- For a label that's now lasted eleven years in a scene hitched to seemingly momentary taste shifts and burgeoning label darlings, Kompakt often gets taken for granted within dance circles. Another summer fades, and another edition of their flagship Total series arrives. Another blue winter, another Pop Ambient. Such is the price of longevity, sure. But as the Cologne heavyweight returns for their eleventh edition with another lengthy two-disc set of tracks from old friends, fresh faces and couplings of the two, the label continues to attempt to transform our expectations of the Kompakt brand. Following the trend of the last few—especially Total 9, arguably the best edition of the last five or six years—Total 11 again level the field between jauntier, more vocal-oriented material and the lush, oft hypermelodic minimal techno and house with which they established themselves.
As with almost every edition in the series since it stretched from one disc to two in 2005, Total 11 is a mixed assortment of goodies and blander nuggets, as full of failed experiments or half-baked ideas as it is of propulsive gems. And, obviously, that's to be expected as Kompakt attempts to expand its sonic reach, reinvigorate itself and alter its own voice; they need to both discover new talent and maintain a comfortable home for longtime compatriots as dance music evolves beside them. The problem of the last two years is simply in their hit-miss ratios; the digging seems more exertive, the pleasures less plentiful.
This time around, Jurgen Paape's "Mensch and Maschine," for example, never rises beyond a listless mechanical churn, while Superpitcher turns in an inert bit of sangfroid sleaze with "Lapdance." It's A Fine Line—the duo of Ivan Smagghe and Tim Paris—puzzle with a bit of wtf rockabilly for the next Robert Rodriguez film with "Eins Fine Grind," and the wistful arpeggiations and swirling Harmonia-isms of The Field's "Caroline" feel more like a studio sketch than a finished cut. Elsewhere, with tear-streak vocals and melancholic guitar, you'll swear Popnoname's "Hello Gorgeous" is the rebirth of the Postal Service.
Fortunately for the collect, cut and collate sort, Total 11 contains some jams to stow away for winter's lean. As always, DJ Koze's "Der Wallach" is a bizarre and subversive delight, with jazzy piano chords, thick tumbling bass, and Nôze-like vocal blurts that sound the first morning speech of the hungover. Justus Kohncke tweaks the Alan Parson Project's "I Wouldn't Wanna Be Like You" into a strutty disco vamp, and Maxime Dangles reappears with the awesome Goblin-esque stomper "Dysnoptik." Sewn from a bassy vocal refrain of the title, wilted horn samples, and various warped samples, Wolfgang Voigt's "Robert Schumann/Clara Wieck" sounds at once classical and completely detached from time. Elsewhere, Superpitcher and Rebolledo revisit their Pachanga Boys guise and add Jörg Burger to form the Three Lions and turn in the funky desert night techno of "Power" and the parched lounge-reggae of "You'll Win Again" respectively. If as I've said, you have to put some work with Total 11, there's probably still enough here to keep revelers entertained as we wind toward summer's last barbecue.
01. DJ Koze - Der Wallach
02. Jatoma - Helix
03. Jurgen Paape - Mensch und Maschine
04. Ada & Heiko Voss - Walk Over
05. Matias Aguayo - Rollerskate (Sanfuentes & Thunder's Version)
06. Superpitcher - Lapdance
07. Justus Kohncke - I Wouldn't Wanna Be Like You
08. Mugwump - Losing Game
09. It's A Fine Line - Eins Fine Grind
10. The Field - Caroline
11. Sog - Silbereisen
12. Sebastien Bouchet - St. Anne
13. Wolfgang Voigt - Robert Schumann / Clara Wieck
14. Jorg Burger - Sparwasser
01. Thomas Fehlmann - Wasser im Fluss (Soulphiction Mix)
02. Michael Mayer - Picanha Frenesi
03. Gui Boratto feat. Iggor Cavalera - Plie
04. Robag Wruhme - Rollmoff
05. Jonas Bering - For Yves
06. Walls - Hang Four (Allez-Allez Mix)
07. Popnoname - Hello Gorgeous
08. Maxime Dangles - Dysnoptik
09. Coma - Bruxelles
10. Pachanga Boys - Power
11. Gus Gus - Hateful (Ada feat. Mayburg Mix)
12. The Three Lions - You'll Win Again