Booka Shade’s inclusion into K7!’s ongoing DJ Kicks series maintains the collection’s eclectic nature, considering that Booka Shade garnered international acclaim as the original production team for the Get Physical label rather than as a deejay act. This is hardly the first time K7! has looked outside of the deejay world for this series — Annie, Four Tet, and Hot Chip, for example, have previously been at the helm. But the members of Booka Shade — Arno Merziger and Walter Kammermeier — crafted their compilation not as dance-floor fodder but as a mingled, sprawling aesthetic journey through their past and present.
The immediately venture into territory familiar to their productions. Noze’s “Slum Girl” shuffles and glides with a subdued 4/4 beat and melodic guitar, segueing into a blended fusion of minimal electro-house, Cerrone’s “In the Smoke,” with the soulful vocals of U.K. singer Ben Westbeech. Looking toward the past, Yazoo’s vintage synth-pop hit, “Situation,” is an obvious inspiration and influence. The mix hits its stride eleven tracks in with John Carpenter’s “Arrival at the Library”/Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia’s “Far Away.” The former, from Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) sets a gloomy tone, and by the time the melancholic vocals from “Far Away” begin, a masterful mood of eerie, dreamy yearning overtakes the entire set.
By expertly mixing in the gentle ambiance of Aphex Twin’s “Alberto Balsam,” Booka Shade completes the full circle of esoteric longing. This moods soon subsides to the lighthearted fun of Brigitte Bardot’s sultry pop hit “Contact,” in which Booka Shade attach a 4/4 backbone to help the song gallop into “Numbers,” a Booka Shade original and the duo’s first written with proper vocals. “Numbers” is no doubt the album’s centerpiece, with bouncing beats, light airy synths and echoed, blue vocals, feeling upbeat as well as thoughtful.
The mix’s greatest success is that its focus is unapologetically on atmosphere and not on club friendliness. This is a mix envisioned as an emotional experience. In that sense, it actually plays out more like a typical Late Night Tales mix than a DJ Kicks mix; even its most conventional house and techno moments feel like an addendum to the existing and evolving mood.
Booka Shade established itself as one of the best and most accessible hook-happy electro-house acts. Merziger and Kammermeier’s DJ Kicks mix uses an assortment of artists and tracks to offer us an insight into how they reached their current highs and their influences and inspirations.