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V/A - Kompakt 100

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Artist: V/A

Album: Kompakt 100

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Sep. 1, 2004

Kompakt 100 – celebrating, a little too logically, German label Kompakt’s 100th official release – is classic label tactic. Though the double CD/four LP set isn’t a ‘best-of’ retread of historical terrain or a collection of unreleased tracks (the collector’s lure), Kompakt 100’s remit is almost disappointing – the simple label-catalogue hive-mind remix collection. Much of Kompakt’s best recent music is totally engaged and slightly cunning, a raised finger to the wind and raised eyebrow to the world. Charmingly devious and playful, but Kompakt 100's playfulness, in comparison, is a little introverted and self-involved.

I had been wondering whether we could trust Kompakt to resurrect the remix syndrome, to inject their mercurial character into a zone of such aesthetic poverty that, well, Two Lone Swordsmen remixing Villalobos... (You get my drift.) No real need to worry: Kompakt 100 is one of the few remix-discs of recent times with genuine follow-through, beginning-to-end listening possibilities. And yet it’s also slightly muted, lacking the full color spectrum of Kompakt’s catalogue. After all, this is a label that has gifted us, in the past year, with Justus Köhncke’s “Timecode” and Rex the Dog’s “Prototype” and Superpitcher’s “Happiness” and Thomas Fehlmann’s “Little Big Horn” and DJ Koze’s “Gekloppel” and Ferenc’s “Cronch” and...

That’s not to suggest that all of Kompakt’s classic tropes aren’t present: you can tick off Pop Ambient, Schaffel, tech-house, and Speicher-Techno on a cursory scan. They’ve eked out space for the neo-Trance of Kaito, and the growling, moody Techno of Schaeben & Voss’ re-working of “Dicht Dran.” The Kompakt crew also let Justus Köhncke loose on the Marc Bolan songbook, with Köhncke morphing his remix of Freiland’s stentorian “Frei” into a lurid cover of T-Rex’s “Hot Love,” changing the gender of the lyrics to essay a dirty love song to his coast-bound boyfriend. But most of the remixes fall back on the label’s less physical side – there’s a preponderance of Pop Ambient remixes (Dettinger, Ulf Lohmann and Markus Guentner are near omni-present), and the emphasis on tech-house with a slightly glittery sheen flashes you back to earlier points in the Kompakt developmental flow-chart: a lot of this would have slotted nicely onto Total 3, which, confessedly, is no grumbling matter...

The major surprise of Kompakt 100 is that once you’ve familiarized yourself with its contours, had it spinning on repeat for days on end, the comparatively narrow focus of the compilation turns up countless gems, coarse black rocks shined into luminescent pearls, Dettinger’s Pop Ambient given a life-pulse thanks to the steady ping-pong clip of Jonas Bering’s gilded house, or The Orb sprinkling gold-dust on Ulf Lohmann’s face, or SCSI-9 giving the grey-scale clutter of Lawrence’s “Teaser” a new color, a new strain, or Markus Guenter kissing Kaito’s eyelids goodnight as “Respect to the Distance” drifts off to sleep. Kaito himself turns in the set's highpoint, a rework of Superpitcher’s “Tomorrow” that drags the original’s reticent wall-flower charm out of hiding, slowly squeezing it out of its cocoon and lovingly sliding layer after layer of breathless texture over the song, until it takes off into Kaito’s long day of the trance, all muted joy and quiescent rapture.

Kompakt’s output is both so prolific and so diverse that any Kompakt fanatic inevitably spends a little time walking on tip-toes, waiting for the fall from grace, worried that the label is going to slip into one of its (admittedly rare) dry spells, a little concerned that the next label compilation is going to sell the year’s output short or that the next handful of 12” singles are going to look a bit pale in comparison to that last batch or... It’s an endless game, but it’s also a good sign of just how winning Kompakt can be when they’re totally on fire. Kompakt 100 takes a while to come to terms with and to slip into, but right now – analysis side, contextualization be (momentarily) damned – a good portion of this sounds like Kompakt treating their history with genuine respect and warmth; an alternative to the now-ness of Kompakt’s monster-truck-driver forward-propulsion energies.

By Jon Dale

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