t some point, labels become so good through their collection of releases and achieve such a high regard from consumers that you are able to buy their releases on the name alone. Kompakt from Germany has quickly become one of those labels over their first eleven compact disc releases. In fact, it's easy to not know anything about each artist of the Kompakt label when you walk into a store because on each release there are no track numbers, track names, or information about the artist anywhere to be found on the packaging. Instead, the packaging is simple and features futuristic graphic design, as it does on this particular release. There is information pointing to Kompakt's web site, but little else. This allows the listener to focus more on the music, than the artist or what he has to say in the liner notes of his release. This isn't anything new in IDM, of course. I can remember opening up many Autechre and Aphex Twin releases only to find sparse to no information about the artist and groaning inwardly that this was just another pretentious ploy by the artist to shield themselves from human interaction and scrutiny. I've grown up since then, I think, and realized that this was instead a draw for IDM, that it was all about what was contained on the CD, not within the liner notes.
On this eleventh release from the Kompakt label, Markus Guentner releases his debut full length for the label. It could easily be described as minimal tech house, but since I have no idea what all these labels people get caught up in, I would hesitate to pigeonhole such a great release. Guentner starts the first track with tolling bells and an airy synth melody that quickly devolves into a beat driven ambient piece that is a joy to listen to on headphones. I was quickly enveloped in sound when every so often what sounded like a valve releasing a hot jet of air would clean up the track for a moment, before all of the elements would come back in again. Every so often Guentner will uncover the beats to belie his true house influence, such as on track three, however, these are few and far between because Guentner usually favors a more muted approach, having the beat hidden underneath a little bit of melody or an orchestral hit, most often. Beats seem to live in the haziness of the composition, every so often revealing themselves for inspection by the listener and then going back underground. Very few releases nowadays don't require headphones to enjoy their full range of sound and to enjoy the considerable time and effort going into panning back and forth the artists inevitably do. This release is no exception, as Guentner willfully allows his melodies to start in one ear and finish in the other on several occasions. The production is very good, for the most part, except for the slight clipping on the high end on track two that allowed for me to question whether that was the point of the production or whether too many elements were packed in to the track and allowed for it to reach too high of a volume.
Pure emotion drives this music, which is probably true of most releases on Kompakt. The strange thing is, however, none of the artists on Kompakt (save parts of Schaffelfieber's more abstract and unwieldy release) have made a misstep thus far. It's hard to say, though, when Kompakt's luck will run out. Warp started out with classic release after classic release until it brought in the new eave of artists and started to become a parody of itself. Skam flew off the radar after laying low and unpenetrable for far too long for a music fan's patience. Mille Plateux simply has too much music to be known as an overall classic label. Kompakt, at this point, has the exact right number of artists and quality of music being produced that they could conceivably be the best record label out there right now. And I can't find one good argument why they aren't.