Let’s just pause for one second; now, think about all that music that has so enriched your life down the years. All of it, without fault, and regardless of any strict genre definitions, is soul music.
If it flicks a switch deep inside you, speaks to you, comforts you and makes you feel good about yourself, then that, my friend, is soul music. German DJ and producer Henrik Schwarz understands this musical truth more than most.
A long-time aficionado of those musical forms that are commonly rooted in some appreciation of this sonic legacy – funk, house, disco, jazz, techno, and yes, the dictionary definition of soul (James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Motown etc, etc) – his adventures into hi-fi are testament to such a fact.
And nowhere is this more readily apparent than on Schwarz’s latest venture: a much-deserved foray into that Holy Grail of DJ mix albums, !K7’s acclaimed DJ Kicks series.
Across 23 tracks, Schwarz enthusiastically takes us on a musical journey that without wanting to get too chin-strokery about it, manages to entertain, enthral and educate all at once. And that he achieves this without losing sight of the style and sophistication that are the hallmarks of his unique DJ sets and his much praised productions and remixes is only added grist to his musical mill.
Schwarz’s background is jazz: free-flowing, improvisational and inspirational jazz, the likes of which set the pre-rock’n’roll years alight. And it’s this mindset that initially informs his well-chosen mix.
Rather than go for the latest bunch of tunes that are burning a hole on dancefloors across the globe, Henrik has paid homage to the music that he has loved down the years. Consequently, Moondog’s jazz classic ‘Bird’s Lament’ sets the scene for the journey we are about to undertake.
When this segues into Double’s blissful slice of Balearica, ‘Woman Of The World’, it’s clear that we are in the hands of a rare talent. For Henrik Schwarz is a DJ who utilises all the tools of the modern sound sculptor – his usual sets are comprised of him jamming live via his trusty laptop – with a reverence for what has gone before. It’s no wonder that Gilles Peterson is such a fan of his productions ‘Supravision’, ‘Chicago’, ‘Jon’ (which is featured here) and ‘Leave My Head Alone Brain’, nor that his music is lapped up by Manchester’s hugely influential Electric Chair coterie.
Henrik himself admits that he didn’t want to think too much about his mix, rather he let the music dictate what direction he went in.
“I just selected the tracks and then played them,” he admits. “It was more about the feeling of the mix, creating those emotions and combining extremes.”
Such a case comes when he mixes the minimal techno of Robert Hood’s ‘The Core’ with an African field recording. It’s about creating layers and textures and in doing so it gives his mix a depth that is truly awe-inspiring.
But this isn’t all about intellectual grandstanding. Good times are audible at every turn: James Brown encourages us to get on the good foot with his dancefloor shimmy, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, and the psychedelic free jazz of Schwarz’s own ‘Jon’ is both vibrant and hypnotic.
Elsewhere, the stirring strut of Jae Mason’s ‘Let It Out’ and the irresistible Afro-beat of Cymande’s ‘Anthracite’ both compel you to fish out those dancing trousers.
Undoubtedly though, the blue touchpaper is well and truly lit by Schwarz’s ‘Imagination Limitation’, a track written especially for this mix. Placed next to Detroit legends Drexciya’s ‘Black Sea’ – all crisp and muscular Motor City futurism – it ticks Schwarz’s techno fetish with aplomb. Other dancefloor delights come courtesy of avant-garde nut job Arthur Russell’s trippy cosmic disco ‘Get Around To It’.
Being a mix of untold seams, the funk flavours at the business end speak of Schwarz’s cerebral qualities. Womack & Womack’s ‘Conscious Of My Conscience’, Rhythm & Sound and Sugar Minott’s ‘Let Jah Love Come’, Doug Hammond’s ‘Wake Up Brothers’ and the incomparable Marvin Gaye’s ‘You’re The Man’ are all moving and literate pleas for a better world.
And that in a nutshell is the mix you presently have in your hand. It’s a CD that tells a story. It contains tracks that ooze class, that reek of history, that are imbued with style. It is a mix that speaks of life’s rich tapestry. In short, Henrik Schwarz has delivered a mix with something for your mind, your body, and, most importantly, your soul.
2 Moondog – Bird’s Lament
3 Double – Woman Of The World (Long Instrumental Version)
4 iO – Claire
5 D’Angelo – Spanish Joint
6 James Brown – Since You’ve Been Gone
7 Henrik Schwarz – Jon
8 Jae Mason – Let It Out
9 Cymande – Anthracite
10 Henrik Schwarz – Imagination Limitation (DJ-Kicks)
11 Drexciya – Black Sea
12 Amampondo – Giya Kasiamore
13 Coldcut – Walk A Mile In My Shoes (Henrik Schwarz Remix)
14 Robert Hood – The Core
15 Artist Unkown – Chant avec Cithare (Track 1)
16 Pharoah Sanders – Summun Bukmun Umyun
17 Luther Davis Group – You Can Be A Star
18 Arthur Russell – Get Around To It
19 Womack & Womack – Conscious Of My Conscience
20 Rhythm & Sound w/ Sugar Minott – Let Jah Love Come