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Maya Jane Coles - DJ-Kicks

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Artist: Maya Jane Coles

Album: DJ-Kicks

Label: !K7

Review date: Apr. 27, 2012

Context is king when it comes to electronic music. How else to navigate the endless conceptual and material realm of 12”s, LPs, podcasts, and commercial mixes braided together into genres, scenes, personalities and anonymities? This electronic music map promises to help orient, but only ends up replacing the intense subjectivity with which we experience the ceaseless parade of new names, rediscovered legends, and other objects of study with a putative categorical objectivity. Which ends up being every bit as intimidating and wrong-feeling as working up the knowledge from Wikipedia without interacting with the record-store clerks and clubbers who can actually put the pieces together. A map of dance music wouldn’t look like a molecule made out of Koosh balls or an archipelago of clans and deets, it’s way more 3-D and temporal — which is to say, lived — a process of submersion and induced confusion. And that’s why we love it, because of its unmasterability, both in terms of what you’ll never get around to hearing and in terms of taste, with its vicious correctives and unpredictable exceptions.

Coiffed, 24 years old, and based in London, Maya Jane Coles is cutting her own path through the undiagrammable zones of deep house, tech house, and sparingly deployed dubstep on her entry into !K7’s DJ-Kicks mix series, and she does so with a steady hand. Mixes, of course, can be spotty, and the stakes are necessarily higher for commercial mixes, which ideally pursue both novelty and quality control in a fraction of the time of a typical DJ set. MJC’s mix accomplishes all that without really breaking a sweat. It’s immediately and tangibly enjoyable, though its vibes don’t linger once you’re done listening. If you seek out mixes for obscure deep cuts and alternate genealogies, this DJ-Kicks installment isn’t going to do it for you. On the other hand, if you’re out for a streamlined simulacrum of clubbing or a headphone experience that doesn’t pull any punches, it’s one of the most solid of the year so far.

Coles’s mixing here mirrors her production style while adapting to the occasion. Deferential to the past, she lets nowness and accessibility piggyback on recherché grooves. In this mix as in her own tracks, she’s drawn to vocals, catchy arpeggios, and the long-haul shuffle of deep house, embellished here and there with cascading dubstep percussion. It straddles genres, sure, but it’s all subsumed under her undeniable talent. It’s the kind of mix that would make about as much sense to listeners not immersed in dance music as it would serious clubgoers.

The tradeoff here is that despite its variety and skillful mixing, the mix’s tone and mood don’t stray far from the in-the-moment pleasure of the tracks she’s polished to a high sheen for you. But this seems like a minor quibble blown up to actual-criticism proportions: sure, it doesn’t connect the dots like Motor City Drum Ensemble did on his installment, but Coles’s intentions are more club-oriented and celebratory anyway. No vinyl spelunking here, nor the more pop-oriented contortions of Apparat’s mix. Sitting somewhere between those poles, Coles creates an inclusive and intellectually stimulating mix, but one that’s transparent, leaving little up to the listener. Listeners who require more friction and mystery in their dance music will probably pass; others get to enjoy a well-timed, precocious arrival.

By Brandon Bussolini

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