German techno’s a dime a dozen, right? Even partisans were saying so this year. But nobody told Stefan Kozalla, International Pony member and solo artist as Adolf Noise and (especially) DJ Koze, who went ahead, as usual, and made some of the slinkiest, least predictable, most ear-grabbing records of anyone in any category in 2008.
The big one, of course, was Koze’s remix of Matias Aguayo’s “Minimal,” plainly one of the year’s anthems. Not only did Aguayo’s original feature lyrics that humorously addressed the hipster-dance malaise (“Got no groove, got no balls”), Koze’s transformed the track with a slinky Chic-gone-jazzy guitar lick, frazzled kazoo interjections (first time I heard this I laughed out loud), and oozy-woozy atmosphere like the right pill kicking in at the right moment—all of which just made the joke of the song’s words even funnier, since Koze’s limpid atmosphere was in fact the very opposite of “balls.” “Groove,” though, Koze definitely brought—one for the ages.
That tongue-in-cheekiness was all over Koze’s work, especially this year. He reworked Nôze’s “Danse Avec Moi” into a funhouse version of an office party soundtrack circa Mad Men and made Sascha Funke’s “Mango Cookie” into an extended psychedelic percussion exercise. On his own, Koze brought out “I Want to Sleep” (above)—textbook minimal done with taut effectiveness, particularly when the sexy female vocal stops by five minutes in—and its flip side, “Let’s Love,” cocktail disco moving through the tunnel of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory—not to mention “Abudinga,” the delicious electro take-off on side B of Rabimmel with a Vengeance, a three-artist 12-inch on Areal.
But the freakiest Koze of ’08, or ever, is “Zouzou,” Koze’s contribution to Kompakt’s Total 9 compilation and one of the most flat-out bizarre records of the year. There’s a soft-focus house pulse and a melody, the latter sounding like a water dropping on a copper pot and turning it green while computer-animated critters crawl all around. It’s a strange, addictive piece of music, and probably sums up Koze’s singularity better than anything he’s done.