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How do you characterize “personality” in a song? DJ Koze’s music is full of it — there’s an ineffable quality to his productions that goes beyond the sum of their parts. Some of it you can chalk up to a playfulness, dabbling with unconventionality in each track like the subtle wink of an eye, but there’s more going on.
“Seeing Aliens,” the first new song from Koze (aka Stefan Kozalla) in years and one that announced his fifth album, knock knock, perfectly exemplifies this style with its dancefloor-ready sensibilities while also being imbued with a warmth that elevates the track and gives it a sense of depth. Follow up single “Pick Up” further drives this point home with its minimal music video, which references how often the song repeats itself, while alluding to the fact that transcendence can be found via that very repetition. With even the most minimal of building blocks, Kozalla flirts with convention but never fully embraces it.
What’s more is Kozalla’s ability to attract other performers with the same ineffable qualities. Originally he was known as a kind of private producer and didn’t much favor collaboration, but that changed with the release of 2013’s guest-heavy Amygdala, which featured Caribou, Apparat, Matthew Dear and a host of other performers over the course of the album’s thirteen tracks.
With Kozalla’s return comes a new slew of guest musicians, albeit more than a few who regularly operate outside the dance music genre. Sure there’s Róisín Murphy, Mano le tough and Sophia Kennedy, but then there’s also José González, Speech of hip-hop outfit Arrested Development and Kurt Wagner of Lambchop. Somehow, despite their disparate genres and sounds, it all makes sense.
Speaking to Kozalla via phone from his home in Hamburg, Germany, he spoke at length about the nature of these collaborations, how traveling influences his ideas and the way his records inevitably sound, and how he subverts songwriting formulas to create something wholly new.