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On your first listen to Total 8 it feels like Kompakt is making a statement: Our artists are moving past a strict minimal framework. This is certainly the truth. The 2007 installment of the Cologne label’s annual series -- which highlights their past year with new and favorite tracks and artists -- is a fun ride across the broad landscape of what falls under "minimal techno." Several of the producers on this two-disc set may have been taking notes from Gui Boratto, as many of the songs tend towards a similar not-quite-trance-but-not-quite-pop aesthetic that permeated Boratto’s Chromophobia. Also of note is the liberating use of the low end here. So much of Kompakt’s past output has been focused on the clicks and pops, and the handclaps and the hi-hats, whereas this collection fully embraces the beauty of bass (although, not necessarily in the bass line), without overdoing it in the way that makes most commercial techno so difficult to listen to. Steadycam's cleverly titled "In the Moog for Love" is a prime example of this, not only for its great, deep Moog pulses, but also because of the layers of strange, unidentifiable sounds which give the track so much depth -- you'd think you were listening to it underwater.
It should also be noted that some of the producers on Total 8 seem to have made a real effort to include some "challenging" aesthetics, however, the songs are far from difficult to listen to. DJ Koze's "Mariposa" may be the one exception, as it sounds at times like a piece of paper stuck in a fan, along with a high-pitched whine of a car engine repeatedly failing to turn over. Other cuts, like Burger/Voigt's album opener "Man Lebt Nur Zweimal," are totally successful in the experimentation vein, this track in particular having a strange yet fun spaghetti western techno feel (you’ll understand once you hear it). It should really come as no surprise that Total 8 documents a year of evolution for one of techno music’s most forward-thinking labels. Nonetheless, the artists and tracks on this comp are undeniably “Kompakt,” the selection being one of the strongest in the series while still offering a broader spectrum of sounds and styles than heard on previous Totals. Recommended.
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Now available in our download store! In a blind taste test, you wouldn't be able to peg Thomas Fehlmann's Honigpumpe (Honeypump) as a Kompakt release. You'd probably just say something like, "Oh, this is good. What is it?" Maybe some of you would guess it was Fehlmann, but more likely you would say, "This sounds like Fehlmann, but it isn't, right?" I think you get the idea. No one "cures" layers of melody as skillfully as he does. In his hands, the synthetic and the natural weave together and become one.
This album is most distinct for its intensely customized sound palette and a heavily ethereal atmosphere that has a unique force to it. At times, bass kicks are warm pinpoint blips and at other times, bass kick duties are taken up by ambient currents. Beautiful, multi-dimensional, atmospheric melody reigns throughout. On top of that, a consistent thoughtfulness keeps things from ever becoming obvious; nothing goes on too long. Every track wraps the listener in yet another inventive environment of sound, ends, then moves on to the next song. It's also worth mentioning that this is not just another Orb release. It's definitely in the lineage of Orb, but this album has its own distinct vibe and character, namely by way of its shrouded complexity, yet it seems so beautifully simple at the same time. An excellent record through and through.