For those who continue to follow the series, fans will discover few surprises aboard. Total 12 is streaked with the kind of starblind mesmerism and weak-kneed ambient techno the label's been drafting since its inception. Indeed, it's this very consistency and shrewd sense of sonic tailoring that's been often written off as predictability over the last few years, as the label's struggled to maintain relevance in an electronic music world which seems to turn faster with every passing season. But those who remain loyal will be certain to find several gems to recline to as the summer wears thin and cool. Michael Mayer defuses WhoMadeWho's "Every Minute Alone" into a spacious, melancholic bit of late isolationist electronica, while with those dead-light synth pulses and heat-sticky melodic undertones, Superpitcher's excellent "White Lightning" is punchier than almost anything on last year's Kilimanjaro.
Elsewhere, more recent signings Coma build "Playground Altona" around the duo's typical melodic trance structures and tumbling bell tones set adrift over simple, unadorned rhythm. Wolfgang Voigt himself turns in one of the set's more hypnotic pieces in "Frieden"; an opera singer sampled into a whirring underwater symphony of gentle pulse tones and more of Voigt's patient classical loops, are stitched here into a revolving lullaby. Burger's resuscitation of The Modernist yields "Remodernist," a neon touch of pumping techno that sounds like it dates back to the early '00s.
As with any brand-oriented annual of this kind though, there are bound to be outliers in quality. Here, they come from unexpected places. Matias Aguayo's slacker cumbia-techno shtick is beginning to stale; "I Don't Smoke," with its stumble drunk bass and organic tribal drum push, seems like an in-studio gag put to tape, as though he and Rebolledo heard the titular phrase and decided it'd fit another of their dance music inversions. Instead, it's just a jaunty irritant. Gui Boratto's "Drill," likewise, finds the Brazilian producer seemingly still in water-treading mode, with gangrenous synth warbles atop a full-room grind. It seems to avoid contact though, bodyless, content to swirl about instead of fully submerging you in its thick froth. As with much of his forthcoming third record, it's darker and more caustic than much of his past material, but the changes seem clumsy and mal-developed, like he's just retreated into adolescent moodiness instead of maturing. Overall, however, the two are minor missteps on an otherwise rather sturdy collection by these veteran daydreamers.