An annual late summer snapshot, timed for when the festivals wind down and the nights begin to seem more finite, Kompakt's Total series reaches edition 12 this year with a decision to condense the sprawl. For the first time since the fifth in '03, Total has been trimmed from two discs to one. Necessarily, this renewed focus allows the brand to center on the names and aliases that have allowed the Cologne benchmark to perpetuate across the years in the first place. Besides contributions from label heads and aesthetic standard-bearers Michael Mayer and Wolfgang Voigt, Total 12 marks a return from Jorg Burger's project The Modernist, Voigt's younger brother Reinhard and a new alias for Burger/Voigt (Mohn), alongside contributions from longtime associates like Superpitcher, Matias Aguayo and Gui Boratto.
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.
Buy Various Artists - Total 12 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Total 12 01. Kolombo - Waiting For
02. WhoMadeWho - Every Minute Alone (Michael Mayer Remix)
03. Gus Gus - Over (Life and Death Remix)
04. Superpitcher - White Lightning
05. Michael Mayer - That's What I Told Sanchez
06. Gui Boratto - The Drill
07. Matias Aguayo - I Don't Smoke
08. The Modernist - Remodernist
09. Coma - Playground Altona
10. Wolfgang Voigt - Frieden
11. Reinhard Voigt - Guide My Hands
12. Mohn - Tiefental
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