If FORM Arcosanti has accomplished one victory for Arizona music, it is fostering a space for groundbreaking, global electronic music that didn’t exist here before. Four straight years of Skrillex sets notwithstanding, FORM has brought the likes of Four Tet, James Blake, SOPHIE, and (this year) Peggy Gou to the Arizona desert. While local mainstay DJs like Djentrification (Abnormal Sensations, Palace), Angelina Ramirez and Olivia Rojas (Flamenco Por La Vida), and DJ Gila Man (Sounds of the City) work hard to bring different styles and genres to light on the regular, the city lacks a dependable source for electronic artists from around the country and the globe to find an audience.
While FORM has brought more and more talent to Arcosanti over the last five years, few booking victories resonate like this year’s securing of German electronic pioneer DJ Koze. More than 30 years on from his first mixing competition at the age of 16, Koze (born Stefan Kozalla) is pushing through his third electronic music decade more progressively than ever before. Not one to rush things, he has released three LPs in 15 years, with plenty of DJ mixes, extended plays, and other one-off singles to pad the time between. He’s remixed Gorillaz, Låpsley, Matthew Dear, Apparat, Caribou, Mount Kimbie, and countless others. He also runs his own label, Pampa Records, hosting some of the finest electronic music occupying the planet at this point in space and time.
In 2016, Koze was given the immense honor of curating the 50th issue of !K7’s beloved DJ-Kicks series. On this truly historic record, Koze assembles a masterpiece out of parts that wouldn't fit together in any other circumstance. William Shatner shows up alongside remixes of The 2 Bears and Freddie Gibbs. Koze does nothing without intention. There isn’t a second on this collection that feels wasted. And for a moment, somewhere between Ben Folds' piano work and the epic house masterwork of Portable, you start to understand how Koze's brain synapses fire. You begin to see connections where you didn’t before.
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Each of Koze’s LPs has built on the prior one, and his latest, Knock Knock, is perhaps his crowning achievement. Mixing hip-hop, house, R&B, disco, breakbeat, and left-field electronica into a monumental smorgasbord of sound, Koze makes 80 minutes fly by with ease, taking the listener on a sonic odyssey unlike anything they could imagine or anticipate. The single "Pick Up" works off a two-bar sample and turns it into an endlessly repeatable, uplifting piece of house wonder. The sonic measure and impact of Knock Knock is so far-reaching that it often feels foolish to try and describe it with words. It just exists in its own universe.
Koze doesn’t really tour in the traditional sense; he DJs at festivals like FORM, Lightning in a Bottle, and other one-off events of interest. Most of the hype around in-the-flesh appearances takes the form of one-sentence Facebook posts and calendars on Resident Advisor and the Pampa Records site. One week, he’ll be in the Arizona desert. Two weeks later, he’ll be in the Dutch countryside at Best Kept Secret. There is a general sense of laissez-faire in Koze's disc jockey pilgrimage. He could be here one day and gone the next, but through his records, it’s almost as if he knows he’ll live forever.
FORM Arcosanti 2019. Friday, May 10, through Sunday, May 12, at Arcosanti, 13555 South Cross L Road, Mayer; experienceform.com. Sold out.