- If they chose to close up shop tomorrow, the longevity of Hamburg's Dial Records would be one of contemporary dance music's heartwarmers. (And, I swear, that's not a testimonial to the wistfulness of their music.) Founded at the turn of the century by David Lieske, Peter Kersten and Paul Kominek—three dance devotees who shared a taste for classic Detroit techno and deep house records better known by their production pseudonyms, Carsten Jost, Lawrence and Pawel—Dial Records has spent the past decade forging one of house's most iconic and recognizable imprints.
Though they've expanded their trademark along the way, pulling in avant-pop acts like Phantom/Ghost and Dominique and the classical shimmer of Christian Naujoks, for the most part the label's prided itself on housing a core roster of producers concerned with particularly intricate and intimate brand of house and ambient minimalism. Founded upon a sort of beauty that seems easy to shatter—the kind you wouldn't want to handle too crudely—most Dial producers have a talent for crafting similarly tactile and subtle late evening atmospherics. No surprise then that a quick glance at their tenth anniversary compilation, 2010, reveals many of the names so long associated with Dial, label heads Lawrence and Carsten Jost alongside principals like Pantha du Prince and Pigon.
It's fitting then, for a label that's staked its reputation to consistency of timbre even under an expanding roster, that most of the Dial vets turn in cuts worthy of the occasion. In particular, two producers not with the label at the outset who embody Dial's ability to remain relevant—Efdemin and John Roberts (both of whom have albums coming on the label this year)—have crafted minor showstoppers for the occasion. Roberts' "Lines" is nocturnal sea-drift house, buried pianos and weathered chimes afloat against his brawny rhythms, while Efdemin's "Time" is similarly spacious, with quiet hand drums and bass pulse slowly unveiling its wintry pad-and-drone melody. Elsewhere, Pantha du Prince's "Fountain Drive" opens with stubby bass and wood tap samples before it's infused with one of Weber's hypnotic bell patterns, and Lawrence's "Treacle Mine" treads with the same slow melodic advance as much of last year's Until Then, Goodbye. On his first release for Dial, Isolée turns in a piece of haunting twitch house in the fittingly titled "Black Lodge," all submerged effects, pointillist drones and one quiet-boom for a central melody.
If there are inevitably a few quiet duds on 2010—and what celebratory label compilation doesn't have them—they're overlookable in the face of so many Dial regulars turning in such heady goods. So the Phantom/Ghost and Dominique tracks seem like a forcible way of bookending the compilation in downier warm-up/cool-down textures; these poppier signings have never been the label's calling card anyway. So Christian Naujok's "New Heaven & Earth" feels a bit paint-by-numbers when compared to broad canvas creations by his labelmates. For the most part, 2010 is a compelling reminder of why the Hamburg crew's nuanced, elegant brand of house music always felt so distinctive. If your ears weren't already perked for the Efdemin and John Roberts records coming soon, this'd be all the reminder you need that Dial, ten year geezer in a scene prided on freshness, can still keep up with hipper blogosphere darlings.
01. Phantom Ghost - My Secret Europe
02. John Roberts – Lines
03. Efdemin – Time
04. Lawrence – Treacle Mine
05. Kassian Troyer – Tourist
06. Isolee – Black Lodge
07. Rndm – No Beginning
08. Christian Naujoks – New Heaven & Earth
09. Pigon – Koto
10. Pantha Du Prince – Fountain Drive
11. Carsten Jost – Days Gone By
12. Dominique – He Said