DJ Koze

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About DJ Koze

You might assume that DJ Koze is a joker—just look at him in photos, clasping an absurd straw hat to his head or sitting astride a reindeer, clad in a silk robe and a motorcycle helmet—and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Ever since his days as a hip-hop DJ (and one-third of the gleefully irreverent German soul-pop group International Pony), the Hamburg producer (born Stefan Kozalla in Flensburg, Germany, in 1972) has brandished a devilish sense of humour. His early singles for Cologne’s Kompakt label—a principal affiliation until he founded his own Pampa Records imprint in 2009—could be both bruising and boisterous: Just check the gnarly synths of 2005’s “Der Jäger Von St. Georg”, recorded under his Monaco Schranze alias. But he was just as capable of making gauzy psychedelia. “I Want to Sleep”, from 2008, layers Sundanese spoken word over tufts of keyboard and drums, to truly woozy effect. Over the years, this uneasy balance of opposing forces has become Koze’s calling card. If his debut album, 2005’s Kosi Comes Around, mostly found him in club-rocking mode, 2013’s Amygdala ventured down stranger paths, making the most of his guests’ idiosyncratic styles—Apparat’s lonesome coo, Matthew Dear’s gelatinous baritone—as he tested the elasticity of his squishy brand of cut-up soul, equal parts J Dilla and Detroit techno. His 2018 album, Knock Knock, offered an even more refined take on his quirks, fusing boom-bap with deep house (and a dash of heady disco, via the Gladys Knight-sampling “Pick Up”, an end-of-the-night classic from now until the end of time) and doubling down on idiosyncrasies like pitch-shifted vocals and stumbling drum programming. Who else could gather such a motley crew of singers—Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Arrested Development’s Speech, Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner—and come up with something so cohesive? Koze extends the same talent to his many remixes (the best of them compiled on Reincarnations and Reincarnations, Pt. 2), in which he picks up the ball from peers such as Moderat or Mount Kimbie and doesn’t so much run with it as tear it apart, piece it back together in a different shape, and invent a whole new sport with it. All this, and his remixes still manage to be both floor-fillers and heartbreakers, often at the same time. Kompakt’s label founders have long espoused the merits of crying in the club; Koze brings both laughter and tears to the mix, and the feeling is as gratifying as anything in dance music.

Flensburg, Germany
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