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V/A - Katapult

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Artist: V/A

Album: Katapult

Label: Karat

Review date: Aug. 11, 2004

The Karat label’s Katapult compilation is a kind of Total for the French house brigade, a statement of group integrity and intensity. Acts like Ark, Cabanne and Krikor and labels like Circus Company have drawn on the alter-language of the tech- and micro-house continuum (who was it that fabulously said that good tech-house is micro-house, and bad tech-house is simply tech-house?) and attempted some kind of reconciliation with the humour, sex and flamboyance of France’s filter-house legions. Of course, there’s no simple equation here (Daft Punk + Perlon = whatever), more an incremental development that hints at a squaring off of various tropes.

When the music gets too strict it lacks character. Opening cuts from Ark, Kean and Chloè don’t offer much in the way of re-readings or sparks: contributions this uninspired imply that it’s enough to simply be there. Guillaume Berroyer of Ark is one of this scene’s more unpredictable and talented artists, however, and by his second contribution, “Daiment,” he has grasped the sonic pointillisms of the Perlon label and subtly re-wired them to his own ends, grabbing a woozy vocal drawling “swing low sweet chariot” and smearing it like a snail’s silver trail across the track. Cabanne, another Perlon relative, contributes “Karashik,” a track with rhythms so pacer-sharp that each crisp pulse is like a puncture, beats that clack and shutter like a sewing machine almost out of control.

But it’s the tracks that move furthest from these dry templates that are the most confusing and rewarding. Automat’s “Funk me please” is disco re-dux, the track which most clearly explicates that the Karat roster owes something to France’s maximalist filter-house history: a sea-sick and quavering bass-line pits pockets of resistance against the kind of period-piece synths that launched a thousand retro nights. Tracks like this, and Blackstrobe’s “Fall down rise-up” posit a second option for the Karat label, an interjection of bluster and bolshy spirit. It’s the kind of shift in mood that’s required, a corrective to the linear templates that too many of the contributors to Katapult live by.

Katapult is an intriguing listen. It offers a few pathways away from the predictable, shuttling several ideas over each other like rough superimpositions in a darkroom. But the compilation never quite gels. It’s a good overview, but it feels oddly inessential, another disc to add to the compilation landfill that’s slowly building at the back of your record collection.

By Jon Dale

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