John Talabot - DJ-KiCKS

8/10

With 46 releases now under their belt in the DJ-KiCKS series, it sometimes feels that !K7 Records are basically responsible for the dance and electronic world’s version of the Now and Hits compilations. Replace the names of Little Mix and Rihanna with Caribou and Pional, and all we’re really looking at is a mix of current critically-acclaimed electronic artists with some genre classics thrown in for good measure. Close to twenty years down the line, and with a couple of releases each year, the whole thing feels a bit tired and played out.

Mind you, there’s been some cracking mixes over the years; personal favourites are Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, Erlend Oye and Four Tet’s contributions to the series, but they now seem to stand out as rare high points amongst average mixes of dance music. So, how do you revive a flagging series? Well, one solution is to get one of the most respected and admired dance music DJs/producers around to curate a mix – step forward, Barcelona-residing genius John Talabot.

Aside from giving us one of 2011’s best albums in Fin (after a series of wondrous singles) which was in essence a house record but one that had a searching and seeking quality rather than settling for lazy repetition, he’s also responsible for some of the most engaging and thrilling DJ sets you’re ever likely to hear – so who better to ask to create a mix that’ll inject new life into the DJ-KiCKS series?

The Catalan knows his way around the build-and-release formula better than anyone else at the moment, and this mix shows that skill off to perfection. Talabot wanted to create something that wasn’t just beats from start to finish, nor did he want to make a mix that was nothing more than a chillout session and boy, he’s judged it brilliantly. There’s such a wonderful selection of tracks here (with two Talabot originals to boot) and the opening handful really set the tone: “North Lake”’s pulsating ‘Journey to the Centre of the Sun’ is joined by two brilliant Balearic numbers from Pye Corner Audio and a heady, beat-heavy Andy Stott remix of Maps’ “I Heard Them Say”.

The good run is continued by the tropical polyrhythms of Madteo’s “We Doubt (You Can Make It)” before the tempo gradually slows down with the entrance of a laid-back Harmonius Thelonious cut. Things are set up nicely for the first Talabot solo track, and “Without You” doesn’t disappoint. It’s a Samba-flecked dream, with heavenly choir vocals cutting through dense synth lines to create a track that’s up there with his best work to date, and the euphoria continues with the playful house-isms of Axel Boman’s “Klinsmann” and the deep grooves of Bostro Pesopeo and Pional’s “Bonus Beats”.

Round’s brilliant piano-led ‘Glass’ leads us through a series of chilled cuts before Swedish duo Genius of Time up the tempo again with the insistent melody of “Juno Jam”, once again setting us up for the introduction of Talabot (this time as Talaboman with Axel Boman) and the pleasingly simple dance thump of “Sideral”.

Talabot, though, gives over the final track to fellow Spaniard and co-conspirator in their duo Lost Scripts, Pional. The suitably-titled “It’s All Over” is an ambient fog which gradually lifts to expose a simple, yet addictive, beat – the point being that you can bring all the big names that you like to a DJ mix but if you don’t have the crucial ingredients then nothing is going to grab your attention. And that’s what John Talabot’s done here; it might not be enough to breathe new life into DJ-KiCKS but he’s created a new blueprint for every other curator to follow. This is brilliant, and mix number 47 has got some way to go to match it.