- Sven Vath’s Cocoon label has been releasing unmixed six-disc compilations of exclusive cuts each summer since 2000, the best of which often get their own release months later (Flugel’s ‘Geht’s Noch’, Dinky’s ‘Acid in my Fridge’) but sometimes don’t (‘The Wheel’ - Holden’s finest moment?). If you’re a DJ and you want to have that big track months before the pack, you’ll dutifully shell out the $100 for the limited edition vinyls, but if you’re cheap and nasty, there’s also a CD. The only problem then is working out which of the tracks is going to blow up.
For my money, there are two brilliant tracks on this CD – Mathew Jonson’s ‘Sub-Atomic Dream Time’, and Guy Gerber & Shlomi Aber’s ‘Sea of Sand’. Jonson’s track is cut from the same hypnotic cloth as ‘Marionette’ from 2005, SH101 snake-charming techno with a genius melody. Last time I saw him out he played a 90% breakbeat set, but the track reinforces my view that he’s strongest at winding, building trance techno. Fantastic stuff. First equal is ‘Sea of Sand’, which is as warm as the inside of a cocoon. Like Gerber’s progressive hit ‘Stoppage Time’ there’s a messiness to the arrangement, but it adds rather than detracts, and the production is top notch. This is the music that greets you when you open the Cocoon website these days, and I can see why they’re proud of it. If you aren’t sick of both of these two by the end of the year, I’ll eat my sandals.
Third prize goes to Pier Bucci’s ‘Junk’, a more conventional tech houser. There is Bucci that I love (‘L’Nuit’, ‘Polaris’, his remix with Pink Elln of ‘Teco’) and there is Bucci that I don’t (the Latiny Mambotur stuff), but ‘Junk’ is up with his best – jacking minimal tech house with fine bass programming which unselfishly does the DJ’s work by turning around and becoming a different track just before the fade. Mix out of this one with care and double your money.
Both the Serafin and David K tracks are more ambient house moonscapes. Serafin’s ‘Starship Discotheque’ was one of my faves of recent times and on ‘Liquid Daydream’ he continues to be fascinated with wobbling sheets of tin, but here he loses out to David K, who arrives on a planet that’s aglow with details. Perhaps he doesn’t lift enough rocks to spy any truly startling lifeforms, but he’s really polished the parts of his production spaceship – this is a producer worth watching.
Honorable mention is ‘Fetch My Blades’ by Adam Proll (who he?), which sports a genius bassline, chunks of synth and a noise breakdown which press all the correct minimal techno buttons, but the track is spoilt by a lack of production finesse. This is good stuff, but if he’s not a newcomer, he sounds like one (maybe he’ll get better?)
Elsewhere the pickings are less tasty. 2000 & One’s ‘Tropical Melons’ follows the Detroit template a little too slavishly without enough attention to rhythm, while Guido Schneider’s ‘Animism’ is polite but unremarkable minimal poker-flatness. The Gregor Tresor & Andreas Kauffelet tracks nail the Cocoon house sound the closest, dark slices of pop trance with electro trimmings, but this is music written on keys, not knobs and faders – little attention paid to timbre and tone. As for Alex Smoke, who I’ve never been that into (except for ‘Brian’s Lung’), here he clutches at the musical straws of faux-Caribbeanisms.
As for the Johannes Heil track, I’ll withhold judgement. It’s EBM/electro-influenced house, and it bounces. If you like the sound of that, you might like the sound of this. But it’s just not my bag.
All in all, a bit like a Sven Vath set - if you like your techno soup with chunks of rave, trance and melodic spices, Frankfurt is a better city to dine in than Berlin. Looking back, I like half of the tracks, but five out of ten is way too harsh, so I’ll give the Mathew Jonson and Guy Gerber tracks two points each and that’ll make it seven. And if both of those tracks sink without a trace, you know what I’ll be eating.