First things first: Booka Shade, the Berlin-based electronic duo comprised of long time friends Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger, are not DJs. On this fact they are both agreed. Yes, they are successful and seminal producers, musicians, remixers (having applied their sonic alchemy to the likes of Depeche Mode, Roxy Music, Tiga and Moby) and label bosses (they founded the incendiary Get Physical), and, as such, have an intimate knowledge of the dancefloor and the differing tools required in a DJ’s arsenal, but Jeff Mills or Richie Hawtin … they are not.
Now if all this sounds rather a bizarre way to introduce a DJ mix album, it’s at this point that we’d like to remind you that the CD that you presently have in your hand – or, better still, blasting out of your stereo, iPod or Boombox – is no run-of-the-mill DJ mix album. After all, !K7’s evergreen DJ-Kicks series don’t do run-of-the-mill mix albums.
Indeed, Booka Shade’s first foray into this arena is that rare beast in that it manages to be both experimental and exciting; decadent and dirty and timely and timeless. In calling upon all of their production nous and savvy, Arno and Walter have crafted a mix that ranks alongside any of DJ-Kicks’ previous 28 seminal releases.
“DJ-Kicks is the perfect project for us,” states Arno truthfully, “because it allows us to do our own thing. It allows us to make a musical statement. And that was what was appealing to us. People don’t see us as hot DJs, so this isn’t a snapshot of summer 2007, it’s about creating something that will last.”
So, rather than documenting the latest set of club tunes, Booka Shade’s mix works from a different set of rules. There’s something of a nod to the music that inspired Arno and Walter back in the day and there’s exclusive tracks that haven’t even seen the light of day yet. And this, as Arno and Walter explain, is then combined with a certain flair that is all Booka Shade.
Across the album’s magnetic 22 tracks, the mix follows a distinctive rhythm. It flows, it goes down side roads, it wanders and it surges forward, and the view is quite breathtaking. Influenced by the vast electronic heritage of their adopted home city, there’s a brooding dynamism at its heart. Sometimes minimal in its scope, it’s nonetheless a warm and joyous listen, mirroring the all encompassing sound of Booka Shade itself. Not for nothing did The Guardian describe Walter and Arno as a summation of modern dance music.
Commencing with the soulful electro-pop vocals of Passengers’ A Different Kind Of Blue and the orchestral splendour of Nôze’s Slum Girl (as yet, unreleased), there’s a sense of expectation at every turn. It’s not just due to the fact that you’re being guided by two of this decade’s foremost exponents of electronic versatility – if you’re not acquainted with Booka Shade’s two mesmeric albums, Memento (2004) and Movements (2006), you’ll soon be parting with your hard-earned – it’s the fact that this mix sounds so different, so singular to the hordes of identikit DJ compilations that flood the market. This is explained in Arno and Walter’s approach to the mix.
“We came at it from a producer’s background,” Walter explains. “It wasn’t just about choosing tracks that blended rhythmically, but we were interested in the harmony as well. The transition of the mixes had to be harmonically correct too. That’s why there’s lots of layers in there.”
In this case, you get the iconic French disco of Cerrone standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the fresh dynamism of Ben Westbeech; Japan’s electronic first lady Akiko Kiyama spliced with Karel Fialka and the widescreen cinerama of John Carpenter laying down for Mlle Caro and Franck Garcia.
At times this sonic tapestry (Booka Shade rhythm tracks are used to segue and blend into songs, while their grooves add a splendid atmosphere) borders on the otherworldly, but as Arno says, this mirrors the Booka Shade philosophy: “We like lots of musical information.”
They also wanted to show that the old could live with the new, and what’s curious about the inclusion of such 80s electronic pop stalwarts such as Yazoo (Situation) and Heaven 17 (Geisha Boys And Temple Girls) is what a debt modern house, techno and electro, indeed any shade of contemporary dance music, owes to these talents.
The new is represented by the likes of The Streets (the melancholic It’s Too Late), Matthew Dear (the surgical scrape and slide of Tide), Lopazz (the super stretchy electro house of 2 Fast 4 U, and another track which will appear for the first time on this album) and Hot Chip’s magical and exclusive tactile house remix of Dear’s Don And Sherri, and then add that to the classic (Carl Craig’s timeless Landcruising and Aphex Twin’s hypnotic Alberto Balsam) and the odd (Brigitte Bardot’s Contact and The Tubes aptly titled Drums) and you have a mix that speaks from the dancefloor to the home by way of the long distance drive.
“We really got into the material that we were using,” says Walter, “putting it together was like creating a remix.”
Topped off with two Booka Shade exclusives, Numbers (“The mix inspired us to write a song with vocals. It’s the first time we’ve had real vocals on a Booka Shade track”) and Estoril, you’ve got a mix that positively screams to be played again and again and again. Booka Shade might have to rethink this DJ lark you know.
01. Passengers – A Different Kind Of Blue
02. Nôze – Slum Girl
03. Cerrone – In The Smoke / Ben Westbeech – Hang Around (Wahoo Main Mix)
04. John Carpenter – The Bank Robbery
05. Booka Shade- Estoril
06. Yazoo – Situation (US 12″ remix)
07. Akiko Kiyama – The Misida Monarchy / Karel Fialka – The Things I Saw
08. Lopazz – 2 Fast 4 U
09. Quarion – Play Your Part
10. John Carpenter – Arrival At The Library / Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia – Far Away
11. Aphex Twin – Alberto Balsam
12. Heaven 17 – Geisha Boys And Temple Girls
13. The Tubes – Drums
14. Brigitte Bardot – Contact
15. Booka Shade – Numbers (DJ-Kicks)
16. Quarion – Karasu
17. The Streets – It’s Too Late
18. Amir Ad Fontes – Virtual Nature
19. Carl Craig – Landcruising
20. Matthew Dear – Tide
21. Matthew Dear – Don & Sherri (Hot Chip Remix)
22. Richard Hawley – Last Orders