A techno label that flings persnickety minimalism into swooning pop anthems, Kompakt has been waving a giant flag over electronic music for a few years now. Based in Cologne, Germany, where synthesizers might as well be banjoes, the label has become known less for a sound than for a way of actively thinking through dance music and all its moving parts. The finer points of the Kompakt method might go unnoticed by those illiterate in techno lore, but the moving, brooding big picture remains hard to miss.
A double-disc project marking the label's 100th release, Kompakt 100 features a stable of artists remixing favorites from the imprint's back catalog. The lineup is enough to make dance aesthetes drool, but beneath the names lurks a welcoming, diverse cross-section of Kompakt's interlocking strengths. Primary among them is the way the label's artists transpose electronica's elemental parts, so that even the hardest-charging techno stomp melts against a moody sigh, or a gentle ambient murmur bristles with enough texture to render the lull expectant. Such subtle twists play into Michael Mayer and Tobias Thomas' mix of Ulf Lohmann's "Because," which enlists blippy chirps and sultry spangles into a spacious dance trackimagine a dark nightclub with a René Magritte-like window scene of birds flitting in the sun. Some of the parts are more severe, like the shuddering camera-click beats and acidic ripples in DJ Koze's mix of a track by Reinhard Voigt. They're formally intricate, but too antsy to let a loop go by untweaked.
Typical of the label at its best, Kompakt 100 makes a show of shifting gears, both within and between tracks. Mixes by The Modernist and Justus Köhncke circle around Kompakt's vocal-strewn pop side, while ambient reworks by Jonas Bering and Wasserman point toward its special brand of vacuum-sealed pastoralia. In one telltale highlight, SCSI 9 runs a brittle, deceptively time-skewed rhythm under Superpitcher singing "Tomorrow will not be like today." The beat eventually wanders into its locked-down pattern, but as per the Kompakt way, a simple bit of voice murmuring alongside acoustic guitar sounds both homey and alien, floating away while clinging to roots and wires.