VA: Total 7

Another summer, another Total installment from the Cologne mothership. Like last year's model, the 2006 incarnation is a double-disc, 145-minute affair which, also like last year, prompts the predictable but unavoidable query as to whether the single or dual engine models perform better. Time was when a Total collection weighed in at a svelte 12-track maximum but those days appear to be over. True to form, the seventh compiles tracks issued during the past year and sweetens the deal with a few exclusives.

Disc one opens in subtly grooving mode, with Kontrast's (Dirk Leyers and Justus Köhncke) “Grey Skies” easing the listener in gently before slyly morphing into a deliciously understated groover. Brazilian Gui Boratto alchemizes a simple three-note theme in “Arquipelago” into a sweetly broiling skip, and Michael Mayer and Tobias Thomas revisit Studio 54 with the handclapping, stringkissed disco splendour of “Sweet Harmony.” Kompakt mainstays Thomas Fehlmann (“Saft”), Superpitcher (“Tonite”), DJ Koze (“Getreidephunk”), and Justus Köhncke (“Love and Dancing”) contribute too though their tracks aren't the set's standouts, and some cuts register as par-for-the-course Kompakt, good but hardly groundbreaking (Steadycam's “Knock-Kneed,” Robert Babicz's “Sonntag”). The brothers Voigt appear in the second half, with Wolfgang's Wassermann cut “In Tyrannis 2006” a perversely ghoulish slice of German vocal-based clop-hop and Reinhard's “Tranceformation” a rousing hit of chiming techno. There's also Hug's gleefully sputtering “The Happy Monster” and Axel Bartsch's interstellar epic “Redlight.”

Predictably, a handful of tracks stands out. Wighnomy Brothers (Gabor Schablitzki and Sören Bodner) artfully clothe Triola's “Polarzipper” in all manner of near-subliminal noise and texture—clangs, ripples, slams, swishes—before a beautiful bridge imbues the track with melancholy drama, and the duo's own wide-screen “Wombat” grooves mightily. Lithe and fleet, The Field's “Over the Ice” streams hypnotically, its swooping vocal stutters and propulsive electro-shimmer reminiscent of Areal's Ada. Closing out the respective album sides, The Rice Twins (Jesper Engström , Valdemar Gezelius) drop a beatific trance-shuffle illuminated by sparkling melodies (“For Penny and Alexander”) while Jonas Bering's heavenly chiming “Melanie” brings the hefty collection to an enchanting end. Two contrasting cuts stand out most of all. Mayer and Superpitcher unite for a magnificent trance overhaul of Gui Boratto's “Like You” that shows Kompakt at its best. Hooks abound, from the “I just want to be like you / I don't care what people say” vocal to the tune's surging synths and handclapping shuffle. And in SCSI 9's entrancing “When She Said Goodbye,” android voices beckon to one another while a bubbly bass animates the piece and a tiny kalimba motif pierces the crystalline mass. Had Ulysses' voyage occurred in 2006, this is what the Sirens would have sounded like. Naturally, not everything rises to the level of these two pieces but they alone render Total 7 worthwhile listening.

September 2006