Album Review

Various Artists – “20 Jahre Kompakt: Kollektion 2” – [Kompakt]

PopeDope   12/2/2013   A Library


For twenty years Kompakt has been an influential driving force in the German minimal house and techno scenes. The label run by Wolfgang Voigt, Michael Mayer and Jurgen Paape decided to put out two double-disc compilations that champion some of their most respected releases over the last two decades. “20 Jahre Kompakt: Kollektion 2” marks the second installment of the celebratory release and it’s clear why Kompakt decided it was necessary to split this release over four discs; “Kollektion 2” comes across as much more toned down that its predecessor by taking the focus away from the dance floor and closer to the at-home listener.

Dance music at its heart is about going through crests and troughs of hedonism and redemption. In this dichotomy, “20 Jahre Kompakt: Kollektion 2” is easily the redemption side of the “20 Jahre Kompakt” series. Each disc balances between minimal trance and house with traces of acoustic elements outlining the backgrounds of its melodies. Kompakt is best known for seamlessly blending textures of pop, house, trance, disco, and techno with a certain amount of finesse that allows each genre to come out equally pronounced over the label’s distinct minimal style.

Disc one is a certain testament to that- from start to finish the track selection and arrangement are done such that the compilation becomes more than just a list of greatest hits: it’s a journey into the heart of one of electronic music’s finest labels. From the outset of Closer Musik’s “Maria” each track is thoughtful and beautiful but isolating with that essential redemptive quality that is the vision of Kompakt. “Grand Cru” turns the compilation toward a dark, pensive direction. The slow drive of its marching beat hypnotizes the listener until a dark duet starts between two characters that slowly fades out across the beat in a soulful reverberation. By the end of the first disc the label sweetly bathes the listener with the uplifting and tender, even loving melody of “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” waking them up from their beat induced hypnosis.

Disc two is the more beat-driven of the two discs, but unfortunately also much weaker. The vision of the tracklist doesn’t seem as focused. In focusing more on techno and italo-disco, the second disc comes across as monotone and uninteresting. It starts off strong with the Michael Mayer’s mix of “Yes Sir, I Can Hardcore,” but becomes progressively less enticing. The middle of this disc takes a serious dip, picking up briefly with “Irre” and “Lorely” but then quickly dropping back off without coming back. Track by track this release does have more good songs than bad, but it suffers from poor arrangement. Since the pieces don’t work together the whole, unfortunately, suffers.

For twenty years Kompakt has stuck to its guns and pushed forward with the same vision. Kompakt represents a certain idiosyncratic style of class, finesse, and maturity which has become a cornerstone of the German electronic music image. Dance music goes in and out of fads like no other kind of music, but it’s the tastemakers who stick to their guns who stick around. Kompakt has maintained its legendary standing without rising too far to the surface of popular dance culture though remaining an influential force behind it. “20 Jahre Kompakt: Kollektion 2,” is an excellent representation of the label, despite having a serious flaw on the arrangement of the second disc. Dance music aficionados and casual listeners alike will have a hard time not being drawn into this intoxicating compilation spanning twenty years of dance music history.

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