If James Holden's entry in the DJ Kicks series teaches us anything, it's that every DJ is a cartographer, and every mix the map of an unknown country. Eschewing genre boundaries, Holden cherry-picks a number of cuts from leftfield, noise, techno and rock realms which he then spins into a unique and organic whole. Sleight-of-hand transitions abound, making for a fluid suite that is as psychedelic as it is cinematic.
Given his stylistically varied track record, you'd have every right to wonder which Holden is behind the decks here. He's made his way from prog and trance in his early days through to IDM-y excursions on 2006 LP The Idiots Are Winning. Don't be fooled by the sideways haircut here, though: This mix is fully bearded. Entirely composed of contemporary tracks, the vibe is so deeply kraut that I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was produced by Conny Plank. Check for example the clank and clatter of Caribou's "Lemon Yoghourt" dissolving into the fury of Holden's own Mogwai remix. His version of "The Sun Smells Too Loud" is an easy standout and the first opportunity for the mix to stretch its legs after a bit of channel-flipping, offering a nine minutes of filtered synths and live drums tumbling across one another at a stallion's pace, all with the Zen calm and ecstatic drive of early Neu!.
The emphasis on rock-tinged electronics (or is it electronic-tinged rock?) gives the mix an open, experimental air, and its fluidity makes it feel as much like a live show as it does a mix. Holden feels at home in this vernacular, and one hopes that the future will see more mixes incorporating this sort of material, which more often than not operates on the periphery of the DJ scene. Tracks 10-13 represent another deft stretch, starting with a snatch of "Auto Dimmer" by Black Dice's Eric Copeland which slips without warning into a remix of "Rauch" by MIT, with forceful, indecipherable singing and ecstatic chords. Neo-kosmische acolyte Arp's shimmering "Potentialities" fares just as well, fading into the clockwork minimalism of Lucky Dragon's "Open Melody."
Front-loaded with trippy headphone delights, the mix only clicks into banger gear with Legowelt's acid-heavy "Flight of the Jupiter," as if Holden had eaten a weed brownie that's only suddenly releasing its psychedelic payload into the bloodstream. This, followed by the throbs and surging melodies from Walls and Lukas Nystrand, will likely be a rude awakening if you happened to nod off during the mix's more pleasantly downtempo moments. It's a nice final curveball in a mix that's full of them.
(Resident Advisor review)