Total 5 (Kompakt)
By Anil Bawa
1. I've got a journo round my house, NME / Amazon contributor and he's listening to Total 5 like a month or two before release, and he says - "the problem is it's all so faceless". I stop a minute, take in a bar of Superpitcher, peek out of a pile of CD-R's, look him in the eye and say - "That's kind of the point".
2. It's forever the late-eighties / early-nineties at the Kompakt offices, and the running themes are nostalgia and Ecstasy. Often a nostalgia for Ecstasy, the drug or the sensation, or both, soluble as they are. the Kompakt aesthetic could be described as sophisticated minimal camp, illustrated in its sleeve design (recurring Hirstian spots), its web site design, its selectively referential sound palette and its tongue-in-chic humour (see the Schaffelfieber comp).
3. Compilations are never 'great' records, or at least, that's the common consensus: the great work is always a product of the individual, the auteur.
4. 'Pop Ambient', 'Total', 'Studio 1' & 'Speicher', the series, are Kompakt's signature releases. Little catalogues of brilliance, progress reports stamped with the initials 'v/a'. Upper class vinyl fetishism. Progressive records produced by veterans, reeling in a new generation of techno enthusiasts - striking a chord with everyone from indie shoegazers and trendy trash truckers, to vinyl collectors and house aficionados. Sentimental, ironic, experimental, take it where you will.
5. Kompakt have a blanket hold on the techno spectrum. they cultivate a lab-like atmosphere; paring back the sound methodically - to banging rhythms, or dry, arid shuffles, evaporating or distilling the beat. Hitting the extremes without the microtonal edge of 12k or Force Lab. Still firmly with the spirit of clubland in the mix.
6. Kompakt is a collective in the purest sense of the word. the tone of a particular compilation is set by the concept / thread / sub-label it belongs to. It is closely influenced by 70's minimalists like De Witt and Judd, in that it is obsessed with series, methodical investigation, and their aesthetic qualities.
7. The 'Total' series - it's pop. no. It's dance, minimal Techno. Whatever. Jonas Bering, Superpitcher, Spieth, a Burger / Voigt mix and Mayer provide the highlights. But it really doesn't matter, just pop it in and do it start to finish, it works.
8. Mikkel Metal spills a robotnik saw-synth line and tames it. A soft suicide pulse, rendered limp and harmless, bouncing along. Spieth's elastic rhythms have a tensile strength and potential energy a material scientist would jizz over. Phong Sui's wistful pop 'Wintermute' remix is a finished story, a glance over the shoulder. This really is intelligent dance music. less beat science than body science.
9. Marrying amphetamine comedown with the new-age cliche of ambient music, the 'Pop Ambient' series can be seen as camp commentary coating a nostalgia for the old Techno scene. Especially since the culture of Ecstasy lost its grip on the dance community. Swathes of blissed out sunrise synths, saturated melodies, clear Glockenspiel rings, all lead to an experience saccharine to the point of satyr.
10. Makes me think the words 'gush' and 'lush' and 'hush'.
11. Did I just write that out loud?
12. M.Mayer runs a vocal pun - "I am not a talker, I am a speaker, speaking to you" - throughout his muted rave bleeps and pulsating loops. The trope and its stripped backdrop is up there with his 'Hush hush baby' tune, a total highlight.
13. The Kompakt approach is invariably systematic, it's routine. There's a certain terror implicit in employing a 'system' in art: it goes against the idea of inspiration. Just check the opening scene of Tarkovsky's 'The Sacrifice'. Kompakt challenges those hi-art ideals in a manner similar to Hirst - without sacrificing the overall look or sound of a work, they employ scientific procedure in the face of abstraction, whilst bizarrely pulling off breathtakingly intuitive work.
14. I hate lists. Like staying home and trying to be Paul Morley. Now if I just adjust my cravat...
15. Cut back to the NME / Amazon journo - we went on to talk about label loyalty in the realm of Dance and Electronic music, and the subversion of 'Rock ego' in the case of artists' identities. I'm not sure he got my point, but Kompakt is a good an illustration as you'll get.
16. Liebe Deine Musik.