Will Saul – ‘DJ-Kicks’ (!K7)

Head honcho of Aus Music and Simple Records, Will Saul is as renowned for his open-minded A&R skills as his much sought after producing talents and DJ sets. It comes as no surprise then that !K7 have signed him up for the latest instalment of their DJ Kicks series, available as a compilation CD or double LP with a host of the tracks used, with a few kept back for a separate EP also forthcoming on !K7. The mix itself is a reflection of Saul’s live sets, where he looks to create a personal niche by focusing on upcoming and exclusive material from his labels. Consequently he brings us the music he is most passionate about, treating us to an eclectic mixture of melodic, soulful and altogether brilliant House and Techno.

As with all good compilations, the opening minutes set the landscape for what will follow. As the eerie whirring of Komon’s ‘Bendy’ fades into his ‘Visionary States’ track with Appleblim, the brief vocal from Animal Hand’s ‘Beacon Island’ glossing the transition to a silky smooth finish, Saul encapsulates his deep atmospheric style with the touches of soul and melody that lift his work to a more involving, emotional level.

As we reach Cottam’s ‘Healing Process’ a measured 4×4 beat is thudding through the ambience, which rises from the early tension with the fluttering flutes and house groove of Youandewan’s ‘Ego’. The light at dawn mood is enhanced further with ‘Church’ by Jabru and the serene vocal of Joel Culpepper, before taking another turn for the serious with ‘Presence’ by Llrusse. This ability to manipulate the tone without varying from the overall sense of continuity is another of Saul’s strengths, the mix continually flowing from dark to light, tense to care-free, but always with a pronounced expressive and affecting depth.

Nowhere is this quality epitomised more fully than on Leon Vynehall’s ‘Time’, its long, stirring beds drawing you in with their yearning vulnerability and marking the emotional zenith of the mix. Saul then continues to explore different moods; he teams up with Komon on ‘Two for One’ which swaggers in with bounce and purpose; Sei A’s ‘Reserve’ and a mix of “Dubbel/Born In A Rolling Barrel” by Axel Boman/Saul’s own Close moniker adopts a down tempo sensibility; Sei A then returns with the heavier, menacing ‘JTR’, which builds to the muted, stripped down bass workout of October’s ‘KR-100’. Before long however, the intensity melts away and we are back enjoying the feel good vibes of ‘Life Stuggle’ by Marquis Hawkes.

The tempo is raised subtly as he lays down another sumptuous deep house cut in Bicep’s robust ‘Nova’, a trend that continues with the more agitated workings of his own ‘Pedal Power’ and the futuristic, star gazing rhythms of George Fitzgerald’s ‘Wanting Needing’. But rather than building to a grandstand finish, Saul returns the mix to whence he came, closing with the lush atmospherics, crawling percussion and eventual soothing synths of Second Storey’s ‘Oxygene’.

From start to finish the mix oozes quality. Effortlessly gliding across the emotional pallet with a rich, soulful depth. The craftsmanship of its composer is matched by the production skills of his contributors, making for not only a fantastic showcase of Saul’s labels, but another high calibre instalment of the ever-impressive DJ Kicks series.

Will Saul’s ‘DJ Kicks’ is out now on !K7. Buy it here.

Robert Mccorquodale

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