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Michael Mayer - Immer 3

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Artist: Michael Mayer

Album: Immer 3

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Jan. 5, 2011

As one of the heads of the Kompakt empire, and its most accessible public face, Michael Mayer is well placed to map out the label’s trajectory. Working both in A&R and distribution, as well as making music both solo, and in collaboration with Aksel Schaufler (as Supermayer), Mayer always seemed like the canniest player in a gang of canny players -- the energetic enthusiast at the coalface, dictating the character and direction of the flood of releases from Kompakt’s various tributaries.

But relatively little has been said of the way Mayer dictates the emotional heft of Kompakt’s productions and releases. Alongside Wolfgang Voigt’s ongoing curation of the label’s Pop Ambient series, Mayer’s three Immer mixes have done the most to chart the melancholic, downcast side of Kompakt’s output -- the tear rolling down the cheek to the bolshy, animated techno-pop that inhabits much of their annual Total collections. Immer 3 is relatively full with Kompakt artists, either as producers or remixers, which says much about how Mayer’s mix ethos– let the song play out; maintain a clear emotional flow; go for charm over sheer functionality – has steered Kompakt’s release schedule.

With the first Immer firmly placed in the techno firmament, Mayer has a lot to live up to with each successive mix. Immer 3 has little of its founding father’s impact, but what it loses in surprise it makes up for in character. Starting with another of Ewan Pearson’s gilded remixes for Cortney Tidwell, Mayer steers clear of electronic music’s current masks; that Tidwell leads into Closer Musik’s “Departures” -- one of the Kompakt’s most stolidly melancholy productions from the early noughties -- suggests that Mayer wants Immer 3’s will to bend to his own guiding aesthetic. (It’s also a reminder of the majesty of Closer Musik’s slim body of work.)

From there, Immer 3 traces not so much an emotional “arc” as a series of refrains on an overarching mood. There’s one dip, with Raudive’s “Slave,” where the deep descends into a kind of hammy “darkness” that’s pretty inconsequential, but Mayer saves the moment with Gui Boratto’s mix of Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus.” Having Hope Sandoval sing cirrus breath over gas-lit synths is as much a genius touch as Mayer’s closing trilogy: Superpitcher embraces Charlotte Gainsbourg on a late-night dancefloor, Culoe De Song comes as close as possible to “arms aloft” (though it’s hard to wave your hands in the air when you’re too drained to move), and Kinky Justice takes on Round Two’s anthemic “New Day.” Justus Köhncke is no Andy Caine (the original vocalist), but there’s something endearing in Köhncke’s frail, shaky croon, humanity found deep in the song that sweeps the dust from the evening.

To be honest, Kompakt’s recent form has been relatively disappointing, and at times they’ve felt like a label in search of a new reason to “be.” Total 11 was boring, and some of the year’s artist albums have under-performed. But Immer 3 is proof that things are far from lost on the Kompakt front, and alongside Jatoma, it represents a late-year rally from the label.

What can I say? The bastard’s done it again.

By Jon Dale

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