- Since he was a teenager, Dave Sumner, the artist better known as Function, was blessed with a kind of techno serendipity. Living in New York in the mid-'90s, he bought records at Sonic Groove, Adam X's shop, and worked at Rogue Music, a Manhattan institution where Dennis Ferrer was a colleague. (Inconceivably by today's standards, he lived in a 15th-floor apartment, with views of Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building.) As many as two or three nights a week, he'd hang out at Limelight, the notorious converted cathedral at the center of Manhattan nightlife, where he'd share the dance floor with the likes of Madonna, Michael Alig and the infamous club kids. The club was massively influential for him, especially Jeff Mills' Friday night residency, Future Shock.
"That was the high I will forever chase," Sumner said in his 2010 RA Exchange. But it was only the beginning. Around the turn of the millennium, he crossed paths with Karl O'Connor, AKA Regis, and joined Sandwell District, a collective that helped define a new era of techno in the '00s. In 2007, he went to Berghain for the first time, an experience that convinced him to leave New York for Berlin, beginning yet another chapter in his career. Since then, he's joined Berghain's illustrious cast of resident DJs—his second residency after Limelight. (More recently, he racked up a third: at Bassiani in Tbilisi, Georgia).
Throughout all this, Sumner was making tracks, 26 of which make up the two-part compilation Recompiled, the second half of which landed last week. Bringing together music from every era of Sumner's career so far, Recompiled, released by the Ostgut Ton sub-label A-TON, homes in on the core essence of his style as both a producer and a DJ: a sleek and mesmerizing sound that reflects the richness of his influences as well as his own singular aesthetic.
The productions that make up Recompiled come from very different times and places. Some are inspired by the wild excess of '90s New York nightlife, others by the cinematic minimalism of Mika Vainio and Sleeparchive, two key influences on Sandwell District. A full 20 years separate "Live Ambient Extraction 1993," a previously unreleased excerpt from a live performance, and "Against The Wall (Edit)," a new version of a track from Sumner's 2013 album Incubation.
Stylistically, too, the range is broad. Recompiled moves from lush ambience to peak-time intensity, dwelling longest on the cool and cavernous space in between. Some tracks are exemplars of techno at its purest ("Immolare," "Shift F1"); others would fit comfortably in a house set ("F3"). There are dubby bangers ("F1"), cosmic dramas ("Reykjavik") and the odd bit of broken beat ("Balance Of Power (Substance)," "Montage"). There's even a dash of dreamlike euphoria ("Golden Dawn").
Whatever their differences, though, all of these tracks emanate from the same sound world, a vast and moonlit space as inviting as it is eerie. Sumner's sound has evolved considerably over the years, and gone through a number of stylistic phases. But this fine balance of mood, atmosphere and propulsive groove, brought to life by crystalline sound design, has been with him all along. It's what's made him one of techno's most vital artists, and it's neatly captured on Recompiled.
04. Intro (Variance)
06. Live Ambient Extraction 1993
07. Against The Wall (Edit)
10. Incubation (Live Version)
11. Golden Dawn feat. Stefanie Parnow (Version)
12. Falling The Same Way (Function Mix)
01. Ember (Field)
04. Balance Of Power (Substance)
05. Immolare (Version)
06. Montage (Edit)
08. Shift F1
09. Variance II
11. Descending (Edit)
13. Variance I (Reduced)