Pampa Records is a label that strives for dance in a way that leans heavily on unconventional and off-kilter forms. Label bosses Stefan Kozalla (DJ Koze) and Marcus Fink want their releases to stand the test of time, a task ever more daunting in a digital age brimming with increasingly fickle listeners. The logic behind the label’s first issue, Pampa Vol. 1, is no different, and in a way, acts as a self-imposed test for the pair: is the label and its wider community capable of longevity? In response, Kozalla uses this opportunity to positively reaffirm the Hamburg label and the network of musicians and friends he has supported and created under their melodically-inclined turkey hallmark. This family narrative is confirmed through explanatory tidbits provided by artists alongside the record, many of which highlight Kozalla’s involvement:
Roman [Flugel on 9 Years]: “When I started to work on ‘9 Years‘ I was thinking of a particular beautiful and ongoing relationship and how precious friendship is in general. One day I suggested the track to Kosi and he felt it immediately. His club version which he sent to me completely out of the blue somehow emphasized my originally feelings.”
Jamie [XX on Come We Go]: “This song is an ode to London’s orbital motorway, the M25. I was thinking about a family who was so isolated, so removed from society, that they would just go and spend the end of their days in a car. The cooperation with Kosi has nothing to do with it.”
As well as a test, you could view this volume as a bearing. A direction of travel but also a checkpoint; trajectory as well as context. Ample space has been cordoned off for emerging and established talent new to the label. That said, while a Jamie XX woozy summer anthem, intricate orchestral Gold Panda loops, and a broody Mount Kimbie number all feature, over half the artists tracklisted are Pampa heavyweights. Isolee, Die Vogel and Dntel (to name but a few) are on hand to provide melodic idiosyncrasies cherished by many. Dntel’s ‘Snowshoe’ wears the badge well with lamenting, burgeoning synth work accompanied by vinyl hiss and fumbling percussion.
A quick flick through the back catalogue of Kozalla’s own work will reveal his inclination towards remix and collaboration. Matthew Herbert’s delicate remix of Lianne La Havas’ ‘Lost and Found’ is a testament to this; Herbert removes the weight of La Havas’ vocals, creating a ghostly reflection of the original work – the effect is as haunting as it is uplifting. Next up, DJ Koze himself takes on ‘9 Years’, building on Roman Flugel’s laboured euphoria with that infectious Mood II Swing sample. Ada distances herself from her previous Pampa LP through groove-laden vocal chops and seals the deal using a Die Vögel beat. Gold Panda even makes reference to his track, ‘Black Voices’, originating in remix duties for a band called Voices of Black. The label returns to collaboration so regularly it raises an interesting question about actual ownership. Kozalla is intent on utilising all the experiences of those around him to make music that’s considerate of Pampa’s identity and the overlapping cultures that surround it. With this in mind, there is a feeling of collective, not just volume.
The label too is known for its peculiarities, and this instalment is no exception. Newcomers Nasrawi and Funkstörung break the BPM mould in fine abrupt fashion, opting instead for two sample-heavy hip-hop jams, with Nasrawi cutting his offering in two to engage listeners in a young girl’s thoughts on dance vs. song. Die Vögel drop a percussive skeleton altogether in favour of Sophia Kennedy’s melancholia, the result of which would feel at home on the pensive musings of Nico’s Chelsea Girl recorded some 40 years previous, let alone Pampa.
A clear interest in assembly has been taken for this release. The collection of such a colourful assortment of music is no easy feat especially when each musician communicates their own disparate tales. Their careful collection only bolsters Kozalla’s overriding narrative of community and collaboration. This volume goes to great lengths to soundtrack Pampa’s interaction to those around it. In his quest for a “firmament of stars”, Kozalla effortlessly plays director. Through two years of curation and assertion he has brought out the best in his troupe, old and new, making them shine as one in the process.
DJ Koze Presents Pampa Vol. 1 is out now on Pampa Records. Grab it here.
Words: Nick Moore