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Wednesday
Dec152010

V/A - Kompakt Total 11

V/A - TOTAL 11

Kompakt

Label compilations are among the most difficult albums to review, as there’s generally little connecting tracks to one another aside from the temporal coincidence of their release.  At the same time, a compilation can give a good sense for what’s going on in a given musical genre, where things are at and where they’re headed.  For years, Kompakt’s series of compilations have done just that, reflecting as well as pushing the boundaries of what’s considered hip and trendy in the various corners of the minimal techno and house universe.  If early releases in the series were like bright yellow suns, though, Kompakt Total 11 is like its bloated, red giant successor: still magnificent in some ways, but a shell of its former self.

Certainly Kompakt Total 11 has its high points.  Jatoma’s “Helix” reflects what the label has always done well; it’s playful, fun and sits comfortably on the border between techno and house.  Ada and Heiko Voss’ “Walk Over” has a nice pop to it, and some good use of sample collage effects, buoyed by a steady, snappy, percussive chord progression. Michael MayerI particularly liked the slick, loungey cool of Justus Kohncke’s “I Wouldn’t Want to Be like You,” with its smooth bass and even smoother, Matthew Dear-like vocals.  Jonas Bering’s “For Yves” is downright fun.  

The best moments though, come when its artists completely flip the script, and provide throwbacks to simpler, less cynical times.  Maxime Dangles successfully reinterprets Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder on “Dysnoptik.”  “Eins Fine Grind” by It’s a Fine Line (aka Tim Paris and Ivan Smagghe) is a trippy take on rockabilly.  The Field’s “Caroline” reminds you the days when electronic music lacked its internal borders, rules and norms, and genuine creatives like Dr. Alex Patterson had free reign to just make what they felt like making.  Though more conventional deep house, Michael Mayer interjects a bit of refreshingly retro choral synths into the smoother-than-thou “Picanha Frenesi.” But it’s the marriage of Carl Craig and Vangelis within Gui Barrato’s “Plie” that really takes the cake: soaring synths, expansive, reverb-laden drums complement an infectious melody.  

The other half, unfortunately, ranges from cliché to frustrating. Jurgen Paape’s “Mensche und Machine” is clubby minimal of the most overdone variety, a skinny jeans version of the Mediterranean yacht party. Robag Whurme, who I normally like, offers only the unusually bland, cookie-cutter “Rollmoff.”  Those tracks, however, suffer only from having been done before, albeit hundreds or even thousands of times.  Much worse are DJ Koze’s “Der Wallach” and Mugwump’s “Losing Game,” noble attempts at creativity but, in the end, more grating than anything else. Superpitcher, on “Lapdance,” tries to channel LCD Soundsystem’s off-hand, hipster sensuality.  But whereas LCD Soundsystem deftly navigates the line between cool and annoying, “Lapdance,” with its supremely misguided vocals, falls squarely on the wrong side of the equation.  This isn’t to take away from what any of these artists have achieved elsewhere; it’s simply that what’s on display here is not a good example of their talents.  

When push comes to shove, Total 11 is a good bet for avid fans of minimal techno and house, but of middling use to those seeking out new directions in electronic music.  The good stuff is good, the mediocre stuff mediocre, and the bad downright bad.  For better or for worse, there’s plenty of all three.

Gustav Brown

 

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