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The Juan MacLean - DJ-Kicks

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Artist: The Juan MacLean

Album: DJ-Kicks

Label: !K7

Review date: Jun. 11, 2010

This is harsh thing to say about a mix record: John MacLean’s entry in the DJ Kicks series didn’t hit me at first. It’s got a great ending, but a slow opening. That shouldn’t be fatal (it’s not) and lots of fine records unfold gradually. But DJ mix, when distributed like a full-length major release, sits in a difficult place.

For most compilations, expecting some patience on the part of the listener is nothing out of the ordinary. A good comp is evangelical up front, and curatorial on the side. It excites interest in a genre and or scene, then sneaks in some artists who don’t strike like lighting, who don’t win instant converts. The listener comes with an expectation of delving deeper. Great collections deliver.

And then you’ve got the comp that is purely functional; a wrap up of recent hits for kids, or a set of scene stealers that lighten the load of plastic Mr DJ has got to haul around to bring the magic.

A mix like this falls somewhere in between. You want to be knocked over by the earthquaking choices, and you also want to hear something you haven’t heard before. Like a live record, you give it some leeway, since you’re listening outside of a club setting. You expect to get in the DJs head, and want the DJ to make you dizzy.

House music is at it’s best works a like traditional haiku. Between the artifice and rules, it evokes something natural. The initial span on this record doesn’t get sparks going between the tracks. The beat will rest, in comes the phased wash of synth, but it doesn’t bring out the feeling of a sunrise or a rain shower.

Halfway through, the Juan MacLean’s DJ-Kicks clicks. "Don’t Take It" is a track from an old school Chicago guy, Armando Gallop, narrated by a woman who introduces herself as Sharvette. She’s talking about guys that can’t be trusted, and when she says, "this is the ‘80s, and we’re running for office, taking over all the men’s jobs...don’t take it," it’s strident and quaint and ominous at the same time. It detunes, warping downwards, like a malfunction. The beat pulls together into a fuller sounding contemporary track. That one, Jee Day’s "Like A Child," is as cosmic as Armondo’s is blunt. MacLean hasn’t moved outside four-on-the-floor walls he set for himself, but the molecules are finally bouncing inside them.

And it all bounces from there, with one of the earlier tracks reprising to greater effect, and a new joint from the Juan MacLean, "Feels So Good.” Like "Happy House,” it finds friction from pairing the synthpop freeze of Nancy Whang’s vocals with a hugging-everyone groove. The hook, "you like it when it’s too much," mirrors the the music, both a barb and a call to party. It’s what makes this guy excellent.

By Ben Donnelly

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The Future Will Come

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Find out more about !K7

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