A question: How does one adequately capture the madcap brilliance of Hot Chip, arguably the most inventive band operating in the UK today? You could start with talking about their playful, wayward pop? Which is a pretty good start, but then that would ignore their excursions into skewed hip hop and sun-dappled folk. And how can we forget their fondness for mad, slow techno?
Over the last couple of years, as their star has risen ever upwards, they’ve been described in various quarters as a bedroom Neptunes; a ghetto Kraftwerk; airy-fairy art pop; Aphex Twin writing for Will Young and the Incredible String Band producing Rachel Stevens.
All of these are descriptions that go some way to encapsulating their unique sound but the real magic is putting your own spin on their devilishly slippery tales.
And so it is with their first contribution to the Don of all DJ mix projects, !K7’s evergreen DJ Kicks series. A sublime journey through the dusty crevices of Hot Chip’s 10-legged record collection it manages to take in wonky electro-pop, Detroit techno, Balearica, off-kilter house, hip hop, mellifluous drum’n’bass, R’n’B, blues, jazz and Joe Jackson without ever sounding contrived or hackneyed. In fact it’s the soundtrack to the best house party you’ve never been to. Or something like that.
"We’re DJs at the opposite end of the spectrum," Felix explains. "When Alexis plays out you’re likely to hear Harold Faltermeyer’s Fletch soundtrack, some Brian Eno and then some hip hop. I like house and techno. It makes for quite a schizo mix, but that’s the way we are as a group." With this in mind, the thrills and spills that make up this 68-minute journey (not that kind of DJ journey, thankfully) make perfectly disjointed sense. The hypnotic, jerky soul of opener Nitemoves by former Hot Chip sticksman Rob Smoughton, under his Grosvenor nom de guerre, gets things going and this is followed by the luminous old school hip hop of Positive K’s I Got A Man and the rhythmical electro rabble rousing of Gramme’s Like U.
"We’ve tried to make it flow," says Felix, "but it’s good when bits jolt you. It’s not a background, chill-out mix at all. We tried not to think too hard about the bigger picture, but concentrated on something that sounded good in the moment."
One listen to this box of delights will soon confirm that Hot Chip’s first adventure into the much vaunted world of DJ Kicks sounds good in every moment. As Ray Charles intones on the perfectly placed closing track Mess Around, ‘the band was jumping, the people too’. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.