With the world of “EDM” blowing up, it can become difficult to differentiate between what is good and bad electronic music if you’re not careful. Dance musicians continue to up the ante with volume rather than innovation in instrumentation, leading to a world of cluttered, overblown beats. But as the popularity of mainstream EDM takes over, there is a handful of producers working to keep the reputation of house and techno in tact.
One of those producers is Stefan Kozella, an artist who has continuously experimented with his sound palette over the years. With a grip on everything from hip-hop to electronic, his latest effort Amygdala is a culmination of his ever-expanding expertise. And, as the peculiar album artwork suggests, his new full-length is both challenging and playful.
The first thing you’ll notice about Amygdala is the track listing or, more importantly, the guest features. Pulling in a number of heavyweights like Caribou, Apparat, Matthew Dear and Milosh, one might wonder if Koze is able to harness all this stellar talent effectively. But where most producers fail to find a balance between instrumentation and vocals within their solo projects, Koze defies that completely with a minimalist approach to vocal inclusion. This is most evident on “Nices Wölkchen”, wherein Apparat simply strokes across Koze’s layered soundscape with delicate finesse. In other words, the vocals are just one of many elements added to this concoction of beautiful simplicity.
Perhaps where DJ Koze shines brightest is in his ability to craft rich compositions while employing an extensive list of instruments . Building nearly every song on a steady loop, Kozella starts with a bare bones approach and slowly weaves in new sounds to find incredibly deep grooves throughout. The Matthew Dear-featured “Magical Boy” is a fine example, where voice modification and warm bass floats over a gentle bed of percussion and horns. And this theme flows steadily throughout this voluminous body of work.
DJ Koze’s Amygdala is nearly 1.2 hours in length, yet it fails to ever fall into a rut. Despite an abundance of valleys filled with droning, monotonous bass, the album finds a way to build anticipation rather than put listeners to sleep. There is something utterly captivating about when Koze furrows deep into a cut and intertwines standard loops with refreshing tones of vocal samples and odd percussive taps.
As mentioned earlier, Koze finds a way to separate himself from the pack with said pack being the now overwrought doings of what some have dubbed the “EDM” movement. While DJ Koze’s Amygdala is indeed dance music, there is much more to it than a standard bass line and some hand claps. After listening to this record, one is left with a sense of satisfaction. Koze built these songs with his own hands from the ground up, and it is evident with each and every implementation of foreign languages on tracks like “Ich Schreib’ Der Ein Buch 2013” and neatly crafted guitar riffs on a grooving cut like “Don’t Lose Your Mind”. Amygdala has character, man, and that’s pretty damn hard to come by these days.