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Henrik Schwarz / Kaos & Sal P. - DJ Kicks / Collectors Series Pt. 2: Danse, Gravité Zero

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Artist: Henrik Schwarz / Kaos & Sal P.

Album: DJ Kicks / Collectors Series Pt. 2: Danse, Gravité Zero

Label: !K7 / Faith

Review date: Jan. 10, 2007

Recent years have seen the revitalization of cosmic disco, a type of DJing originally developed in Italy in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The name comes both from the nightclub Cosmic in Lazise, where the resident DJ Daniele Baldelli defined the style, and also from the practice of playing disco and dub records at the wrong speeds to give them a psychedelic gliding effect, and then mixing them with avant electronic music, funky rock and all other manner of sonic oddities for a cool, 95 bpm trip across the galaxy. Alongside Baldelli is the equally legendary DJ Beppe Loda, who has pursued a similar agenda and is often linked with cosmic disco, though it should be noted that Loda refers to his sound as 'Afro' and considers it a separate style.

Whatever its name, this gloriously wigged-out genre-not-genre might have gone unnoticed here on this side of the pond. Thankfully, however, the cosmic style has been promulgated in recent years by DJs such as Harvey, the Idjut Boys and Rub-N-Tug, among others. While these selecters probably wouldn't consider themselves strictly cosmic, they use a similar combination of unlikely records to concoct a comparable je-ne-sais-quoi sound and have done a lot to make the style hip in the UK and the States. As part of this resurgence, the end of 2006 saw the release of two cosmic-minded mixes which approach the genre from very different angles: Henrik Schwarz's deep house-informed DJ Kicks and Kaos and Sal P.'s new wave-oriented Collectors Series Pt. 2: Danse, Gravite Zéro.

For his entry in the DJ Kicks series, the Berlin-based DJ and producer Henrik Schwarz has put together a mix that offers an intriguing cross between deep house and the cosmic sound. Deep house can tend towards a deadly serious and deadly boring purism, Schwarz sidesteps that particular obstacle with a varied selection of leftfield tracks from the genres that have informed deep house. So the mix features a relatively small amount of house and instead we get plenty of soul and disco both well-known and obscure, along with cosmic-type tunes from the fields of reggae, avant jazz and Detroit techno. Combining the lushness of the deep house aesthetic with the adventuresome cosmic attitude is an appealing concept, and the mix is almost a brilliant success. The only problem is the inclusion of Schwarz's remix of Coldcut's "Walk A Mile In My Shoes". With its sanctimonious lyrics and overly tasteful strings, this track is unbelievably bad – and unfortunately it also serves as the disc's centerpiece. Placed right at the heart of the mix, "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" is so abysmal, and so unavoidable, that it makes it difficult to take everything else seriously. The mix really is well executed otherwise otherwise, and if one makes the effort to tune out the eight minutes of "Walk A Mile," DJ Kicks still has a lot to offer.

Kaos and Sal P.’s Collectors Series Pt. 2, on the other hand, is practically flawless. Like Henrik Schwarz, Kaos is a Berlin DJ, while Sal Principato is a member of downtown New York post-punk heroes Liquid Liquid. Collectors Series Pt. 2 is a much more properly cosmic mix than DJ Kicks, covering all the bases including dubby disco, woolly rock, reggae, and plenty of sharp electronic sounds. Early on, Sal gets on the mic to introduce himself and his partner and announce their intention "to make the party nice," and the two don't fail. Taking a particularly gonzo approach to the task at hand, they’ve crafted a mix that moves relentlessly from one track to the next, building up to a storming middle section in which Zazu's bizarre and great lost-in-space rock/disco epic "Captain Starlight" is rapidly followed by Map Of Africa's garage rock version of "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys," the Juan Maclean's 21st century classic "Give Me Every Little Thing" and then Daniel Wang's house gem "Like Some Dream (I Can't Stop Dreaming)." The intensity barely wanes until an Augustus Pablo instrumental ushers in a calmer final passage which culminates with the foggy synthesizer buzz of Arthur Russell's "The Platform On The Ocean." This is a real roller coaster of a mix – a keeper.

Those interested in the OG cosmic/Afro sound should check out this for a vintage DJ set by Beppe Loda (located at the bottom of the webpage), along with an interview and photos of the legendary Typhoon nightclub in Brescia.

By Greg Ferguson

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