It's the dull stream of emotive minimal/dub/techno that grew out of the debt-ridden carcass of Force Tracks and infected and inhabited a part of the Kompakt imagination for a long time. It’s music like this that has people reaching for descriptions likening Kompakt to the 'Ikea of techno': nice, useful music that's also fairly dull and insipid (almost intentionally so). Around about the high nineties release mark, it seemed as if that was just about all Kompakt were capable of – the nurturing of its sublabels seemed to be a cry for help after the all time low of 'Here Comes Love'. They sounded like they'd given up, so I did too. But since then, the label and its artists have revived and redeemed themselves and gone on producing decent records, shifting paradigms and assembling furniture. Koze's album was good, and Matias Aguayo's was outstanding. Mikkel Metal’s was okay too. Several of the recent twelve inches have been worth a listen. You might say Kompakt are back on track.
So then, why? 'The Line of Nine' is a throwback, a regression to that time (not so long ago) of less ideas, less songwriting, less personality. In 2000, we were still learning our machines. Less was more because less was moving, less was the beginning of what was just beginning to be possible. In 2006, less is... less. Less is a bore.
The most talented new generation producers (and those who’ve grown out of their adolescence in the last) have crafted an instantly recognisable sound signature – you'd hardly mistake Alex Smoke, Isolée, Lawrence, Ada, Audion, Mathew Jonson, Lawrence or Luciano for anyone else. Love or loathe their music, they are uniquely self-generated identities, their music is their own and it shines.
'The Line of Nine' is not distinctly anything but old dishwater, but not even deep enough to drown in. It meanders through the same shopworn formulas track after track, tired line after tired line. You can still hear a shade of the sprawling atmosphere of their excellent 'music for currydoors', but barely. At least 'Senorita Tristeza' has some personality, with its 'spooky', 'folky' atmosphere - most of the other tracks not so much blend as bland into one another. Usually it takes a few years for a release to prove resilient or redundant, but here we've got something been and gone and done to death presented as a 'new release'. It's a sign of the times – one 'generation' of techno is born, grows and dies within the space of five years. There's a sample that Donnacha Costello uses in his live sets, something like: 'I try to approach each thing without following the pattern that I made with the other one.' Maxim, Anton? Listen and learn.