There are times when I realize how much my own perception of dance music has changed, how it no longer sounds like a beat and some bleep-bloops but a complicated, neck-jerking, syncopated rhythm, mellow and worry-free synth pads, the cushion of rumbling bass. Maya Jane Coles’s DJ-Kicks gives one of those moments, one of those records where I resurface from deep vibes and head-nodding and wonder how I ever experienced dance music another way. Isn’t “Hey Love” universally beautiful? And what a cleansing breath of air after several in-the-zone brain-and-sweat tunes. Isn’t it objectively wonderful to hear a song defy gravity, as the dizzy bass does in the opening track, “Loqux And Past”? Can’t everyone appreciate 21 seamless, imperceptible transitions between 22 different songs?
Those transitions really are something to behold. The whole mix is the aural equivalent of watching a sunset: Reds and oranges turn to pinks turn to purples and blues, each minute shift contributing to a gradual metamorphosis. Maya Jane Coles doesn’t just beatmix or crossfade: She brazes two songs together the way an artisan might weld two steel joints. The clack-smack percussion in “Loqux And Past” changes only on an atomic level in the following track, Jimmy Edgar‘s remix of “Mainline,” and just a hushing sound marks the shift from “Mainline” to “Money.”
Jimmy Edgar, a buzzy name on Scuba‘s Hotflush label, is arguably one of the biggest names on Coles’s tracklist. She’s got tunes by Marcel Dettmann, Gerry Read, Bozzwell, Caribou on the mix for Virgo Four and her own dub alias Nocturnal Sunshine, but for the most part the mix is a crate-digger’s triumph. “Loqux And Past” doesn’t seem to exist outside of Coles’s DJ-Kicks, and if you find Zoe Zoe’s “Church” somewhere in the depths of Google, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below with the link.
Although Coles told XLR8R that a proper debut album would be “the release that fully represents [her] the best so far,” this DJ-Kicks says a few things about Coles as an artist. One thing is that the obscurity of the mix suggests Maya Jane Coles is a crate-digger/trainspotter/record-pool participant herself (how masculine!). A second thing is that Coles has a specific taste and specific sound, but the mix is still eclectic; if it’s house, then it’s house with a little bit of acid here, a healthy dose of wobble there and there and there, a taste of hip-hop in “Hey Love” and even some Trentemoller-ish gnawing guitars in “Never Believe.” The tracks all sound related, as if they are all within the confines of one or two subgenres of dance music, but within those boundaries Coles found a lot of room to play.
A third thing is that Maya Jane is a DJ for DJ fans. Her music is unabashedly club music, and not the kind you might hear playing massive, horny 18+ raves or the kind you might see on the cover of Rolling Stone. Maya Jane graces DJ Magazine and wins accolades from Mixmag, whose readership is more likely to hear her music…well, I don’t want to say “more likely to hear her music the right way,” but that’s definitely what I mean.