Kompakt’s Total sampler series marches on, supplying fans of saturnine electronica with more of the good stuff. Total 12 isn’t flawless, but it serves its simple purpose of showing off the label’s roster, including its founders, and playing out like a seamless, dreamy mix tape. While previous compilations in this series stretched into double albums, the 12th one fits onto just one CD ... barely. With this stuff clocking in over 79 minutes, make sure your mood is tailored to the music. Not all dance parties are created equal, after all.
Based out of Cologne, Germany, Kompakt has the advantage of featuring its CEOs and their originals and/or remixes on these samplers. One particularly outstanding track is “Frieden” by the multiple cult of personality Wolfgang Voigt. As an operatic voice is gently sloshed against itself again and again, the song’s soft mattress eventually takes form with a deceptively-timed chord progression tucked way, way in the back of the mix. In come the simple keyboard melodies, not so much giving the song liftoff as pushing it into a steady glide. Label boss Michael Mayer, also a notable remixer and producer in his own right, takes the helm for two tracks. One is a remix of Whomadewho’s “Every Minute Alone,” taking the gentle poundings of the original and replacing it with a soft beat. Mayer’s other contribution is “That’s What I Told Sanchez”. I don’t know who was talking to this dude Sanchez or what was said, but the fairground sounds at the beginning and the harrowing moans for vocal samples about halfway through just add to the overall mystery.
Old standbys like Gus Gus and Jörg Burger (here in the form of The Modernist) have their moment, though the former’s “Over” appears in remix form courtesy of Life and Death. Only a trace of the chorus remains in the thick pool of echo while the most rudimentary of keyboard parts unassumingly carry the song along. Burger’s “Remodernist” and Matias Aguayo’s “I Don’t Smoke” are probably the peppiest things on Total 12, though they aren’t without their minor key and morose charms. Still, there’s something humorous about continually hearing a conversation go “Do you have a cigarette? / No, I don’t smoke”.
And of course there are the weird entries, which I mean in the best possible way. “The Drill”, brought to you by Gui Boratto, is a complete bear to listen to through headphones. As the bit spins around in a brisk waltz time, crackles and pops almost completely take over when it plunges below the crust. The final track, “Tiefental” by Mohn, does a superb job of throwing you a metric curve ball. It starts with two heavily syncopated chords, giving you the impression that this song will be twice as fast as it really turns out to be. It fools me nearly every time.
The remainder of Total 12 spends time in the creamy middle of upbeat but not necessarily uplifting. “White Lightning” by Superpitcher and “Waiting For” by Kolombo don’t exactly burst out of the gate, but they don’t drag the mood through the mud either. Subtlety in presentation is key—just look at the artwork for the Total series: simple, direct, yet slightly ornate in color.