Kompakt Total 7
he packaging of Cologne's Kompakt label is a precision example of the dichotomy between electronic music and traditional rock n' roll; bands from the Beach Boys to the Arcade Fire have adorned their record sleeves with casual group photos, iconographic typography, and expressive images in a concentrated effort to cultivate the elusive mystique of personality. But from the generic sans-serif font to the slight variation in the polka-dot row adorning the bottom portion of each Kompakt sleeve, we have what seems a concentrated attempt at total anonymity. Far from the Futurist / Situationist homages of the Peter Saville Factory era, this is a closed system—cold science-fiction sheathed in a sterile typeface and a one-color jacket.
Rock reductionists would have you believe that the music between these graphically-conjoined covers is equally sexless. They'd be wrong—the hallowed Kompakt Total series, currently stretching its limbs to a seventh volume—is an indication of the subtle vibrancy that emanates from beneath that serene Teutonic exterior.
Is the music “cool”? In all senses of the word, it's bloody ice-cube programmatic rhythms and the near-dogmatism of the archly sleek Kompakt synthesizer sound dominate. But much like 60's beat combos and 70's hard-boiled funk acts, it's within the stringent constraints of genre that some of the tuffest grooves emerge. Mainly due to the fact that it's only a certain sheen that's really required from a Kompakt jam: a sense of proportion between the constituent parts of the tune. A sense, which, over the course of Kompakt Total 7's 24 discrete dance numbers, emerges as nothing more than an understanding of how a lack of that balance is precisely what makes house records usually sound dated six months after they're pressed.
Of course, not everything across these two generous discs is pure genius or redefines the Kompakt sound, there is relatively rote fare such as the somewhat less-than-stirring desert-techno from Mikkel Metal, Jonas Bering, and Kontrast, and the usual circa-1993 trance (lovely enough, but a bit worn) of tracks by Superpitcher and Reinhard Voigt. But littered across the package are enough gems to make the asking price seem paltry. And the secret weapon of Kompakt's stable—the aforementioned sense of proportion—means there's nothing here that's flat-out embarrassing.
Standouts on Disc One include the shuffling hypnotism of Gui Boratto's organ drone-led "Arquipelago," Thomas/Mayer's nearly Metro Area-esque disco love-in "Sweet Harmony," and the odd little dubby quirks of DJ Koze's "Getreide-Phunk." Disc Two ups the ante considerably, kicking off in anthemic fashion with the Supermayer remix of Gui Boratto's "Like You," followed by stellar cuts from Wassermann and Steadycam, drifting into near-electro territory for Hug's throbbing "Happy Monster," then returning to more familiar (but delightful) chomping (or stomping) grounds on Thomas Fehlmann's crunchy tech-popcorn "Saft" and Oxia's restrained-but-blissful "Domino."
So, ultimately, just another great excuse to spend 20 bucks and start your own backyard rave—and just another example of how consistency can actually be kind of thrilling.