The appeal of Daniel Avery’s music comes from its sparse makeup. This makes an understanding of fringe musical concepts like subtlety, pacing and contrasting periods of density and space important for any listener. If you have seen Avery play, you will recognise these elements fulfilling their roles faultlessly in his nuanced sets. When done right, this approach can create the kind of dancefloor any DJ would be proud to preside over.
“Witnessing a DJ create an atmosphere in a room from the ground up takes patience and effort from everyone present but when the pivotal moments hit, your watch stops ticking,” says Avery in the statement that accompanies the 53rd edition of !K7’s ‘DJ-Kicks’ series. DJ-Kicks has traditionally seen selectors and bands let you in on their home-listening habits. Since its inception in 1993, the brief of the series has broadened. But for most artists asked to contribute a set, the natural reaction is to select varied cuts fit for casual listening. Motor City Drum Ensemble supplied unmixed cosmic jazz and funk while Daddy G laid down a set of reggae, rocksteady and gothic dub.
Not Daniel Avery, though. Fabric’s long-time resident takes the high road, supplying a blistering take on his signature techno sound. This choice is strange considering Avery started out DJing records at a night run by Filthy Dukes, where indie, electro and techno records could follow one another without clearing the floor. Instead of looking outwards he looks in. During his time at fabric, Avery settled on a sound that drew from Belgian big beat as much as did from acid house and UK techno pioneers B12 and Ian O’Brien. ‘Sensation’, his last release, was the clearest indication that he had settled on this path for good.
As one the UK’s leading lights in techno, it’s reassuring that his commitment to his craft is near puritanical: all about the feeling of being on the floor and the subtle ways in which the DJ helps curate ‘that moment’. But if Avery is trying to recreate that moment here on this, his take on the renowned series, he only half succeeds.
As a document of a night out with Avery at the wheels, his DJ-Kicks gives an accurate representation. But the set of 16 tracks fails to translate to recording without the loss of ‘that moment’. The fact that Avery’s mixing is impeccable and his track selection full of knowledgeable choices seems irrelevant when the emphasis is placed so firmly on engagement with the ebbs and swells of intensity in the set. In this sense, the release may appeal to those with a more academic interest in techno. This is a shame, as Daniel Avery’s music has been for many an entry point into the genre’s harder styles.
Despite this, the mix provides other reasons to be excited. It contains the first new Daniel Avery tracks in almost a year. ‘A Mechanical Sky’ is the mix’s second half curveball, invading the monochrome palette with a burst of acid. It adds some much needed bite as the mix threatens to slip from consistency into bland uniformity. ‘Space Echo’ is a dark, dubby ambient piece that keeps things cinematic as the mix recedes out of the light.
Where this mix plays its ace card is in it’s pacing, a knack equalled right now only by Rødhåd. Daniel Avery’s DJ-Kicks does nothing ground breaking and for a listener familiar with his productions and sets, will excite only for the new material it contains. However, to the uninitiated it provides a technical insight into how Avery works a floor. After that, it’s up to the listener to go out and see the results in the flesh. There’s only so much a mix like this can do for you at home.
Words: Alex Green
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