- Interestingly, Kompakt didn't release a Total compilation last year. The Cologne label was celebrating its 20th anniversary—maybe they thought a new edition of Total would get lost among its birthday releases and events. Taking a year off from seems to have been a restorative creative breather. In recent years the quality of the Total series has dropped off alarmingly. Total 12 was reduced to a single CD, as if to acknowledge that Kompakt did not have enough essential material to go round. More recent editions have been undermined by too many of what Derek Miller once described as "half-baked ideas." The essential, mid-'00s Total collections captured not just the rise of Kompakt but a whole new wave of German (minimal) house and techno. The later instalments seemed to reflect a label which was groping for a clear sense of its future direction.
Total 14 does not unveil exciting new dimensions to the Kompakt sound. The highly-processed glam-rock of Voigt & Voigt's "Tischlein Deck Dich," the cinematic techno-pop of Superpitcher's "Delta" or Maceo Plex's storming "Conjure Superstar" all have familiar strands of the label's sound. The key difference is that on Total 14, everyone involved is at the top of their game. It's as if, after all that 20th anniversary love and reflection, a reinvigorated Kompakt has purposefully set-out to remind the world, via a mixture of exclusive and previously released tracks, just how potent it and its artists remain.
The highlights are many and varied. Graceful, melancholy, and memorably melodic, DAMH's "Black Night" is among the best electronic-pop tracks Kompakt has ever released. Gus Gus's intelligent alt-ballad "This Is What You Get When You Mess With Love" is more leftfield, but equally heart-tugging. Back on the dance floor, you may already be familiar with Justus Köhncke's irresistible 808-scape, "Loop," and the widescreen techno of John Tejada's take on The Field's "No No…" Terranova's "Headache," on which vocalist Cath Coffey riffs energetically around issues of drugs, clubs and political apathy, is compelling disco-punk—part Black Strobe, part LCD Soundsystem.
Indeed, such is the quality of the individual tracks here that you may find yourself warming to things you were ambivalent about before. On the one hand, Gui Boratto's "Take Control" (piano-driven neo-trance, breathless female vocal, New Order-mimicking guitars) verges on self-parody. On the other, it is an unusually striking distillation of his somewhat sentimental shtick. Jürgen Paape's closer, "Heuriger," is one of those cartoonish Kompakt tracks (kept to a minimum here, notably) that fuses ancient Disney soundtracks and the German folk-pop, schlager, to produce a moment of bewildering lunacy. It is, in a way, a cheeky "fuck you" at the end of a well-balanced, two-CD set that reaffirms Kompakt's status as a singular source of classy electronic music.
01. Dauwd - Lydia
02. COMA - Atlantis
03. Gui Boratto feat. Coma And Hell - Take Control
04. Kölsch feat. Gregor Schwellenbach - Cassiopeia
05. Terranova feat. Cath Coffey - Headache
06. Dave DK - Palmaille
07. Superpitcher - Delta
08. Saschienne - Horacio Delirium
09. Blond:ish - Wunderkammer
10. Gunjah & Niconé - Disko 90
11. Maceo Plex - Conjure Superstar
12. Weval - Something (Live)
01. DAMH - Black Night
02. Thomas/Mayer - Unter Hölzern
03. Thomas Fehlmann - Eye
04. Voigt & Voigt - Tischlein Deck Dich
05. Sebastien Bouchet - Broken Heart
06. Michael Mayer - Lamusetwa (Matias Aguayo Mix)
07. DJ Tennis feat. Pillowtalk - The Outcast
08. The Modernist - Die Fette Gazelle And The Hidden Sixpack
09. Partial Arts - Taifa (The Emperor Machine Mix)
10. Justus Köhncke - Loop
11. The Field - No. No... (John Tejada Mix)
12. GusGus - This Is What You Get When You Mess With Love
13. Jürgen Paape - Heuriger