Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Forward ever, backwards never: an oral history of Kompakt.

Go back in time with this great oral history of the famed label.

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 19:10


If you’re a big a fan of oral histories as I am, AND like techno to boot, then you’re going to really dig this oral history of Kompakt over on RA.

(a photo my mate Lili took of Michael Mayer when he played the Music Centre in 2007)

It sometimes feels as though the history of dance music was never written down, probably because everyone was having too much fun. For me, the most coherent (and enjoyable) timeline remains Pump Up The Volume, the 2001 Channel 4 documentary.

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Simon Reynolds’ Energy Flash from 1998 is also a good read. If you haven’t read any of Reynolds’ books, it’s a good place to start with him, along with Rip It Up And Start Again, and his latest, Retromania.

While an oral history of Kompakt is obviously a tiny chapter in the annuls of electronic music, it’s a great addition to the archives. At a time when there seems to be a remarkable lack of knowledge about the roots of this music during its resurgence in the States (and before you ask, yes, that’s probably a snobbish European view, and yes house and techno originated from the bedrooms and clubs of Chicago and Detroit, and yes, you don’t have to be able to regurgitate Wikipedia pages like encyclopedias in order to enjoy losing your mind at Electric Daisy Carnival or Ultra or whateverthefuck), it’s nice to actually reflect on the beats of sounds gone by.

I had a weird experience at SXSW observing how American kids interacted with the DJs and the music. It kind of reminded me of when I went to see Justice play at Webster Hall in New York in 2008. The DJ beforehand was playing some by then out of date electroclash records like Kittin or Fischerspooner or something and a group of lads didn’t know how to dance to them, instead adopting almost a moshing stance, pogoing in a circle. It was like watching American soccer fans trying to emulate the atmosphere of Premiership terrace chanting in the LA sun. At SXSW, American DJs adopted a Diplo stance of ripping tracks off 40 seconds in, piling song after song on top of each other so as not to bore the ADHD crowd who primarily just wanted to hear the drop. Aside from European acts such as Disclosure and Slow Magic, much of the electronic music I saw “live”, or heard in clubs was pretty shit. Even at something as hipster and apparently forward-thinking as SouthBy, there were several occasions that the apparently cool electronic music on offer was all very Funderland, or just simply devoid of emotion.

The disparaging manner artists such as Deadmau5 talk about the value of DJing is profoundly depressing, but of course that opinion I have is one of an older generation. Does it really matter if Skrillex fans never listened to Kevin Saunderson? Of course not. That’s like saying everyone should be versed on the archive of Delia Derbyshire before even setting foot in a club.

I’m opening a can of dancing worms right now that could rave on forever so… STOP!