Painting by Greg A Dunn
It’s tough to think of a more influential figure in UK dance music these days than Paul Rose. As a DJ his Sub:stance compilation for Ostgut perfectly captured a scene in transition from dubstep-hybrids to more straightforward electro, house and techno, while as the head of Hotflush Recordings he serves as a major tastemaker, allowing this microcosm of dance music to poke its head into the mainstream via “Hyph Mngo” and Crooks & Lovers. His DJ sets often break the dubs that punters like us tirelessly rinse on YouTube before their eventual release months later; and while some DJs rely on these exclusives to make their sets worthwhile, Paul Rose lets these tracks enhance rather than define his mixes. Case in point: Rose’s contribution to the long-running DJ-Kicks series of mix CDs, where most of the exclusive tracks are made available on the 2×12″ version, leaving us to focus (mostly) on Scuba’s sequencing and technique.
DJ-Kicks is a solid sequel to, and essentially the next logical step from, Sub:stance, showcasing a scene that has pretty much jettisoned its dubstep roots. Indeed, the opening salvo of tracks is techno to the core (even dBridge’s inclusion sounds like a Sunday morning at Berghain), punctuated by Peverelist’s brilliant “Sun Dance.” The mix then proceeds in waves, with the major signposts marked by moments where austere techno (Function, Sigha, Dettmann) gives way to brighter, more melodic fare (Braille, George FitzGerald, Arkist). This push and pull between darker and more colorful elements forms the backbone of the mix, and is pretty much the story of Scuba as a producer. Exclusive cut “M.A.R.S.” is a fine example of Rose’s recent trend towards electro-inclined house, and the other cuts included on the vinyl version, especially Boddika’s “Acid Battery” and Beaumont’s “CPX11,” fall into much the same category.
While the mix uses all of these tunes well, it also can seem a bit chugging at times. An astounding number (32) of songs are worked through over an hour and a quarter, which leaves for very little breathing room for most of these tracks. Sometimes as many as four tracks will fly by without one ever really noticing, and it really depends on your mood as to whether that’s a good thing or not. Either way, the best moments are the unexpected ones, especially when Sex Worker (better known to site regulars as Ital) crops up with his incredible cover of “Rhythm of the Night.”
It’s been harder than ever to ignore Scuba’s productions this year, either by virtue of his having penned a contender for track-of-the-year (“Loss”) or by having aroused a minor nerd-war concerning his latest, trance-fueled direction. With “Adrenalin” used as the mix’s penultimate track (before Sepalcure’s very fine “Inside”) it’s hard to think this ecstasy-soaked iteration of Scuba material is just a minor fluke, but then why should it be? Not only does DJ-Kicks prove that the likes of “Adrenalin” and darker techno are comfortable bedfellows, but Rose succeeds in showing how they’re just multiple sides of the same coin.