Dusted Reviews

V/A - Total 8 / Speicher CD3

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Total 8 / Speicher CD3

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Aug. 27, 2007

Somewhere out there, a late night wallflower said ‘no,’ and Kompakt’s reign over the Neue Dancing Indie started to slip. Listeners and critics initially huddled under the Kompakt banner because the label’s finely honed aesthetic, its balance of dance-floor and headphone, screamed ‘gateway drug,’ but the imprint’s curators are having the last laugh. There is great disjoint between their music’s homologous fit to the DJ booth and the representation of the label within certain circles as ‘dance music it’s okay for non-believers to like,’ techno tailored for the recumbent position. It’s called having your cake and eating it, and the current Kompakt backlash, evidenced by lukewarm reception of Total 8 at Pitchfork and Stylus, doesn’t matter a jot. Kompakt have shored up their position so thoroughly that a few bloated ex-indie pouters aren’t going to break through the sandbagging. (An intriguing aside: are these ex-Kompakt fanatics actually vaguely dissatisfied ‘disco feebs,’ to [mis-]use Joe Carducci’s term?)

It’d all be less problematic if Total 8 was the grand failure Stylus reporter Peter Chambers implies with his talk of a ‘once…great label,’ ‘nearly a spent force creatively,’ churning out ‘another paunchy release.’ If Total 8 suffers, it’s because its compendium status has eagle-eared listeners joining the dots and reductively calling homogeneity where a shared but non-directive aesthetic resides; if a negative Nancy heard half of these cuts in their original twelve-inch form, they’d think them fresh as daisies. Sure, there is a certain stylistic countenance that can’t be escaped, as Kompakt never quite breaks out – one suspects the label’s crew, such as they are, would even sweat elegantly – but the problem seems to be not so much critics looking for difference as they are hoping for a different same. It’s the grand leap vs. Kompakt’s tactical advance – literal vs. lateral development.

I’ve always appreciated Kompakt’s lightness of touch, an approach that’s however not easily reducible to accusations of lightweight fare. Even at its weakest – and Total 8 isn’t perfect, particularly due to a slightly underwhelming opening stretch – this compilation sparkles with detail, all spangled features tangling through stilled air. The collection’s first breathless moment is the Transcontinental disco of Partial Arts’ “Trauermusik,” where Ewan Pearson and Al Usher join to hymn the trebly tremble of the glitter-ball. Jörg Burger’s “Polyform 1” and Steadycam’s “In The Moog For Love” are both slight returns, with their connexions of goose-pimple texture-shudders and whirling balls of spasmodic melody patterns flitting back to the label’s earlier, less overtly pop days, a recourse that’s strangely welcome thanks to its cross of ‘purity’/ functionality and hypnotic Autobahn electronica.

Similarly, there is a small patch of tracks, opening the second disc, that pare things back to barest elements. “Mariposa” by DJ Koze follows tiny eddies of machine clatter down black holes; Hervé AK’s “The Closer” pitches percolating patterns in greyscale, and “Follow The DJ” by Reinhard Voigt lets off the tension on rare occasions to ease a gust of fresh wind in on the tickertape parade of beats. If anything, Kompakt would do well to keep mining this seam, as the frisson of ’90s minimalism with the side effects of noughties pop savvy provides welcome friction. It nicely offsets the disappointments of Jürgen Paape and Boy Schaufler’s stilted and underdeveloped “We Love” and the funkless funk of Broke’s flat and weedy “Coladancer.”

Elsewhere, Thierry Mbaye hooks up with label regular Jonas Bering for Nightcats’ “Inside,” a crepuscular night-drive through hissing hi-hats and plasmic, irradiating, woozy synth tones, recalling the stentorian yet strangely tear-inducing techno of onetime label mates Closer Musik. And the wall of teenage tears constructed by The Rice Twins even sounds vaguely holy: “Can I Say” imagines trance fans dancing wistfully inside cotton wool cocoons. This ‘feather on the breath’ take on dancing, perfected by The Field (notable by their absence here), represents one of the label’s strongest recent developments.

Kompakt’s Speicher series begun by representing the label’s output at its most functionally techno, and though the boundaries between Speicher (released on the Kompakt Extra ‘sub-label’), Kompakt itself and the K2 imprint have blurred, Speicher CD3, a ‘digital mix’ by Michael Mayer and Jörg Burger, is still the best way to hear Kompakt in thoroughly monomaniacal mode. This is probably going to come across as heresy, but to these ears CD3 is the series’ best yet; its focus never flags, yet it admits all kinds of contrasts. Witness, for example, the opening sequence, which skims from DJ Koze’s itchy minimal funk to Davidovitch’s sensory overload on the crinkled “Cellophane,” with whirring alarm drones tripping over the track’s notched, busy surfaces, before Superpitcher’s “Enzian” grinds an insistent yet bleary-eyed pulse into the ground. If anything, Speicher CD3 is sicker-sounding than usual, a cross of sleaze, slur, pound and slide. Broke’s “Overthat” is so dirtily dysfunctional it’s almost like Rudolf Eb.Er gone techno, and Motiivi:Tuntematon’s “Mankind Failed” is glum as hell, grimacing as it drills the set to a forbidding end.

All that, and I can still kind of see why certain people are worried about or slightly bored with Kompakt. True, there has been no seismic aesthetic leap in their output of late – though isn’t dance music largely about incremental, micro-generic movement, anyway? But you can safely put away the embalming fluid for now. I mean, it’s not as if they went and signed Maxïmo Park…

By Jon Dale

Read More

View all articles by Jon Dale

Find out more about Kompakt

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.