Baseball cap to one side, fringe standing on end, dyed various colours from coppery blond to electric blue, sunglasses and nose rings, chains, and sweatshirts, and of course panoramic tattoos that have turned her chest into a sort of Sistine Chapel. From the moment that Maya Jane Coles began to rise in popularity - her DJ career shooting up like the temperature in the middle of a hot summer - it has seemed as if the Londoner, about to turn 25 years old, was purely based on image; a hip girl with an ear for deep house who looks good in the sound booth at the club. But Maya Jane Coles has been chiselling away at the stone in silence for some time, showing her careful look only to her bedroom mirror. You hear her DJ, and you especially admire her poise behind the turntables, lining everything up carefully, with mathematic precision, and you need no further explanations of why the house circuit has fallen down at her feet. In the club world, where everything is ruled by concepts like purism, elegance, and devotion to music - almost establishing a spiritual connection with its history, substance, and more dedicated stars - one has to admire people like her, capable of sacrificing their best years to add their grain of sand to the cause.
Her history is brief, but meteoric: her first records, dating back to 2008 and 2009, fit into the aesthetic canon of tech-house, with textures polished until the light radiates from them, with the occasional garage sample and plenty of digital depth. She has refined her work cut by cut, 12” by 12”, even more so after ringing a bell with “Focus Now” (20:20 Vision, 2011) and “Get Away” (1trax, 2011). Those two releases initially went by relatively unnoticed, unless you had your nose stuck fairly deeply into the world of house - a fashion that really started to burn last year, getting hotter and hotter until reaching a state of high popularity this year, when the last strongholds of dubstep unanimously gave in to 4x4. So this “DJ Kicks” is no more than the logical consequence of that rise, realised by a special talent in the recording studio - Maya Jane considers herself a producer before a DJ - an exemplary collaborator for the formula. Both when she produces and when she DJs, she sounds like the natural continuation of a long line of British DJs, perfect in both form and content: Terry Francis, Craig Richards, Ralph Lawson, Stakhanovites of house - avid collectors and purebred DJs, with whom a session was like a history lesson, smoothly wrapped in a display of style. This “DJ Kicks” - which flows like a river in the spring - is a piece that is so precise and polished that it is almost monolithic: the mix stays within the range of 120 bpms until the first dubstep eruption occurs with “Meant To Be” by Nocturnal Sunshine (one of Maya’s new aliases, by the way). The mix is garnished with humid bass, subtle vocal sparks, careful synth harmonies, lying like a velvet rug under your feet. You catch glimpses of some known producers - Kris Wardsworth, Phil Kieran - but in general it is a work which dives into the depths of today’s underground, choosing well-made pieces and stringing them together one after the other, as if you were stringing a pearl necklace.
The mix is stirred up by a Caribou remix for Virgo Four (“It’s A Crime”), a slight rise in the number of bpms that brings an acid moment along with it - “Hate Me (Muteoscillator Fairy Tall Remix)”, by Robeto Bardini. It then moves on to an unruly jazz-house spiral in the form of “Guess Who” (Tripmastaz), and on it goes until reaching the dubstep bridge: until here, it all feels like sticking your head underwater and holding your breath as long as possible before you can take your head out and breathe. The second dip tends towards techno sprinkled with breaks of late-night calm -Last Magpie and “No More Stories”, with a Burial-type atmosphere; “Church” by Zoe Zoe, with very James Blake vocals. Then the moment of purification - in the airiest, dreamiest, most crystalline Detroit spirit - with cuts from Gerry Read, Marcel Dettmann and Claro Intelecto, bringing the trip to an end with “Hunter’s Rocket To The Sky”. Leading the narrative in this way - with such careful mixing syntax, such a rigorous selection, which one can only attain by loving the music – makes it comparable to the legendary Tyrant sessions at Fabric. She doesn’t favour the frivolous bits (sunrises in Miami and Ibiza, getting drunk on champagne) and this is what confirms Coles as a DJ a cut above the rest of her generation. It doesn’t matter if she puts her cap on backwards, dyes her hair pink, or wears a gold chain that weighs a kilo: the focus and drive of the story is house, and only house, and nothing else matters in the slightest.