As the public face of the epochal electronic label Kompakt, Michael Mayer serves as an ambassador between the austerity and physicality at play in dance music. He's a strategic minimalist who has stepped out in some of Europe's biggest clubs, spinning DJ sets that rub against epicurean trance while scratching the heady itch first felt in techno's progressive early days. In Mayer's mind, cerebral concision and anthemic whoosh address the same impulse to move, in every sense of the word.
After a few years' worth of singles and mix-discs, Mayer makes his long-awaited "artist album" debut with Touch, a collection of tracks that conflate surface and depth with a subtlety it takes time to recognize. The album gets off to an antic start with the title track, which couldn't be more trancey if it tried: After a sappily portentous intro worthy of superclub DJs like John Digweed, "Touch" rushes into a monolithic kick-drum beat that zigs and zags over its linear shadow, fanning the straightjacket fabric of techno into long, flowing folds. That intricacy proves easier to hear in "Privat," a second track whose idea of earthiness is to stomp on the clouds it hovers above, while disembodied guitar and strange synth riffs whisper sweet nothings about funk.
Fans of Mayer classics like "Falling Hands" might be put off by the album's lack of sing-songy swoon, but Touch finds the producer proffering release through restraint. "Heiden" lumbers behind a beat tough enough to storm a palace and crafty enough to redecorate it, while "Neue Luthersche Frakfur" speed-skates a circle that billows out from its center. Mayer's tender way with vocals comes to beautiful fruition in "Lovefood," a wet puddle of ambient wash and sighed come-ons. But Touch presses more than it caresses, delving deep into trance-minded beats that engage the same brain they elude.