VA: Total 9

Summer's the ideal time for Kompakt's annual Total installment and, believe it or not, we're up to nine now; even more incredibly, the label's going on fifteen years old. As usual, the set's a hefty two-disc affair so there's no shortage of breezy dance-pop tunes for listeners to sink their teeth into and, also as usual, the collection mixes associates of long-standing (Jürgen Paape, Jörg Burger, Thomas Fehlmann) with newer recruits.

There's much to like about this year's model. Judging from the royally stoked funk-house jam Justus Köhncke cooks up in the opening “Thanks For The Add,” he and Strategy (Paul Dickow) would make perfect candidates for a split 12-inch. Köhncke's ultra-grooving six minutes are a perfect way to set the mood for the journey ahead. Elsewhere, vocalist Alison Degbe helps nudge Jürgen Paape's space-stomp “Come Into My Life” in a deep house direction, plus there's a funk jam from Supermayer (“Hey Hotties!”), exotic trance-techno from Partial Arts (“Telescope”), and kaleidoscopic dub-techno from Thomas Fehlmann (“With Wings”).

Disc two's enlivened by the smooth glide of Dubshape's incandescent house pulsations (“Droplets (Early Night Mix)”), Robert Babicz's schaffel raver (“Don't Look Back”), and Nicolas Stefan's entrancing electro-house pop (“Time Is Over”). Listeners taken by Gui Boratto's Chromophobia won't be surprised to discover his “Annuciacion” is a Total 9 highlight. Much like his album's material, the track's relentless drive rides a surging groove like a surfer managing to barely stay ahead of the massive wave cresting behind her. Kaito's “Everlasting Dub” likewise leaves a lasting impression when it thunderously gallops for a blazing ten minutes and anyone thinking Total 9 will end with a whimper need only stick around for Maxime Dangles' dive-bombing throbber “Tulipa” to learn otherwise.

If there's one thing that stands out more than any other, it's the diversity of the collection. Though most are first and foremost pop “songs” as opposed to “tracks,” no one “Kompakt” style dominates but instead there's a multitude, everything from “Zouzou,” DJ Koze's steamy blend of jazz-fusion and tribal-house, to the chanted Latin-funk rumble of Matias Aguayo's “Minimal” (it's also worth noting that there's next to no straight-up techno or schaffel). Another thing that stands out is how much other artists' sounds have seemingly seeped into the contributors' own material: it's hard not to think, for instance, of Daft Punk when the vocodered robo-funk of Superpitcher vs. The Congosound's “Say I'm Your Number One (Superpitcher Remix)” rolls into view, and the swirling psychedelia of Burger / Voigt's “Wand Aus Klang” doesn't sound radically dissimilar from Sigur Rós, especially when the vocals kick in. And at set's end, Freiland's “Geduld” serves up jaunty plinkety piano pop that sounds more like an escapee from the Oblique Strategist's Here Come the Warm Jets or Taking Tiger Mountain than your standard Kompakt outing.

Total 9's a solid installment for sure but it must also be said that, though it's all professionally executed and every note is in exactly the right place, nothing of towering consequence stands out from the crowd, and there's no head-spinning anthem that one returns to repeatedly, awestruck by its brilliance.

October 2008