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V/A - Total 10

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Artist: V/A

Album: Total 10

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Aug. 17, 2009

Every Total compilation since number the fourth has come with its own inbuilt sigh of resignation, ‘it’s just not quite as good as it used to be.’ For a while this was true, when Kompakt were going through their first real growing pains around five years ago, seeming slightly directionless and adrift. And while it’s hard to argue they’re still in their glory years, listening to Total 10 after a bit of a break from following the Kompakt trajectory, I’m reminded of how they’ve managed to reconcile their pop aesthetic with the dancefloor’s imperatives, how they really are the clearing house for pop-gone-house-gone-techno-gone-etc.

Of course, at its worse, this reconciliation turns to slushy homogeneity. This wouldn’t be Total without tracks recognizable only by their lack of charisma – Coma’s “Sum” is once heard, almost forgotten; Shumi’s “The Wind And The Sea” feels a bit ‘by numbers’; Justus Köhncke’s “Give It To Me Easy” is too slight by half (acid squiggle notwithstanding). Familiarity here breeds not so much contempt as a kind of slightly indulgent comfort or contentment, a false assurance that brand power is going to carry the lesser contributions. But most of Total 10 sits pretty nicely in the headphones – Kompakt here sounds healthy as ever.

DJ Koze’s “40 Love” starts Total 10 mid-tennis match – the way he incorporates the dull thwock of bat-meets-ball and the grunts of exertion of the players with his gilded, gliding techno perfectly captures Koze’s winning combination of giggly humor and producer smarts. (And isn’t athleticism and endurance a nice metaphor for the Kompakt thing?) Ada’s “Lovestoned,” besides punning on Diana Ross & The Supremes’ gorgeous “Stoned Love,” reminds of what made her productions so appealing when she broke cover earlier this decade – flushes of synth that irrigate the ear canal, helium-toned arpeggios that tickle and caress the cochlea.

But it’s on the second disc that things get interesting. Ivan Smagghe and Tim Paris’s remix of Burger/Voigt’s “Wand Aus Klang” replaces the original’s faded grandeur with pointillist electro patterning, while Mayburg feat Ada’s “Each And Every Day” and the Thomas Fehlmann remix of The Field’s “The More I Do” both exemplify the heavenly, hallucinatory techno-pop that Kompakt excels at, with Ada’s voice on the former beaming down from some galactic orbit. The Voigt brothers acquit themselves well, with Wassermann’s “Berg Und Tal (Instrumental)” one of Wolfgang’s most convincingly other and relentlessly monomaniacal slabs of technoid disjoint since his return to the public sphere, and Reinhard’s “Am Limit” as ruthlessly streamlined as ever. And Matias Aguayo’s “Walter Neff” proves that any song where the singer sings along to the bass and the drum is on a winning streak.

Aguayo’s one of Kompakt’s brightest characters – a self-styled sex-poet, Latino lover, whose tracks are always brilliantly off-kilter. Total 10, and Kompakt in general, could use a few more wild cards like Aguayo. If there’s one thing missing here, it’s compulsively engaging characters, larger than life chancers. But there’s plenty of good to outweigh Total 10’s lack, particularly from the old guard. Welcome back.

By Jon Dale

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