Review: Juan Maclean, DJ-Kicks
DJ-Kicks is a series of mixes by DJs, music producers and musicians that, at least at the beginning, were designed to be listened to at home. Juan Maclean’s mix is the 32nd in the series which kicked off in 1995.
Maclean’s DJ-Kicks is a pretty straightforward uptempo party mix of house music that has occasional disco influences. The set has generally received very positive reviews but it’s just not doing it for me. The mix starts promisingly with Still Going’s ‘Spaghetti Circus” which does a good job of ramping up the dance intensity. However, Maclean seems to have been enamored of tracks that feature short vocal phrases that are repeated monotonously throughout the track when he put this mix together. He uses this techique on track after track and the mix sinks under the weight.
I get the idea that vocal snippets are being used as rhythmic elements and rhythmic elements tend to repeat. But endlessly repeating rhythm patterns are the bane of this kind of music and shoving the repetition in the listener’s face by putting it in the vocal (which will automatically attract more attention than, say, a repeating kick) just makes the tedium all the more apparent. When used judiciously, a vocal rhythm part can be very effective. When it’s used on track after track it’s an invitation to find something else to listen to. As an example, on Sonny Foderra’s “Everybody Get on the Decks” the phrase captured in the title, or a minor variant of it, is repeated 126 times over 4 mins and 44 secs. Add to this the 40 times the phrase is repeated at the end of the previous track as Maclean mixes the transition between the two tracks and you end up with a circumstance where it’s hard not to yank the CD out of the player. Of the 12 tracks that precede “Everybody Get on the Decks”, 10 feature endlessly repeated vocals as rhythm elements. It’s too much. Get another idea.
Maclean’s DJ-Kicks is the kind of CD I might drop in the box during a party when you want to keep the crowd moving but are reasonably sure no one is paying any attention to the music. If anyone was listening, even halfheartedly, I’d give them something more interesting to listen to.
“Spaghetti Circus” by Still Going
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