Though Laid is a comparatively new label (its first 12” was released just over two years ago), the people behind it are an experienced crew. Laid is a vinyl-only boutique imprint for Hamburg’s better known Dial, home to artists like Lawrence, Pawel, Efdemin, and its most recognizable alumnus, Pantha du Prince. To say that they know what they’re doing in the world of deep house and techno is a bit of an understatement: These artists have helped shape the way electronic music looks during the last few years.
What to make, then, of Laid, a CD that compiles some of the label’s “highlights” over the last two years? It’s not that this is in a digital format or that these songs have, in many cases, already been released and spent plenty of time in the world. The real problem is that this just doesn’t say anything – it doesn’t communicate any sort of message about the label other than they fetishize a limited BPM range and don’t encourage risk-taking or variation. It’s boring, frankly.
There are a couple of exceptions, but even these come with an asterisk. Lowtec’s “Use Me” kicks off the compilation with a deep house vocal snippet and a chiming melody works with an unflinching bass line and beat. John Roberts, so convincing on last year’s Glass Eights, slowly alters the percussion over the course of the nearly eight-minute “Blame.” The true standout is the hard-edged Kassem Mosse, who has been on a tear for a while – “Untitled” isn’t new but the 10-plus minutes it runs are as hard and eventful as you’ll find on this record.
The asterisk is there because, ultimately, you barely find yourself remembering what you heard. This could’ve been a live mix (and maybe it should have) with the way one track almost seamlessly bleeds into another to the point of nebulous nothingness. Chicago house legend Rick Wade bumping up against the lo-fi lounge vibes of Marcello Napoletano’s “Electronic Atmosphere” or Rndm’s “Third Hand Smoke” coming on the heels of Lawrence’s handclap-loving “Precious Hall” -- who cares? If you’re the type of person with a singular devotion to house music of all stripes, maybe Laid is for you. But taken as a compendium of the label’s efforts up to now, I find myself thinking the same thing as I did about Death From Abroad’s Nobody Knows Anything compilation from a few years ago: Big names backing it and a good idea in theory, but something is missing out of the context of a 12” format. That something is a distinct identity.