Peg­gy Gou’s DJ-Kicks invites us into her deep record collection

Review: Gou has become a high-demand club DJ. Her instalment of the esteemed mix series explores some of her softer musical preferences.

Rat­ing: 35

Peg­gy Gou was the first South Kore­an DJ to play the hal­lowed halls of Berghain, check­ing off a buck­et list she com­piled on com­plet­ing her debut EP in 2016. Just three years lat­er, fol­low­ing a hand­ful of releas­es and a stratos­pher­ic rise into Gou-mania, she’s marked anoth­er off the list: her own DJ-Kicks, the arbiter of taste, and, in her words, the pre­mier class of DJ mixes.” 

The art­work, for which Gou sits in a bed­room accom­pa­nied by a (com­pos­ite) tiger, rep­re­sents Kore­an tra­di­tion as well as high­light­ing the animal’s crit­i­cal­ly endan­gered sta­tus — the tiger dis­ap­pears as you turn to the inside cov­er. The tiger is also, alleged­ly, a metaphor for Gou’s per­son­al­i­ty. But tigers are known to sleep for 20 hours a day, and Peg­gy Gou doesn’t have time for that. After play­ing in excess of 200 shows in 2018, at times Gou’s DJ-Kicks steps away from her time in the booth. Across this 73-minute mix of 19 tracks, Gou invites us to explore the key records in her var­ied record collection. 

An ambi­ent, flut­ter­ing intro cour­tesy of Space­time Con­tin­u­um and Gou’s first ever pro­duc­tion, Hung­boo, makes way for Pear­son Sound’s Ear­wig, with its squirm­ing 303 bassline. There’s eerie 80s funk, glit­ter­ing Milanese tech­no, a dive into Black Merlin’s mate­r­i­al inspired by and record­ed in Papua New Guinea, and a slice of Detroit cour­tesy of Kyle Hall, R-Tyme, and Carl Craig as Psyche/​BFC.

Gou flits brazen­ly between tem­po and fea­tures music that ranges from 1983 (Pega­sus – Persegui­do Por El Rayo, The Sys­tem – Vam­pirella) through to 2019 (there are three new exclu­sive tracks on the mix from Gou, Hiv­er and I:Cube). But rather than a lin­ear mix, in which the tracks melt into one anoth­er with an instinc­tive ebb and flow, Peggy’s is a scat­tered col­lage. The tran­si­tions are snap­py, and this results in some jar­ring moments. Take, for exam­ple, the fiery acid licks of Shades of Rhythm’s Exor­cist into the melod­ic drone and groove of Kode9’s Mag­net­ic City.

DJ-Kicks cur­rent­ly counts less women in its ranks than I can count on both hands; eight, AKA less than 12% of the 69-part series to date. Before Lau­rel Halo, who mixed the first DJ-Kicks of 2019, the last woman to do it was Nina Krav­iz in 2015. With Peg­gy Gou now behind the third mix of this year, let’s hope this is a mark­er of things to come. In a sim­i­lar vein, as vocal as she is about equal­i­ty in the music indus­try, and as a fron­trun­ner of Smirnoff’s Equal­is­ing Music cam­paign, it would have been nice to see Gou allow more room here for any female artists that have shaped her musi­cal land­scape too. 

On the sub­ject of land­scapes; one of the deep­er cuts in the mix, Rytm804, comes cour­tesy of Sweden’s Doris­burg, one half of Genius of Time. Doris­burg once said that he sees his tracks as dis­tant land­scapes (he pic­tured Sinai Hyp­no­sis as sun­set over a desert in space). If this DJ-Kicks was a far­away vista, there’d be rocky out­crops, steam curl­ing up from fumaroles, and flash­es of unpre­dictable weath­er. Far from the vibrant sun-kissed hori­zons of It Makes You For­get (Itge­hane) or Star­ry Night, Peg­gy Gou’s DJ-Kicks is mer­cu­r­ial in its finest moments, a chop and change glance into the mood­i­er, more atmos­pher­ic cor­ners of her influence. 

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