- Prior to its 20th anniversary, Kompakt appeared to be in the creative doldrums. The last few Total compilations felt tentative and self-indulgent, dipping into indie-rock and sketchy electronica. The Cologne label was sounding tired and unsure of itself.
Perhaps a time out was in order. After the renewed vigor of Total 14, this latest edition confirms the label's renaissance. In short, Kompakt has rediscovered its soul. Its avant-garde hinterland is still audible on Total 15, but the fundamental focus is now on the areas where it excels—that is, sleek dance floor tracks full of imaginative leaps and the color of heartbroken electronic-pop.
The club stuff will be catnip to the Kompakt faithful. Rex The Dog's tightly-edited take on electro never gets old. Kompakt veterans Gui Boratto and Superpitcher both excel, the former in the blissful trance gymnastics of "22," the latter with the deliciously strange "Freiherr." Wolfgang "Wasserman" Voigt's "Eisen Mein Herz" is a typically delirious slice of avant-techno. Selections from outside the immediate Kompakt family also impress. The teasing drama of Patrice Baumel's "The Vanishing" exhilarates, while Guy Mantzur & Roy Rosenfeld's "Epika" is a progressive house track with the crossover appeal of "Inspector Norse" or "Body Language." Its earworm hooks are played on piano, bass and top-end synths until they reflect each other like an endless hall of mirrors. "Epika" originally came out in February, but it has "sleeper hit" stamped all over it.
On the pop side, Kompakt now sounds more like it fully understands the form. The emotionally charged electro-house of Terranova's "Skin & Bones" is gorgeous, as is Audion's "Dem Howl," a surprisingly persuasive fusion of '80s-pop soul and big-room house. Saschienne's and Coma's contributions are more enigmatic, but confident in the way they toy with pop tropes. Likewise, the sultry, Trentemøller-esque "Stolen Romance" by Blond:ish, a track layered with dustbowl blues guitar, is one of Kompakt's most accomplished forays into indie-dance.
As its forthcoming Jens-Uwe Beyer album demonstrates, Kompakt is still providing a platform for experimental music, but that output is now contained within sub-labels and special projects. Such material makes less sense scattered across the Total compilations. This series has always been Kompakt’s annual attempt to try to shape mainstream house and techno in its own idiosyncratic vision. Once again, it has done so in style.
01. Kölsch - DerDieDas
02. Audion feat. Troels Abrahamsen - Dem Howl
03. Michael Mayer - Humm
04. Patrice Bäumel - TheVanishing
05. Terranova feat. Lydmor & Bon Homme - Skin & Bones
06. Agoria – Baptême (LuckyBlue Eyes Version - Agoria Retouch)
07. Guy Mantzur & Roy RosenfelD - Epika
08. Gui Boratto - 22
09. Jürgen Paape - Manipuri
10. Dave DK - Smukke Lyde
11. Weval - Gimme Some (Hunter/Game Mix)
12. John Tejada - Two O One
01. COMA - Lora
02. Saschienne - Chambre Bleue
03. Matias Aguayo - Run Away From The Sun
04. Vermont - Majestät (DJ Tennis Edit)
05. Dauwd - Jupiter George
06. Hunter/Game - Bermuda
07. Wassermann - Eisen Mein Herz
08. Superpitcher - Freiherr
09. Reinhard Voigt - The Buddy
10. Rex The Dog - Sicko
11. Blond:ish feat. Audysea - Stolen Romance
12. The Black Frame - Sacrosanct