The annual comps keep coming from Cologne’s Kompakt colossus, arguably to diminishing returns, with the techno beast they helped reinvigorate earlier this decade building ever stronger outposts elsewhere. But if these overlong, scattershot celebrations of Kompakt output smack of arrogance, they also remind us of the confidence with which the label has endowed the European electronic movement. This is clear in the way the music avoids the play-it-safe herd mentality afflicting British dance music: the daft electro-pop of Rex The Dog sitting happily alongside the elegantly devastating techno of DJ Koze. It's a mile-wide gulf in terms of quality, but it gives the label a pleasing variety. You could hardly accuse Kompakt of the preset conformity of the worst minimal tail-chasers.
'Total 8' is inevitably a hit and miss affair, CD2 yielding most of the hit matter in a stripped-down club style. Kompakt co-founder Jürgen Paape brings classic stalking and stabbing Cologne techno restraint to 'Nord', while Robert Babicz’ remix of label star Gui Boratto’s 'Mr Decay' bounces with the kind of irrepressibly groovy micro-twitches you’d expect from Spanish producers such as Alex Under. Geiger’s shape-shifting reinterpretation of Supermayer’s 'Two Of Us' is included as a foretaste of Michael Mayer and Superpitcher’s soon to be released album, while Ewan Pearson and Al Usher’s 'Trauermusik' release from the start of the year proves they have a knack for merging the European sound with elements of deep house and disco. It's a little too polite maybe, but it's perfectly formed for Sunday afternoon sets.
Oddly, despite the success of 'From Here We Go Sublime', The Field is absent, the label’s acclaimed shift into gently sombre emotional terrain represented instead by The Rice Twins. 'Can I Say' already pegs them as potential crossover darlings with its elegant rethink of trance’s cruder emotional touch points. Amongst the record’s less inspiring moments, Aril Brikha’s overrated tribute to Berlin’s great techno shrine 'Berghain' is wheeled out again, but a more fitting tribute to the drama and dynamics of that legendary dancefloor comes from DJ Koze’s wonderful 'Mariposa'. Building through quietly intense swathes of noise that merge the functional drone of machines with the unexpected melodies they might sing as they work, it comes on like a symphony of engines learning to take their first graceful flight. Hear it in Berghain and you might fall over.
'Total 8' would certainly be a better record if it trimmed the flab, but eight years in, the format looks set in stone. We’ll permit the odd excess if it secures a more daring approach to the label’s future, releasing records in a world in which ‘minimal’ finds itself at home in sets played by DJs as diverse as Diplo and Hot Chip. With the Supermayer album ready to bend the rules a little more in coming weeks, the label’s next steps suggest they won’t be treading water anytime soon.
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Tracklist: Various Artists - Total 8Disc 1:
1 Burger/Voigt - Man Lebt Nur Zweimal
2 Jürgen Paape - We Love (Jürgen Paape / Gesang: Boy Schaufler)
3 Superpitcher - Rainy Nights in Georgia
4 Partial Arts - Trauermusik
5 Rex the Dog - Everyday
6 Thomas/Mayer - Überwiesen
7 Jörg Burger - Polyform 1
8 Supermayer - Two of Us (Geiger Mix)
9 Steadycam - In the Moog for Love
10 Nightcats - Inside
11 The Rice Twins - Can I Say
1 Hervé AK - The Closer
2 DJ Koze - Mariposa
3 Reinhard Voigt - Follow the DJ
4 Jürgen Paape - Nord
5 Echo Club - Falter
6 Aril Brikha - Berghain
7 Gui Boratto - Mr Decay (Robert Babicz Disco Universe)
8 Justus Köhncke - Pickpockets
9 Broke - Coladancer
10 Schaeben & Voss [ft. Schad Privat] - Cold Wind
11 Oxia - Not Sure