Personally I’ve always found the concept of a DJ somewhat confusing, especially when it comes to compositions. My understanding is that DJs are like arrangers, and use other people’s compositions – is that correct to assume (apologies for my ignorance if not!)?! Architects building structures from ready-made bricks if you will, engaging the listener with the vibes and atmosphere they’re trying to set and keep exciting.
Damon Garrett Riddick aka Dâm-Funk is a Californian modern-funk musician, producer and DJ. This particular release focuses on the latter of those skills, with new album DJ-Kicks taking you on a funk filled journey over the course of 19 tracks.
The first track on the album, “Oof” by Moon B alludes to what’s in store. It begins somewhat formulaically, as phrase by phrase, layer by layer, the track builds. The groove is undeniable, harping back to analogue funk of old. The drums, although incredibly synthetic, add the modern element to the proceedings, a constant beat to keep the momentum going throughout.
In the next track, “Close To Who” by Nicci Gable, we find the first vocals of the album. Once again, the build up is slow, building and teasing new material with each phrase that enters. Being a bass guitarist myself, the stereo nature of the bass guitar mix in the introduction confused me a bit.
With the rest of the music so on-beat and having that refined quantised feel to it, the bass guitar (which I assume is double tracked) doesn’t quite seem to lock in. This does however add a more human element into the mix alongside the vocals. Track four on the album brings with it a huge 14 minute tune called “Love Jam” by Randell & Schippers. This track, although long, keeps you interested and grooving throughout, with an infectious rhythm accompanying vocals.
DJ-Kicks starts to speed up with track 7 – “Starlight” by Index. The constant kick and clap drum rhythm keeps you moving throughout and the introduction of more and more real instrument layers is a welcome break from the synths at the beginning of the album. The track takes on a new shape halfway through when a whole bunch of percussion is added, from triangle to steel drums, and it sounds incredible!
The album takes an interesting turn at track 13 as funk vibes are replaced by atmospheric synths in “Broken Clouds” by Gaussian Curve. We lose the rhythm entirely and are left to drift in the open spaces, as the ambience causes us to reflect and escape from the funk we had witnessed previously. A somewhat strange addition to the album in my opinion, although not necessarily a bad one!
We then go straight back into the funk, and remain there for the rest of the album. A particular track to note is one by Dâm-Funk himself entitled “Believer“. The track begins with a lot of space high up in the mix, with a lot of rhythm and a bass groove occupying the rest, as well as some ambient synths drifting in and out. The track is rather repetitive throughout, with phrases joining and then receding once again, it’s kind of like a crossover of the ambience found in “Broken Clouds” and the heavy funk found in the rest of the album.
DJ-Kicks ends with track 19 – “Funk Ain’t Easy” by Crystal Winds. This, to me, is an odd edition, it gradually fades in and out and only lasts 1:10, so sort of acts like a coda to the rest of the album. It is so raw and different from the other tracks though, and with the fade in, doesn’t seem to connect with them, therefore to me, it seemed like a mysterious choice of finale.
Overall, I enjoyed this album. I could quite happily sit and jam to it in it’s entirety, and the funky vibes are definitely ones that I could get into. I found there were some volume inconsistencies in the comparitive loudness of the tracks, however this did not affect my experience, and it may have even been purposeful.
I loved each track on it’s individual merits, but did occasionally, in the case of “Broken Clouds” and “Funk Ain’t Easy”, find the order of these tracks quite confusing. This may be my inexperience of DJ music though, and again I must stress that it is absolutely not my forté and so the fact that I enjoyed this album so much is a very high compliment to it indeed!
I look forward to delving deeper into Dâm-Funk’s repertoire and into modern-funk DJ music in general, and exploring all that it has to offer. I would urge you to do the same! Dam-Funk’s DJ-Kicks is out now via !K7 Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Will Kitchener