Album Review: DJ Koze – Knock Knock

Joel Grant explores DJ Koze's new experimental house album, Knock Knock.

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In a recent feature for Resident Advisor, DJ Koze laments the fact that so often “the mood of house music is really limited”, and his second full-length release, Knock Knock, is an electronic album which refuses to settle in one mood or sound, even within the confines of a single track.

Knock Knock is an album that seems enamoured with the capacity of electronic music to disorient and sidestep the expectations of its listeners, in a fashion reminiscent of The Avalanches’ Since I Left You. Koze often refuses to privilege one element of a track, such as in the use of Bon Iver’s voice on “Bonfire”, placed in the midst of hypnotic drum and synth lines. The track’s percussive elements occasionally threaten to overpower the vocal, but Koze achieves an intricate synthesis. Bon Iver’s voice is interestingly sampled from his eponymous album, though this in my view contributes to a sense of Koze as a talented musical magpie that will take from whichever source best fits a track, rather than be reliant on newly produced big name features. This is not to take away from features recorded for the album as many such as Roisin Murphy’s on single, “Illumination”, fit perfectly in this case, placed alongside stuttering, electronic funk which eventually gives way to a euphoric melody that is skillfully teased.

the capacity of electronic music to disorient and sidestep the expectations of its listeners

The spoken element of Murphy’s feature which loops the phrase “I need a bit of light here”, is a fitting response to the cultural landscape that Koze’s album appears in; released in a year which often appears characterized by feelings of defeat and powerlessness towards political and cultural happenings, Knock Knock is a breath of fresh air. This is not to say it is blindly optimistic, its snatches of pop music from the past such as its sampling of Gladys Knight’s voice on “Pick Up” often lend a strong sense of melancholy, avoiding the singular moods that disco-house amalgamations are often prone to. Knock Knock is an album that will undoubtedly soundtrack many summer nights but Koze’s interpretation of house is one that facilitates a wider variety of moods than often seen, the joy that is apparent in many tracks often underpinned by lingering elements of nostalgia and melancholia.

Other standout tracks include “Planet Hase”, co-produced with Mano Le Tough, which builds a groove using handclaps, pulsing synthesizer sounds and a laconic vocal which repeats the phrase: “until your race is run, circling the sun”. A sense of the limitations and expectations of existing possibilities is thus often hinted at by Koze but on this and other tracks such as Seeing Aliens, he succeeds in producing electronic music which in its skill of execution retains the listener’s attention throughout. 

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