Various Artists: Total 7
Various Artists: Total 7
Work at the same thing for long enough and youíre bound to get good at it. True, such longevity has its perils, usually of the "Oh, theyíre played out now--I liked them better when they started out" variety. This is especially true in the world of techno, where micro-genres overturn themselves by the quarter. Take the heaviest-duty names in the German techno biz. Perlon and Kompakt are a pair of labels headquartered in Cologne; both have been around for about a decade, and each has an instantly recognizable "sound." In broad terms, the former is smooth and gliding, the latter clicking and popping. And in 1999, both released the first volume of their respective compilation series, Superlongevity and Total, which track the labelsí latest doings and sneak preview their next, relatively, big things.
Seven years later, Perlon is up to the fourth volume of its semi-self-titled series--thatís "suPERLONgevity"--and if its aesthetic has budged an inch in that time youíd have to be a fanatic to notice. Actually, fanaticism is the mode that best serves Four: You either find the constantly mutating plops, brrrrrs, glugs, choomps, and shrumps arrayed over these 16 cutsí smeared bass lines and imperturbable 4/4 kick drums involving or dull. Top volume and/or good headphones are key. It helps, too, that Perlonís beats tend to have more bounce to them than the usual even-tempo thud that anchors even some of the sharpest techno. If the labelís bottom end isnít exactly polyrhythmic, the interactions between each trackís individual parts map out something pretty complex.
That isnít to say Four is unapproachable. In fact, the two discs get richer as they go. Lucianoís "Blake Purple Frase" lives up to its titular color, with sub-bass tones that bruise more than bump. Melchior Productions Ltd.ís "In the Shadow" is droll and minimal, a still life of bright organ, high-hat skitter, and chirping 303 bass-synthesizer. Matt Johnís "Landing," by contrast, is positively maximal, its pert, insistent little low-end figure bouncing a random but utterly gorgeous group of noises over the sound field in not quite regular order. Narcotic Syntaxís "Raptorís Delight" could even be mistaken for electroclash, except that the track underneath the leering male vocal shifts a little too much for your average Fischerspooner fan.
Kompakt, which is up to its seventh Total collection, has never shied away from singers, though much of the time vocals have cropped up on its records more by default than design. In a sense, Total 7ís highlight is an anomaly: Gui Borattoís "Like You (Supermayer Remix) (Mix)" is as charged a track as any club producer has conjured this year, epic trance for people who hate glowsticks. But Kompakt has always been shameless about its anthemic qualities, and plenty of the new compilation qualifies for hands-aloft status without even resorting to lyrics. Try the wah-ing keyboard plonks and arcing synth programming of Justus Kohnckeís "Love and Dancing," or the pearlescent music-box chimes and scattered phonemes that move SCSI-9ís "When She Said Goodbye" forward. If Perlon winds you up, Kompakt aims for--and often achieves--the great release.