Extending back to 1997, Perlon cemented its reputation by developing one of the foundational templates for the minimalism that would dominate so much of house and techno music in the early to mid-'00s. In fact, other than the stern black canvas techno of Richie Hawtin's Minus or the puffier, more melodic Kompakt, perhaps no other label offered up as formidable a hit-to-miss ratio during the era as Zip and Markus Nikolai's Frankfurt stalwart. Besides the nuggets presented on the unmixed Superlongevity 3 and 4 comps and 12-inches by artists like STL, Luciano and Kalabrese, the label unveiled a series of formative full-lengths during the period from Ricardo Villalobos' The Au Harem D'Archimede and Ark's Caliente to Dandy Jack and the Junctions' Los Siete Castigos and, later, Melchior Productions' No Disco Future.
With the deep space atmospherics and intricate sound assembly of the era's minimalism giving way to heartier house and big-boned warehouse techno, however, there's an obvious temptation to wonder about the future of Perlon. Last year's full-lengths by Ark and Wareika—both quite good—barely imprinted on the dance music consciousness. Admittedly, it appears to be an aesthetic in severe popular decline (to which certain discogs bitching attests). And yet for those of us who've always nourished a love for the restrained textures of the period, the word that Perlon would finally return with its first compilation since 2006's fourth edition in the Superlongevity series was most welcome.
Unlike the last two editions, the CD version of Superlongevity 5 is mixed by label head Zip, who deftly melds tracks from long-time associates like Baby Ford, Matt John and Thomas Melchior with tag-team efforts by Half Hawaii (Bruno Pronsato and Sammy Dee), Pantytec (Zip and Sammy Dee) and Narcotic Syntax (Zip, Markus Nicolai, Uwe Giegler and James Dean Brown). Much like Michael Mayer, though, with perhaps a bit more overlapping, Zip's mixing emphasizes the tracks as stand-alone productions rather than segues within a greater body. The result is two discs assembling twenty-eight exclusive tracks of the label's heady percolations, and a hit-to-miss ratio in line with the label's heyday.
The first disc warms its limbs with slow-motion burbles from Baby Ford and Margaret Dygas, but really begins to churn with the jacking house of Detroit's Daniel Bell's aptly titled "Deep Down." STL's excellent "Lost Somewhere" detours into unmapped terrain—centered around a whirling melody of soft white noise—while Matthew Dear retreats to his Jabberjaw guise for the tumbling bass and delirious vocal shards of "Pop Bottle." Elsewhere, Mara Trax's "Sticky Fingers" founds its spider-legged synth melody around funky Latin percussion, while Markus Nicolai's "The Clock Staring at Me" is more restrained, with an old-fashioned trap kit rattle grounding Stephanie D. Chico's freeform vocalizing. As the disc winds towards its end, Zip offers one of the set's absolute stunners in the deep house twinkle of Cassy's "Magnificent Cat Won't Do," where soft pads cushion the edges of her sultry near-whispers.
If the second disc isn't as pleasure-filled from end to end, it's still a capable reminder of just how much talent Perlon's always stabled. Zip doesn't really limber up this time around: it's straight into the bewitched sub-bass and ghostly blur of Shackleton's "Paper Throne." After the loopy blips of Villalobos' unsatisfying "Guaguay," Morane—Markus Nicolai and Theo Krieger—turn in the frenetic horns and quickened bass of jumpy party-starter "Kalumping a Kalinko." The track begins the disc's warmest and most inviting sequence, sifting into the greasy hobo funk of Kalabrese's "The 2010 Kitchen Session," —perhaps the entire comp's highlight—the strident, guitar-driven pseudohouse of Narcotic Syntax's "Mayaku Shintakusu" and the creak-in-the-night techno of Dandy Jack's "Show You My Tent."
Though things chill off from that peak with eerier standouts by Stefan Goldmann, Fumiya Tanaka and Dimbiman, it's a stirring run capable of rekindling the love of those who've wandered away from Perlon. A lot of ground has passed beneath us since the last edition, but Superlongevity 5 ain't just for nostalgia hounds or diehards. If there's no evidence the label has any plans of shifting identities, it's also immediately clear their personality has lost little of its vibrancy and command.
Buy Various Artists - Superlongevity 5 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Superlongevity 5CD 1
01. Baby Ford - Harshmaro
02. Margaret Dygas - We're Not the Same
03. Dimbiman - SPF30
04. Fumiya Tanaka - Sorry Cucumber
05. Melchior Productions Ltd - Vagabundo Nao
06. Sonja Moonear - Desert Queens
07. Tobias - She
08. STL - Lost Somwhere
09. Matt John - The Tapedeckers
10. Jabber Jaw - Pop Bottle
11. Dan Bell - Deep Down
12. Dandy Jack - Show Me Your Tent
13. Shackleton - Paper Throne
14. Ricardo Villalobos - Guaguay
01. Kalabrese - The 2010 Kitchen Session
02. Morane - Kalumpung A Kalimku
03. Stefen Goldmann - Les Augures
04. Narcotic Syntax - Mayaku Shintakusu
05. Audio Werner - Couched
06. Mara Trax - Sticky Fingers
07. San Proper - Lady Cop
08. Soulphiction - Circulate
09. Half Hawaii - Bring Back the Love
10. Sammy Dee - Lirum Larum
11. Pantytec - Zwolvis
12. Cassy - Magnificent Cat Won't Do
13. Markus Nikolai - The Clock Staring At Me
14. Portable - Keep On
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