At the beginning of the 2000s, going out in clubs finally became a pleasure again. And – it must be said – not only for dancing. It wasn’t that the venues themselves had really changed, but new trends in electro music brought partying to the fore. It was a meeting of styles, of new blood – sometimes split on the dancefloor – and of sweat, all giving birth to new parties. The degree of creativity and excitement was such that I could just pop into a club during the week to have a drink and feast on whatever music the DJ was playing. You always knew you’d bump into some friends who shared your passion for the electro-rock of labels like DFA or 2 Many DJ's, the eccentricities of Peaches or Fischerspooner, or the hallucinogenic trances of Ricardo Villalobos. These new productions were coming from France, the United States, England, Australia, South America, Eastern Europe, and of course from Germany, one of the cradles of the genre.
Just at the moment when the minimal techno movement was getting tired of the very concept of being ‘minimal’, meaning that all the productions that followed had lost any sense of the genre to which they apparently belonged, the Kompakt label was about to break the deadlock. Founded in Cologne in 1998, Michael Mayer, Jürgen Paape and Wolfgang Voigt ran it out of the basement of the techno record shop where they worked. The label served as a way to release their own works first, before bringing to light a circle of German artists including Reinhard Voigt, Tobias Thomas, and Sascha Funke. It then quickly reached out to foreigners like Gui Boratto, The Field, Kaito, WALLS, and even welcomed older artists like GusGus, The Orb, and WhoMadeWho.
It was with what is still the only album released by Closer Musik, from 2002, that I became aware of the power of what Kompakt was doing back then. Matias Aguayo and Dirk Leyers were producing a sensual sung techno that was totally intoxicating, and not a single one of the tracks from the album After Love was under 7 minutes long. After the duo split up in 2003, Kompakt was lucky enough to have found in Aksel Schaufler, aka Superpitcher, another producer who was able to push the idea of electro and pop fusion. Having seen him headline at an outdoor clubbing party, I remember it as a sort of waking dream; the kind of transmission of happiness through music and dance that you might only feel once in a lifetime; a mixture of melancholy and euphoria. To this day, he remains one of my favourite artists on the label, although Michael Mayer – with whom he forms the duo Supermayer – and others too numerous to name, have all managed to give a sensual, human feeling to the music.
The conceptual power of their artists also allowed Kompakt to develop their hold over ambient music, and above all to ensure the renewal of the sound in a field where fans’ tastes can easily have them flitting from one label to another. If you want to be moved both mentally and physically, Kompakt is always there, and always fresh.