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Various Artists

Freude-Am-Tanzen: Compilation 1

(Kompakt; US: 8 Nov 2005; UK: Available as import)

There’s a lot of interesting electronic music coming out of Germany right now, a lot of it due to the influence of the insanely consistent Kompakt label. Freude-Am-Tanzen represent a slightly more pop-oriented application of the same minimal techno aesthetic that made Kompakt so successful. Appropriately, this first Freude-Am-Tanzen label compilation is being distributed by Kompakt, a move that highlights many of the flattering stylistic similarities between the two labels.


The disc opens up with the Wighnomy remix of Gamat 3000’s “Feeling Love”. This is a deceptive track for an opening because it resembles almost nothing else on the disc: it’s pretty much a deep house track, very similar to what you might expect from a label like Naked, albeit with a tiny bit more techno-influenced “oomph”. Somehow it manages to avoid any of the repetitive pitfalls suffered by a great deal of modern deep house. That probably has something to do with the intense kick of the bass drum, which is satisfyingly aggressive.


Soulphiction’s “Black Woman” is a more typical example of the Freude-Am-Tanzen sound. The track’s undercarriage is a minimal techno beat that burbles and crawls out of the speakers, but the focus is held on a vocal sample featuring a spoken-word poet singing the praises of, what else, black women. The juxtaposition is extremely effective, setting the right tone somewhere between ironic displacement and melancholy sensuality.


“Hell Bells” by Funky Transport reminds me of Mr. Oizo, right down to the percussive, Timbaland-esque breakbeats and the odd animal-sound synthesizer blurts. It’s strange and moody, and even if it’s probably a couple minutes too long there is enough variation and novelty throughout to keep the listener interested. Suffice to say it probably sounds great on a massive system.


The Wighnomy Brothers + Robag Wruhme contribute three tracks, the first of which is “Bobb”. Much like “Hell Bells”, “Bobb” features hard bass-heavy percussion offset against a sparse background, but it also features some genuinely weird vocal samples as well. “Bodyrock” is in the same general mold, a stomping mid-tempo number that sounds a bit like something T. Raumschmiere might concoct. “Pele Bloss” is more elaborate than either of the other two Wighnomy Brothers tracks, and the added melodic elements bring to mind Felix Da Housecat’s “Silver Screen Shower Scene”, which utilizes the same pulsing bass pattern pushing the track into propulsive movement.


Hemmann + Kaden contribute two tracks, and are probably closest to what anyone who purchased the disc based solely on the Kompakt label would expect. There’s some deep microhouse beats, ominous basslines and long, leisurely movements built on the elaboration of cumulative elements. “Sense” is more concentrated in the pulsing techno mode, while “Vaganza” leans a bit more towards a ramshackle IDM vibe, reminiscent of some of the less spastic talents on the Warp label.


DJ Koze contributes two tracks, “Lighta Spuba” and “Smorning”. The first is a minor masterpiece of controlled confusion, featuring a volley of weird synth noises being wrestled from a dub-like staticky miasma into something much more controlled and precise. This is the type of engrossing production work Koze showed on Kose Comes Around, and it bodes well for his stamina as a producer. “Smorning” is essentially a trifle, but a beautiful trifle, built out of a simple hip-hop beat and a tranquil, Kanye-esque munchkin-voice sample. It reminds me a little bit of Mike Paradinas’ less-spastic low-key production work.


There is a great deal to like on this disc, and it marks the advent of Freude-Am-Tanzen as an impressively diverse contender in the new techno renaissance. Starting at a very minimal point, the artists here seem very comfortable expanding and exploring the boundaries of their idiom, to sometimes startling results.

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