Review Summary: "One day I'll simply close my eyes and nothing happened."
Modern art 101: No -- sorry -- not even, more like modern art 100: Absurdism. An art style and school of thought caught in the halfway point between man’s desire to find purpose and our apparent inability to actually do so. From this disjunct arises the necessity to mine humour from the glistening nothingness, to laugh at Sisyphus from the sidelines. Naturally, absurdist artforms find some overlap with the surreal: Dadaist Marcel Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q” is just the Mona Lisa with a pencilled-in beard and moustache, and Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” takes the generally accepted parameters of time and suspends them in a place where universal laws have, it seems, taken the day off. Both works, and indeed the sea of similar pieces also taken by the tide, illustrate the absurdities in generally accepted truth. The artists are laughing at this notion. DJ Koze is laughing on Knock Knock
The record isn’t immediately absurd, but rather keeps its composure and subtly turns convention on its head with a smile. Sultry, smooth vocal samples and features are dotted across the piece: Roisin Murphy’s stints on both Illumination
and Scratch That
are so effortless and velvety (her delivery coils itself slowly around the house-flavoured beats, and they both seem to pulse together by a fireplace somewhere) that you’d be forgiven for not noticing the way the lyrics illustrate different planes of existence eerily similar to ours. In Bonfire
, Justin Vernon’s teeth-chattering falsetto is filtered through rose-tinted reverb effects, as though For Emma
could have been recorded in the Mojave Tent at Coachella. It’s in the way these techniques are employed -- the wild pitch-shift of the sample in Lord Knows
, the recontextualization of the aforementioned Vernon sample -- that Koze messes with our perception. Meaning skewed, or in fact lost completely, within swathes of rich colour.
And about that colour: it’s a lovely palette. I feel like this is what a chorus of lava lamps would sound like if lava lamps could, y’know, sing. Knock Knock
is Stefan Kozalla’s mosaic of oddball images. Club Der Ewigkeiten
is like a symphonic movement playing in reverse, and Colors of Autumn
evokes an intense argument between a couple where both parties are, for some reason, smiling the entire time, smoke seething through the gaps in glistening white teeth. Koze ekes out these images through juxtaposition -- pitting deeply fraught experiences against a backdrop of sunny maj7 chords and warm, crackling synths. It’s what drew me to Koze in the first place; Amygdala’s
‘Homesick’ managed to imbue the unending grey with an airy optimism filtered through a prism of the producer’s melodic sensibility.
Or, whatever, I think all of Koze’s work is crafted with this optimism in mind. The man has a wry and unusual sense of humour, which is coupled with a tendency to undermine the mellifluousness of his style; though not in a way that suggests something malevolent hiding behind the veneer, but rather it proves he doesn’t take himself seriously. Like Duchamp before him (a man whose most famous piece is, quite literally, a urinal), it makes sense to infer that Koze is repurposing sounds for different responses in the listener, making the tapestries woven here seem both foreign and inviting at the same time. In Muddy Funster
, Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner (and us, vicariously) is floating in space -- an infinite unspooling of nothing -- and yet the listener is directed to the one, infinitesimal spot that he occupies. The background is muted; gorgeous and lush, certainly, but existing only as accompaniment to Wagner’s autotuned crooning. Without vocals, the instrumental is intangible and alien. With them, it’s introspective, comforting.
Elsewhere it reads like Knock Knock’s
hidden motive/motif is to challenge what the listener perceives as ‘absurd’ versus what they perceive to be normal. Music On My Teeth
briefly alludes to the potential malleability of time (”…and not a physical reality”
) and by this point I realise I’ve taken plenty to recognise the irony in the fact that my analysis of what this album means
is inherently contradicting the analysis itself. But that’s okay: Koze, as the resident puppetmaster, created this album as a belief system to fall back on in the absence of faith. Knock Knock
is a techno/house gospel, and it’s grandiose in its presentation but intimate enough to exist solely unto you. There’s a lot going on. Sweeping synths, buttery bass, a coterie of seraphic voices, and seductive grooves all link up in a daisy chain as though everyone involved in the project is coming to the same realisation at the same time:
Life is meaningless and weird as hell. Build your home in the chaos and enjoy the experience when the chaos inevitably tears your home apart.