Unseen Beats

Despite the international flava of the set, though, all the songs have a similar organic-percussion vibe, one more stoned and fusion based than some others in the series; Thievery Corp.'s most closely resembles the Kruder & Dorfmeister Kicks that came out last year, though the latter's set has more edge. And despite the seemingly wide array of artists represented, the Thievery Corp.'s mix ends up as a sort of DJ Kicks Lite. For one, the set lacks movement and surprise -- there are few adventuresome segues, few gender-bending revelations (the two seem to appreciate a single tone that, while crossing genres and cultures, exudes the same vibe), and, from a practical point of view, their mixing skills are often clumsy and their pitch manipulation (matching rhythms by using the pitch control bar on a Technics turntable) obvious, at least when compared with the other artists involved with the DJ series. But if you're a fan of spliff-induced chill-out jams and aren't too picky about eye-opening skills, the Thievery Corporation will fit the bill.

If, however, you want to be blown away by a DJ's mixing skills, broad-based musical knowledge and appreciation, and overall mixed nirvana, you've gotta check out Andrea Parker's DJ Kicks, one of the most impressive and bouncy sets on the market. A celebration of the synthetic subgenre electro in all its glory (think Newcleus' "Jam on It" updated and explored), Parker starts with a sample from sonic guerillas Negativland ("Do you know how many time zones there are in Russia?") and moves to her deep, heavy remix of Depeche Mode. From there, she (yes, Andrea's a she, a rarity in the testosterone-charged world of beats) jumps around insightfully and imaginatively, connecting dots that needed connecting; those represented are, among others, San Francisco hip-hop genius Dr. Octagon; Gescom (a side project of Brit bleepers Autechre); Detroit techno legend Juan Atkins' Model 500; Afrika Bambaata; Renegade Soundwave; Andrea Parker's old alias, Two Sandwiches Short of a Lunchbox; and, the true revelation of the mix, her new composition "Unconnected."

The set is relentless and nearly seamless; often it's hard to tell where one cut ends and another begins -- though watching the CD display helps if you want to be duly impressed. Parker will begin a composition halfway into the previous one, so that when one ends, the next one already has the momentum to keep the rhythm flowing. Warning: Her tone throughout is unapologetically synthetic; she prefers fake hand claps to the real ones and loves the sound of old-school analog synths. If you're not down with the vibe, you'll hate this -- and you'll probably love the Thievery Corporation set.

But that's the beauty of DJ Kicks. Like the mix tape your buddy makes for you every Christmas, you either love the tape or hate it, depending on the compatibility of your tastes. At this point, according to the label, the series can pick any DJ anywhere in the world to do a set for them -- they're lined up. Future releases include sets by Kid Loco and the Stereo MCs, with tentative plans for both DJ Shadow and Nightmares on Wax mixes.

Welcome to harvest time. Now start picking.

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