It will come as no surprise to learn that Kompakt co-owner Wolfgang Voigt cites Andy Warhol as one of his major influences. The ubiquitous Pop Art polka dots and highly influential sound which crosses disco and deep house with mainstream sensibilities to create playful, off-key sculptures, is summed up in their annual Total retrospectives. In recent years, however, there's been some distance between the lofty reputation that Kompakt have, and the popular opinion of the Total series: if the label's brilliant, surely their yearly comps should be equally brilliant. Right? Alas, no. Good. But not great.
The scene for this year's offering is set by Justus Köhncke's "No Thanks for the Add" with a flurry of flutes and a rat-tat-tat of marching drums—as with a number of the tracks on this CD, it seems to have been created as listening music first, dancing music second. It's characterised by organic sounds and very human sound collages; Thomas Fehlmann's "With Wings," although four-to-the-floor, has more in common with armchair music from the likes of Four Tet or Vector Lovers than today's relatively clean house or techno, and Jörg Burger's unlikely reinterpretation of an early '90s hoover rave tune is nigh on indie music with a house beat. There's more upbeat stuff here as well though: Jürgen Paape's tracks were a highlight of Total 8, and he shows similar talent for creating shimmering late-night moods this year with "Come Into My Life" which rolls along around a riff imbued with the kind of groove that the Bee Gees would be proud of. Kompakt's pop influences pop up again on Superpitcher's cheerful "Disko (You Don't Care)," pushing it just a little too far this time and ending up with a hint of cheese. That said, it's pretty much alone amongst its peers which balance feeling with credibility in the way that's made the imprint.
Disc two, on the other hand, is all about night driving. Epic, melancholy pads surge throughout, providing soulful, heads down material that's more suited to clubs. Tracks such as Gui Boratto's excellent "Anunciatión" alternately reminisce and plug you hypnotically into a collective dancefloor consciousness. Once or twice this threatens to become dangerously repetitive, but every time it veers that way it's inevitably saved by something like Kaito's "Everlasting Dub," in my opinion the highlight of the album. It sounds like a cathedral: a relentless rhythm chugs along progressively as a psychedelic universe of sound is created by dubby synth lines winding their way around it, swelling, climaxing, and then relaxing before evaporating into a wisp of white noise.
This brings us to the main point that I think can be made about the shortcomings of the Total series. A lot of the individual tracks are nothing short of stunning. However, as we all know, a great album is much more than just a collection of tracks, and it would seem that the variety of Kompakt's output gives them the chance to compile an album that would work just as stunningly as a whole; one which tells a story from start to finish. They still haven't transcended that barrier (although they're close) in the way that would reflect their undeniable creative talent and image. Whether their yearly reviews should or not is moot, really, because it's expected. I don't know how many singles they have released in the last year, but perhaps it's not really enough to create such an album across two discs—sacrifice the lesser tracks, arrange carefully, and the Totals will become works of art that will deserve to be the biography of one of electronic music's brightest beacons.
Buy Various Artists - Total 9 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Total 9CD1
01. Justus Köhncke – Thanks For The Add
02. DJ Koze – Zouzou
03. Superpitcher Vs. The Congosound – Say I'm Your Number One (Superpitcher Remix)
04. Jürgen Paape Feat. Alison Degbe – Come Into My Life
05. Matias Aguayo – Minimal
06. Supermayer – Hey Hotties!
07. Jörg Burger – Modernism Begins At Home
08. Superpitcher – Disko (You Don't Care)
09. Partial Arts – Telescope
10. Thomas Fehlmann – With Wings
11. Burger / Voigt – Wand Aus Klang
01. Dubshape – Droplets (Early Night Mix)
02. Jonas Bering – I Can't Stop Loving You
03. Robert Babicz – Don't Look Back
04. Nightguy – Pretty Face
05. Gui Boratto – Annuciacion
06. The Rice Twins – The Signifier
07. Nicolas Stefan – Time Is Over
08. Kaito – Everlasting Dub
09. Scsi-9 – Another Day Acid
10. Maxime Dangles – Tulipa
11. Freiland - Geduld
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