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Kompakt Total 16 / Various
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  • For the 2016 installment of Kompakt's usually annual Total compilation series (they skipped a few years, and there was no 13th volume), the Cologne techno institution continues its tradition of rounding up highlights from the previous year's albums and singles, in addition to rarities, remixes, and exclusives galore. If there's any overriding characteristic distinguishing these 25 tracks from previous editions of the series, it's that Total 16 feels a little trippier than usual. It seems like nearly all of the tracks are laced with echo or other effects that make them appear to hazily lift off the ground and hover. The album boldly starts off with one of the least dancefloor-friendly tracks to appear on a Total comp yet. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's remix of the Field's "Reflecting Lights" is a strange forest of buzzing, colorful electronics along with erratic beats and Smith's gauzy, ethereal vocals. It provides a great segue into Weval's "I Don't Need It," which starts off with fluttering, wavy synths before a non-straightforward beat shuffles in, and dusky, Matthew Dear-like vocals help structure the song. This is followed by a wonderfully lush Teebs remix of the Orb's "Moonbuilding 2703AD," with a squishy midtempo beat wavering between hip-hop and house, as well as fuzzy keyboards and chirping birds. It takes until the fourth track for a steady, uptempo 4/4 beat to surface, and it turns out to be a devastatingly lonesome track by the previously unknown Lake Turner. The cut's cascading synths, ghostly vocals, and layers of icy echo are miles away from the euphoric sounds of festival-ready EDM, making the track a prime example of why Kompakt has long appealed to a more introverted type of clubgoer. Of course, not all of the compilation's tracks veer toward gloom or isolation. Wassermann's vocoder-heavy "Die Schallplatte [Video Mix]" pays tribute to kitschy Euro-disco, and Jonas Bering's mix of the Silent Ones' "Magical Party" starts off with a Moroder-esque pulse before an ecstatic voice begins repeating the words "so magical" for much of the track's duration. Kompakt co-founder Michael Mayer's "Action" is similarly lighthearted, experimenting with making static sound funky and piling on whistles and handclaps, as well as a cartoonish voice repeating the track's title. A handful of tracks reflect the label's pop-influenced side, particularly the Modernist's "The Price of Love" (featuring Hot Chip's Joe Goddard) and Komon & Will Saul's "Lost in Time" (sung by Ben Westbeech). Of the instrumentals, John Tejada's chiming, acid-leaning electro-disco shuffler "Integrator" is an easy standout, and a very good example of the type of melodic, smart techno that Kompakt has been reliably providing since the '90s. Overall, another solid, well-rounded edition of the lauded, long-running series. ~ Paul Simpson
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