Various Artists Total 11 Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Kompakt’s latest compilation is a great gateway into the Cologne label.

Adam Kennedy 2010

Continuing to answer the poser “When is a techno label not a techno label?”, Cologne-based imprint Kompakt has garnered a deserved reputation as electronic innovators putting a humanistic face to the minimal-leaning side of the genre and beyond.

This two-CD compilation continues an annual series stretching back to 1999, offering a route into realms often impenetrable to outsiders in other hands. But while constant evolution characterises the German stable, Total 11 doesn’t need to redefine Kompakt as such, because its eclectic roster have busied themselves doing exactly that over the past 12 months.

For dabblers, the most immediately recognisable conspirators – to listeners in the indie-rock/techno crossover of music’s great notional Venn diagram, at least – are pigeonhole-detonating Swedish soloist The Field and bleary-eyed digi-psych London twosome Walls. Both are present and correct here, respectively with Caroline and a refix of Hang Four by related production team Allez-Allez. Yet they’re an entry point, rather than the pinnacle.

Matias Aguayo lends the first genuine peak, the Chilean’s Rollerskate (Sanfuentes & Thunders version) polished into a funky hip-mover fit to please LCD Soundsystem disciples. That’s immediately superseded by Superpitcher’s Lapdance, its sleazily insistent nature rendering N*E*R*D’s previous widely dispensed wisdom on the subject comparatively wholesome.

Three of the label’s founding fathers – Wolfgang Voigt, Michael Mayer and Jürgen Paape – weigh in, the latter shading the big guns battle with Mensch Und Maschine. Rolling down a fittingly mechanised Autobahn, it whirs and mercilessly advances like a sentient car production line.

Not everything comes off, though. In his Sog guise, Voigt is one of several guilty of failing to journey sufficiently far from stereotypical territory fit to discourage techno neophytes, a barely-mutating loop eating its own tail atop a few sparse melodies for five minutes.

As a gateway into Kompakt, then, you won’t need to pan long to uncover enticing nuggets, even if this isn’t a perfect goldmine. Any England football supporters within earshot might sense a touch of Teutonic one-upmanship as disc two eases to a halt with The Three Lions’ You’ll Win Again. But Total 11 is proof that Germany’s superiority stretches beyond soccer.

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