Those looking for a mix CD that represents everything that's right with dance music today need look no further. Trevor Jackson, the man behind last year's popular Playgroup LP, has compiled and mixed a collection of groovers that spans the past two decades. Jam-packed with '80s production, DJ Kicks best reflects the left-field flavor of the nightlife's most daring selectors. Dont expect retro nostalgia, though, as each track is blissfully mixed, making it hard to determine yesterdays gems from tomorrow's. In the same spirit as DJs such as Harvey and Doc Martin, Jackson's strength is in his crate-digging, and as far as track selection goes, DJ Kicks may well be the best compilation that Studio K7! has released. Tracks such as Chicken Lips' ESG-infused remix of Niga's "March of the General" mingle effortlessly with the street-tough lo-fi attitude of Harlequin Fours' 1985 cover of Strafe's classic "Set It Off."
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This knack for selection is no surprise, as Jackson has spent the past decade immersed in music and its culture. Starting his career as a graphic designer for seminal New York label 4th and Broadway in the late '80s, Jackson first grabbed the ears of listeners with a series of hip-hop remixes in the mid-'90s under the moniker Underdog. Still, it was 2001's Playgroup that garnered Jackson cover-boy status on many of Europe's dance magazines. In itself, the Playgroup LP was a flawless journey through the sounds of the '80s. From hip-house collaborations with KC Flight to Kathleen Hanna's Slits impersonation on "Bring It On," the album was an encyclopedia of '80s cool.
DJ Kicks follows suit. Most of the tracks included share a common thread of porno-synth and dub. From the laid-back funk of Metro Area's "Caught Up" to Random Factor's new-romantic vocal-driven "Broken Mirror," the album has much sleaze appeal. Also to Jackson's credit is the fact that, unlike many of the DJ Kicks mixes, this album has the sound of a live mix, in all its brilliant imperfection. Quite possibly the best mix CD of the year.