VIKTER DUPLAIX DJ Kicks (!K7/Fusion III) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
of all the new-school soulsaviours currently spilling out of Philadelphia, none packs the underground clout of Vikter Duplaix.The 29-year-old singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist, whose own work ranges from hiphop and soul to house, techno, Afrobeat, jazz and contemporary classical music, has twiddled knobs on tracks by Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Eric Benet, D'Angelo, Common, the Roots and Jazzanova. He runs the "aqua-house" project Scuba with fellow Philadelphian King Britt and trained with Philly soul giant Kenny Gamble.
It's a phenomenal spread of sounds, one reflected on the span of tunes collected on Duplaix's new entry into the famed DJ Kicks series. The DJ's mixed tape begins with some muezzin wailing and Cuban bata drums before hurtling through rootsy tracks by Badu, 4Hero, Matthew Herbert, Osunlade, De La Soul and some of his own 70s-styled soul jazz, all tied together by Duplaix's concept of a "universal sound."
"As a DJ, as a songwriter and as a producer, I like to include everything I hear," Duplaix explains from home.
"It's not so difficult. I travel so much in this job and see different things that people enjoy, and eventually you start to notice the common denominators. Some of it may be a bit obscure, but if you play it for people they can connect the dots.
"I have a song called Transition on the record that's about showing that it's OK to go from one tempo to another. Sometimes in modern club music, people have the impression that you can only deal with one tempo or genre all night long. That even comes out in their real lives, where they dress a certain way and act a certain way all the time because they think they have to keep it running. I think it's a big green world, and when you're taking a lot of information in, you're able to expand. That's where I want to be."
As a producer, particularly in the restrictive, closed-minded world of contemporary soul, this kind of wide-open approach to music is viewed with suspicion. It's hardly surprising, given the pressure he's facing to replicate the "Vikter Duplaix sound" for the next Erykah Badu or Jill Scott, that Duplaix has decided to stop producing other artists and focus on his own solo debut, scheduled for release in September.
"It's all about me now," Duplaix laughs. "That's part of the reason why I've decided to be more of an artist than a producer. When I step into the studio as an artist, I don't have to answer to anyone.
"As a producer, artists often hire you simply to do what you do and bring that sound. Spontaneous creativity's taken out of the mix. I'd come home with a massive headache because it had taken six days to do a track that should only have taken three hours. It was easier for me just to stop."
The obvious challenge will be keeping that freedom within his own project. Signed to Universal records, Duplaix will presumably face the same major-label pressures on his solo set as when he's in the studio producing the next big thing. What should save him is his supreme confidence in himself.
Weighing the evidence of new songs he's done with Berlin collective Jazzanova, for example, you can't blame him.
"I'm an expert at making records, and I understand the business, so I'm not going to make something that no one's going to understand," he avers. "I want to blow up. I want to see if I can make Thriller. There are six billion people in the world. It's not too hard to catch the ear of a million."firstname.lastname@example.org