- A leading techno label moves away from the club with impressive results.
- With Kulør 006, you can sense the vision Najaaraq Vestbirk, AKA Courtesy, outlined for the label coming fully to life. "It's a platform where I have as high ambitions with the visual aspects as I have with the music," she said in 2018. A few days ago in Copenhagen, the spiritual if not physical home of the label, Vestbirk played an ambient DJ set at Copenhagen Contemporary, one of the city's leading arts spaces, on a bill that also featured the premiere of David Stjernholm's cphwarp, a video piece created to accompany Kulør 006.
This feels fitting. The styles of music on the compilation, which mainly features emerging Copenhagen artists, is also a new look for Kulør. Until now, the label has been known as a lightning rod for the city's fast techno scene, although "techno" in this case is a little reductive—most of the output has had other forms of uptempo dance music baked into its explosive arrangements. What we get here instead is an eclectic mix of ambient, electronica, pop and experimental, a collection that expands the label's purview and suggests things in Copenhagen might be bubbling even more than first anticipated.
Kulør has been praised for its forward-facing outlook on techno, but some of the music here relies on less established forms. I noted traces of the artists Arca, Fennesz, Holly Herndon, Lotic, Mika Vainio and Lorenzo Senni—all innovators in some way or another—while absorbing Kulør 006. Schacke's ambient piece, "The End Of Ecstasy," which opens the comp, is the most striking. The lead melody shimmers with poise and beauty, a world away from last year's Russian-pop-meets-techno smash "Kisloty People."
Many of the other artists here have small discographies but big ideas. Notice the way Gel impressively interweaves itchy beats, choral vocal detritus and strings on the standout "Scented," or how Astrid Sonne's "Swirl" sounds like a collaboration between Lorenzo Senni and Steve Reich. Following that one is another enormous synth piece, Varnrable's "Cold Bright Hard Light," which turns into an angular electronic pop track with the line, "Thank god for good Wi-Fi connection, right?"
Vocals in surreal environments are a theme on Kulør 006. Who knew, for example, that Emptyset-style drum detonations and saxophone flourishes could be the basis for a punkish vocal that seems to deal with oppression (X & Yde's "Dares Soar")? Sofie Birch's "Look," a kind of folky electronic exploration, has a lovely, otherworldly quality to its waterfall synths. And while Minais B's "To Levende Væsener" couldn't be considered a vocal track exactly, voice manipulation is the main partner to sound design that behaves like a lawn sprinkler.
In each case, the artists on Kulør 006 seem inclined to push their sonic designs a little further—symbolic, perhaps, of the project as a whole. Perhaps not all of the ravers locked into Kulør's colourful techno sound will be on board with the compilation. But Vestbirk's bold curation could mean the label picks up fresh admirers from scenes beyond the dance floor.
01. Schacke - The End Of Ecstacy
02. SØS Gunver Ryberg - Shapeshifter
03. Sofie Birch - Look
04. Gel - Scented
05. Astrid Sonne - Swirl
06. Varnrable - Cold Bright Hard Light
07. Minais B - To Levende Væsener
08. Lyra Valenza - Never Rest
09. X & Yde - Dares Soar
10. DJ IBON - Sorgpad
11. Splash Pattern - Os