Apparently Kompakt took a sabbatical in 2013 from issuing a Total compilation, which might be one reason why the fourteenth installment is so generously stocked, with twenty-five tracks—many of them exclusives—spread across two CDs. Such plenitude could mean any number of things, two in particular: that tracks of varying quality have been included, resulting in a 158-minute product that would be more effective as a single CD featuring the best tracks, or that the label has outdone itself and assembled a collection of consistently superior material. Being able to draw upon releases from two years rather than just one certainly suggests that the release should be of high quality. Kompakt associates of long-standing appear, of course, but so too do new recruits, a move that continues a strategy established long ago whereby fresh faces are eased into the fold alongside veterans such as Michael Mayer, Thomas Fehlmann, The Modernist, and Jürgen Paape.
An incredible success story, the label, now an institution, has managed to achieved global success without losing its artistic soul, even if its earlier avant-garde tendencies have been largely smoothed over. Many of the compilation tracks perpetuate the club-tailored style Kompakt perfected long ago while also exemplifying a strong melodious character that enhances their accessibility and appeal. And to that end, most of the cuts are in the four- to six-minute range, with only a few edging into the eight-minute zone. Not surprisingly, the stylistic range is good, too, with the release featuring some cuts focused on the dancefloor (Blond:ish's “Wunderkammer,” Gunjah & Niconé's “Disko 90”) and others more pop-oriented (DJ Tennis's “The Outcast”) or atmospheric (Weval's delicate moodscape “Something”).After Dauwd and COMA respectively ease the listener in with the seductively melodic “Lydia” and funky “Atlantis,” Gui Boratto sweetens a deliciously swinging groove with strong vocal hooks on the swoonworthy “Take Control.” Among the memorable moments, “Delta” proves ear-catching in the way Superpitcher stretches the first syllable of the vocal sample into a piercing, single-pitched drone before revealing it to be the bluesy phrase “In the Mississippi River.” Elsewhere, Kölsch (featuring Gregor Schwellenbach) elevates the swinging pulse of “Cassiopeia” with strings, paired male-female vocalizing helps make DAMH's snappy electropop song “Black Night” jump out, and Voigt & Voigt's “Tischlein Deck Dich” rumbles like some greasy 1950s stomper. And with “This is What You Get When You Mess With Love,” GusGus shows itself to be one of the more gifted of the crew in the songwriting department. On the hard-grooving tip, there's Terranova's “Headache,” with singer Cath Coffey emoting over a punchy club pulse, and Maceo Plex's decadent flamethrower “Conjure Superstar.” Yes, some of the tracks are less strong than others (Dave DK's “Palmaille,” for example), but in this case abundance works in the release's favour. There's lots to choose from on Total 14, which allows each listener the opportunity to devise his/her own preferred playlist.