VA: Werkschau
Bpitch Control

BPitch Control's Werkschau (“Showcase”) compilation fills the electronic pop void left by the 2010 non-appearance of a Buzzin' Fly compilation and a similar kind of collection that once upon a time might have come from Morr Music. Make no mistake: Werkschau isn't instrumental electronica or ambient soundscaping but clubby electronic vocal pop with one eye focused on the dance floor and the other the radio. A culmination of the label's twelve-year existence, the release features BPitch Control associates of long-standing as well as new faces, and while a number of the contributors are, as expected, Berlin-based, many call other European countries as well as North and South America home. That all sounds promising enough, but while there's a generous amount of superb material on offer, there are also some less stunning tracks that could have been left out.

Let's start by highlighting the collection's best cuts. Cormac's “The Present,” its lyrics riffing on a lines borrowed from the film Notting Hill, digs into its lithe and snappy tech-house groove like a stalking lothario intent on seduction, if not entrapment. BPitch Control label head Ellen Allien effects her own seduction via “The Kiss,” a tight stomper rendered dizzy by its inclusion of loopy carnival organ melodies, while the pumping, hard-wired electro of “Harmony of the Spheres”  is so euphoric, one might have guessed it was another masterful creation by Allien as opposed to the Italian duo We Love. “Morning Maniacs,” the co-production by Kiki & Lenz, is a fabulous foray into deep house that makes it seem like the two have been collaborating their whole lives, and TimTim's delicious “How We Moove” shows that many of the producers here know their way around a melodic hook as much as they do their programming tools, and the idea of doubling TimTim's vocal with a female voice was a masterstroke that automatically lifts the poppy funk tune into the collection's upper tier. Though his piece might appear deceptively simple in structure, Paul Kalkbrenner exemplifies a masterful command of melodic form in his light-hearted tech-house stepper “Plätscher.” Being slotted in the last spot on a seventeen-track album is probably no one's first choice, but Telefon Tel Aviv nevertheless manages to render the album-closing electro-funk crooner “The Sky Is Black” memorable, with a little help from one-time Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie.

If there's a weakness to the collection, it's that the compilers could have been more ruthless and whittled its seventeen tracks (all previously unreleased) down to something like twelve; in doing so, the overall quality of the album would have been raised even higher, and with the comp closing in at eighty minutes twenty minutes could have been lost without listeners feeling shortchanged. My candidates for expulsion? Mr. Statik's undistinguished house jam “Sinphony,” for starters, and “Aiming For Destruction” from Dillon & Coma (Dominique Dillon de Byington and Kompakt act Coma), whose soulful melancholia, while pleasant enough, isn't at the level of the comp's best cuts. Jahcoozi's “Day In Day Out” situates us within a soulful trip-hop zone that feels more like Ninja Tune than BPitch Control, and the absence of memorable melodies in AGF/Delay's atmospheric vocal-laced dubscape “Most Beautiful Kill” and Sascha Funke's thumping techno instrumental “Hiddensee” is all the more conspicuous when heard alongside so many hook-filled tracks. It's not that such pieces aren't well-crafted because of course they are; it's that in this compilation context they sound secondary to the stronger contributions. Even so, there's much to like about the collection, notwithstanding its flaws.

February 2011