 years Hamburg's DJ Koze (Stefan Kozalla, also known as a member of dance/pop outfit International Pony) has burst onto the Kompakt label with a couple of killer 12"s (including Speicher 20's "Brutalga Square") and a well-received mix CD (the almost self-consciously eclectic "All People Is My Friends"). Hopes were understandably high that Koze's first full-length album, "Kosi Comes Around", would maintain the high standards he'd started with. Yet these weren’t the only hopes and expectations riding on Koze’s album. The unspoken hopes seemed to be that Koze could perhaps deliver what so few can: a strong, full length Kompakt album. Kompakt, enjoying fully deserved recognition for its excellent 12"s, compilations, and mix CDs, has often had trouble delivering strong full length albums (Markus Guentner, Justus Kohncke, and Thomas Fehlmann being exceptions). Contrary to initial critical opinions (which have since seen some backpedaling), Superpitcher's "Here Comes Love" was intensely disappointing, and Michael Mayer's "Touch" never hit the heights his earlier productions and remixes promised.
The hopes and expectations, then, were indeed high. So, does “Kosi Comes Around” deliver?
The first track "Estrella" could only ever be an album opener, announcing its intentions quickly and laying the blueprint for the rest of the album. We open with sampled whispered voices, a hint of a scratched record, and a chiming yet ever so slightly melancholic melody. A woman says, "I hope that it is Koze", hinting at Koze's awareness of the hopes surrounding the album. The beats come rolling in, as a gorgeous wash of strings envelops the track before diving down into a driving bassline. It's a strong track, and a very strong opener; the chimes, strings, and hint of melancholy all telling us that we're firmly in Kompakt territory. Yet the deft layering of multiple samples also hints that we're in Koze's neck of the woods. This is Kompakt according to Koze, if you will.
Strings and samples of all kinds, particularly voices, are an important part of Koze's palette here. "My Grandmotha", undoubtedly the highlight of the album, is a gorgeous, slow-paced piece of sweet melancholy, starting with barely whispered voices that become stronger and clearer, singing a child-like melody about their grandmother. The initial lower bass tones are swept away by shimmering harp sounds and strings that carry the track through to its end, evoking childhood memories of joy.
"Barock Am Ring" is a short sweet (although somewhat aimless) track, built almost entirely from samples such as naïve piano melodies, horn sounds, snippets of childlike voices and vocal harmonies. The strings come in again on album closer "Chiminea", which gently rocks us to sleep with a lovely acoustic guitar and piano combination and (more) sampled vocal harmonies that hint at Koze’s pop sensibilities. These tracks display an obvious sensitivity, and a love of the sentimental. They clearly adhere to the Kompakt aesthetic, while also clearly displaying Koze's love of sampling and pop.
Of course, "Kosi Comes Around" is not all shimmering joy. Koze is nothing if not versatile, and drives equally towards the dancefloor on tracks such as “Don’t Feed The Cat”, full of old-school rave-up pianos, insistent handclap beats, and the sound of an angry swarm of synthetic insects. A vocal sample on “Raw” informs us that we're listening to "house music" over the top of rolling beats, the sly hint of a shuffle (yet another Kompakt trademark), and the sounds of something cracking and crumbling in the background. "Dangernugget" is all woozy sounds and distorted vocals, slightly disorienting, slightly narcotic. There's an edge to all of these tracks, be it the almost angry synth sounds, the crumbling sounds that threaten to break apart completely, or the wooziness that threatens to drug the listener.
The CD includes two of Koze’s earlier highlights for the vinyl challenged, "The Geklöppel Continues" and the dancefloor destroyer "Brutalga Square". "Brutalga Square", presented in all nine minutes of its glory, is nothing if not a classic, building its slow brooding tension to an almost unbearable state before finally dropping a killer beat and bassline combination that is guaranteed to make a dancefloor go completely spastic.
The album, then, is split between shimmering tracks and edgy dancefloor numbers, with Koze demonstrating his versatility and flair. To be honest, the tracks don't all sit completely comfortably with each other, which holds “Kosi Comes Around” back from being a great album. The tracks themselves, however, are strong, full of interesting textures and hooks. It's very clearly a Kompakt album, yet is not a carbon copy of "classic" Kompakt, with Koze's personality and style coming through just as clearly.
Koze has indeed come around, and he's brought what everyone's been hoping for: a solid full length Kompakt record.
Other Kompakt reviews