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Scuba/Various – DJ-Kicks review

Commencing back in 1995 courtesy of CJ Bolland, the !K7 engineered DJ-Kicks series has had some near-legendary entries that ensure any dance music fan worth their salt owns at least three. Scuba has one significant mix under his belt, and the impact of his Sub:Stance CD for Ostgut-Ton was palpable, consummating the marriage of dubstep and Berghain techno.

While it might be more difficult in these open-minded times for Scuba to shatter preconceptions in the way that he did a few years ago, this compilation should be seen really as a celebration of the man himself as a DJ, rather than as an artist or label boss. The fact that he’s undoubtedly called in plenty of favours for this selection makes no odds as to the choices he finally settled on.

The opening salvo from Sigha, Surgeon and dBridge comes on brittle and taut, although never cold. This minimalist bass music yearns to be melded together, yet engages and beguiles in its raw form. It’s not until Addison Groove pipes up with “An We Drop” that the moody, blue-hued atmosphere lifts, but even the artist formerly known as Headhunter sounds a touch gloomy compared to his usual rabble-rousing electro bouts.

From there the mix meanders between pacey techno, bluesy broken beat and rolling dubstep tempos. When it feels like the oppressive ruminations of Marcel Dettmann might swallow your soul for good, Scuba’s own SCB edit of Arkist’s “Rendezvous” swoops in to lift you to melodic safety. Likewise he’ll never dwell on an upbeat tip for so long as to let the vibe get saccharine. There are moments when the flow feels unsteady, as in the switch between the devastating Underground Resistance tones of Scuba’s own “MARS” and the sleek micro-house of Jichael Mackson, but then it just rings true that he put this mix together for himself.

Oli Warwick