Loosening Up

Kompakt expands on its 100th release.

Almost a year ago, in these very pages, I called Cologne, Germany's Kompakt the best record label in the world. A shame that its 100th release celebration arrives in the midst of a slump (or downward slide, depending on how pessimistic you are). Kompakt 100 comes with a neat conceit—the label's artists remixing each other's classic tracks—that sometimes delivers nicely. Kaito blows away the torpor of Superpitcher's "Tomorrow." Justus Kohncke turns Freiland's "Frei" into fey, campy glam delivered in breathy broken English. Dettinger superimposes grainy photocopies of Closer Musik's "One, Two, Three (No Gravity)" over each other. And DJ Koze runs Reinhardt Voigt's "Zu Dicht Dran" through a filter marked "cartoon elephant."

But this is a flawed party, with too many mistakenly invited loafers and guys who just drone on. Fifty percent of Kompakt 100's problems stem from double-CD bloat; a single disc, shorn of some of the identikit techno and ambient tracks, could have been a very strong showcase. Compare it with label head Michael Mayer's Fabric 13 mix from last year: Drawn from a number of labels, including Kompakt, Fabric 13's tracks are all of a piece but also distinct and memorable, poised in klassic Kompakt fashion between the dance floor and headphones. Too much of 100 blurs into each other, splits the difference between tech and pop, and, for a dance label, some of the aromatherapy ambience skirts a wine bar quality that a Chicago house pioneer like Marshall Jefferson wouldn't even recognize as the same language. Still, when it remembers the forward drive and doesn't sacrifice hooks, Kompakt's might is still quite right.

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