The German, Hamburg-based Stefan Kozalla – or DJ Koze, as he’s known on dance floors across the world – is a hard man to categorise.
His musical output has weaved its way from hip-hop origins, through enchanting, mysterious deep house (see his remix of Herbert’s “It’s Only”), slower, left-field electronic oddities (such as his 2013 team-up with Caribou, “Track ID Anyone?”), to floor-filling, feel-good disco (his superb re-working of Lapsley’s “Operator”).
As previously highlighted on his last full-length album, Amygdala – or any of his live sets, for that matter – Koze’s not one to shy away from stitching what can seem distant, disparate threads into cohesive sonic patchworks that display his broad musical tastes and influences, hypnotise his audiences and just, well, work.
Although it reads like a clear oxymoron, it’s this unpredictable, eclectic mix of styles and sounds that we’ve come to expect from DJ Koze, and that’s what he gives us on his latest album, Knock Knock.
Much like on his previous albums, he’s invited a handful of his musical contemporaries along for the ride, collaborating with the likes of Mano Le Tough, Sophia Kennedy, Róisín Murphy and José González whilst sampling others, such as Bon Iver and Gladys Knight, across the album’s 17 tracks.
This diverse array of features and styles means that there’s something here for everyone, as Koze’s many styles and faces each get a moment in the spotlight. There are intimations of techno and house on “Planet Hase” and “Seeing Aliens”, chart-friendly charm on “Music on My Teeth”, and signature Koze weirdness on “Club der Ewigkeiten”, “Bonfire” and the auto-tuned “Moving In a Liquid”.
His hip-hop origins also subtly shine through, facilitated by an unexpected feature from Speech, founder of Atlanta’s 90’s hip-hop group Arrested Development, on “Colours Of Autumn”. Elsewhere, “Baby – How Much I LFO You” digs up a J Dilla-inspired drum loop and soul sample, injecting it with a heavy dose of electronica and layering it with horns and glistening xylophone twinkles.
These happy, summery tracks would feel cheap and un-earned if they weren’t grounded by the more heartfelt, personal moments on the album. This is a quality that no one creates more convincingly than DJ Koze; he has the deft ability to conjure up bittersweet memories, casting us in a warm haze whilst also reminding us it won’t last forever.
This feeling is perfectly captured on album closer “Drone Me Up, Flashy”, or “Pick Up”, one of the album’s highlights. The spiritual predecessor to Midland’s “Final Credits” (which also sampled Gladys Knight’s “Neither One Of Us”), it’s the kind of broken-hearted disco song that perfectly uses its sample to remind you of the last hug from someone you won’t see again for a while, or the closing tracks of a festival weekend. Something tells me we’ll be hearing it a lot this summer.
It’s this curious dichotomy between playful, warm sounds and nostalgic, yearning emotion that provides the unifying theme of the album, and much of DJ Koze’s musical output.
The huge variety of sounds and sensations makes it hard to believe that certain tracks even belong to the same album; there’s not much musical similarity between the psychedelic chanting of Róisín Murphy on “Illumination” and the James Blake-like crooning of Kurt Wagner on “Muddy Funster”.
And yet, in context, they make perfect sense as ingredients in the musical melting pot lovingly cooked up by Koze. Regardless of the particular style he strives for on individual songs, he somehow manages to instil his signature Koze feeling into all of his productions, a feeling that taps into the complicated, often contradictory human psyche and explores them with an idiosyncratic flare. This odd examination of emotion is satisfyingly realised on Knock Knock.
Purchase DJ Koze’s Knock Knock on iTunes here, or stream it below.
Words by Elliot Tawney