Tobias Thomas
Smallville
Kompakt
2003
B-

in almost all descriptions that have emerged about the Kompakt label the overriding theme is one of family. In the newest offering by the label Tobias Thomas’ Smallville, that feeling is taken to its logical extreme in what has been described as “a musical try to compare the structures of living in a small community with the restrictions and possibilities of the dance community.”


Smallville begins softly with the newest Dntel offering “Season.” The effect is one of a cocoon of safety, leading the listener into the mix carefully, showing the possibilities that may be contained within. Treading carefully into the next movement, Thomas mixes Kaito’s “Release Your Body” with the acapella of Erlend Oye’s “Ghost Train” in an exquisite mash-up that points towards the promise of the rest of the mix.


At this point a house beat kicks in, erasing the prenatal bliss of the preceding minutes, leaving them as only a memorial to the more-Pop Ambient side of Kompakt. In the mix is a group of highly respected micro-house producers. Most notable are the two entries from the Shitkatapul label (Anders Ilar and Sami Koivikko) and Jan Jelinek (of Loop Finding Jazz Records fame).


The highlight of the collection, however, comes in the form of the final two tracks, both co-produced by Thomas himself. Tonetraeger’s “Welcome Back Kotter” is remixed by Thomas and Michael Mayer and is expertly placed in front of the clincher- Forever Sweet’s “Bleed.” Forever Sweet, a collaboration between Michael Mayer, Reinhard Voigt, and Thomas, adds a surprisingly melodic finale to the CD with an almost Plod-esque synth line moving in between the driving beat.


But for all the bliss inherent in a new mix from the Kompakt label there are problems here. A few of the mixes, when not featuring merely beats come across as a disconcerting and forced, rather than the subtle ones that they might have attained otherwise. Also, in a few key places, the mix drops in volume level apparently for no reason at all. Further, in explicitly attaching a meaning to the mix, Thomas partially negates the ability for a listener to draw their own conclusions of the narrative that is enacted throughout the proceedings. The narrative that Thomas constructs is one that may reflect the possibilities inherent within dance music’s larger community, but is also a scattered and sometimes disconcerting mix. At times the variety works well, but at the same time, the transition from the smooth sounds of the Transmat label entry to the more hard edged electro of BPitch Control’s Feadz is a hard one to swallow completely. While these are minor qualms overall, one feels the need to find fault with Kompakt simply because it’s so hard to spend an entire review praising the excellent music taste and mixing skills each time a new release comes out.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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