Music Review: DJ-Kicks By Peggy Gou
The Korean DJ’s contribution to the storied mix series looks beyond the dancefloor, offering a tantalizing peek at her influences.
The histories of fashion and techno are frequently intertwined—just ask Raf Simons, who debuted his Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week with pieces that paid tribute to the legendary R&S Records—and that’s especially true for the DJ and producer Peggy Gou. Born in South Korea and now based in Berlin, Gou cut her teeth studying at London College of Fashion before turning to dance music. Fashion school is rooted in learning history before adding your own spin, and Gou brings that wisdom to her music. Her tracks are extremely reverent to foundational elements of techno, house, and electro, but she pivots each one into her own point of view.
She traces that lineage with her contribution to !K7’s vaunted DJ-Kicks series. Instead of replicating her party-turning abilities, Gou uses the space to create something more like a scrapbook of her loves and influences. The usual suspects of her sets, like Pearson Soundand Kyle Hall, make the tracklist, but certain choices feel like more pointed looks into her taste. Hyperdub founder and bass-music mastermind Kode9 doesn’t seem like a natural fit for Gou’s sunny, melodic style, but his droney “Magnetic City,” a b-side from a 2007 Soul Jazz split, finds a home among the crunchiness of Sweden’s Dorisburg and British rave luminaries Shades of Rhythm. IDM mainstay Aphex Twin also makes an appearance, but it’s with the squelchy Drukqs track “Vordhosbn”—one of the few choices that deviates from the steady heartbeat of bassline hypnosis and minimalism that bumps throughout the mix.
The most revealing artifact from Gou’s biography comes in the form of her sole contribution to the tracklisting, a cross-continental joint-loosener called “Hungboo,” the first song that Gou ever produced. Crafted in the style of pansori, a traditional South Korean style of storytelling performed by a singer and a drummer, “Hungboo” emphasizes Gou’s interest in reinterpreting deeply entrenched forms. The same goes for the title, which references Hungbu and Nolbu, a Korean folktale that teaches empathy and generosity. The moral is mirrored with inclusions like “Epirus,” a warmer from up-and-comer Deniro, as well as “Pert,” from Italian duo Hiver, which debuts on the mix, and JRMS’ “3,” a recent staple of Gou’s sets that will be released later this year via her new imprint Gudu.
The label is just another of Gou’s prodigious accomplishments. Since 2016, she has become the first Korean woman to DJ Berlin techno institution Berghain and the first Korean to be tapped for a BBC Essentials Mix. With her DJ-Kicks, she becomes the first Korean person at the helm of another benchmark in dance music. But it’s not just these distinctions that makes the mix an achievement. Here, Gou’s studied craftsmanship coalesces with her tastemaking abilities. It’s most meditative in its unwavering commitment to methodical bass. Gou has always appeared to have an old soul and with this endeavor, it’s on full display.