In 1995, !K7 Records released the first volume of DJ-KiCKS. Compiled by British EDM producer CJ Bolland, it was an auspicious begin for what has become one of the most revered mix album series. In 2006, !K7 released DJ-Kicks: The Exclusives to celebrate the 25th release in the series. The album compiled 14 of the exclusive tracks from their previous works. Stand out artists on the compilation included DJ Cam, Thievery Corporation, Tiga, and Annie among others. The compilation received tepid reaction from critics and fans alike for its non-dance focus and what some Amazon user reviews called “cheese” factor. Five years later, DJ-KiCKS attempts to correct these flaws with the release of their second compilation of exclusive tracks.
Having only five years worth of DJ mixes to work with, some might think the second volume of DJ-KiCKS Exclusives starts off with a disadvantage. But the advantage of having five years worth of material to work with is that all the tracks are still fairly current. The oldest track to appear on the album is Four Tet‘s “Pockets.” Luckily, Four Tet is so far ahead of his time that the track in no way sounds aged.
The most aged sounding tracks come from electrofunk duo Chromeo in the form of “I Can’t Tell You Why” which sounds like a lost Hall and Oates jam. The track embodies the cheese factor that Amazon users were complaining about. The cheese factor continues with Holden’s uninspired Kraftwerk rip off “Triangle Folds” and Scuba‘s Jock Jams outtake “M.A.R.S.”
But in between the less than cheesy tracks are some worthwhile listens, most notably Henrik Schwarz’s “Imagination Limitation” which straddles the line between dance pop and something you find on one of those “chill” CDs at the spa. Larger name artists like Hot Chip and The Juan Maclean deliver fairly substantial tracks as well.
But even with the addition of those tracks, the only inference that can be drawn from listening to DJ-KiCKS exclusives is that artists do not go all out for their contributions. The joy in DJ-KiCKS is the same joy you had making a mixtape for your friends when you were a kid. It is a chance to boldly proclaim “this is who I am” in musical form. The exclusive track has become somewhat of a necessity but rarely is it a chance for an artist to drop a great track; it is generally a b-side quality track at best and I think that shows on DJ-KiCKS exclusives.