Exclusive: Kompakt Records Showcase At Magnetic Fields
2 December 2014
A year ago I stood in one of Delhi’s premier nightclubs, impatiently tapping my foot. It was around 12.30am and a group of rotund, beige-uniformed, revolver-strapped gentlemen had entered the club. Whilst swirling my drink and listening to my friends complain about the music (because none was playing) I watched a number of promoters running around and looking glum at their own powerlessness. With the gig essentially over, I went through the highlights in my mind. It had been good. Actually, it had been great. The sound system left a little to be desired, and it didn’t help that there was a veritable army of policemen now hovering around the door, but these things were typical for anyone attending events in the city. The artists, one of my personal favourites, were Modeselektor and they had done themselves justice (and then some).
It made me stop and think. Germany was, and to an extent is, at the forefront of electronic dance music, consistently churning out producers and live performers with strict production sensibilities and innate tonal understanding. With the sudden, explosive, rise in interest for electronic music in India it was only a matter of time before they made it here. While we are now bombarded with all the biggest names in EDM, there are still large swaths of music lovers craving intelligent dance music and the German electronic scene is having a large impact on some of our country’s brightest, talented artists. These German producers and labels have, in India, a willing audience ready to voraciously devour anything they benevolently put before us.
Among these labels are the Cologne based pioneers at Kompakt Records, who are coming to India with an exclusive showcase at this year’s edition of Magnetic Fields Festival.
Starting a little over two decades ago as a record store, Kompakt has been an influential label around the world for over 20 years. It began back in 1993 with industry juggernauts Wolfgang Voigt and Jürgen Paape. Together they started a small techno record store named Delirium. Before long they were joined by Michael Mayer, a soon-to-be DJ, who took one look at the store and decided two things. One, that he definitely wanted to be involved with the people who ran it and two, they needed a serious overhaul of their stock.
He wrote up a list of must-have records for the store and was almost immediately assimilated into the core team. The ease and friendliness between Voigt, Paape and Mayer was vital and led to a very family-oriented organization, where artists signed to the label often worked at the record store. Besides housing much more than just a record store, Kompakt’s building now boasts extra rooms for some of the labels employees and artists to stay in.
This close, familial attitude is significant and prevalent in Kompakt’s history. In such a cutthroat industry, surviving as a label for even a few years can be tough, being successful for over twenty can be justly considered astonishing. Kompakt, with over 150 artists and almost twice as many releases, have been successful due to their ability to identify and nurture talent. Acts like Kaito, The Field, Gui Boratto and Rex The Dog all came from humble beginnings, virtually plucked out of obscurity by Voigt and Co. as they poured over incoming demo tapes. Other prominent producers from the label include Superpitcher (who started out working in the store before getting signed), Michael Mayer himself, Justus Köhncke and Jürgen Paape.
Kompakt’s ability to foster these artists has been good not just for the musicians but the label itself. In the mid-2000s, during the mass transition to digitalisation, the label suffered. Income was falling short and their ability to adapt to the new climate in the music industry wasn’t going according to plan. These nurtured artists, along with their already impressive distribution and networking system, saved them. Kompakt survived, as they have always done, and continue to churn out impressive compilations with ‘Total’ (running since 1999) and ‘Pop Ambient’ (running since 2001).
Terranova Boiler Room Berlin
Kompakt defined its sound in Cologne. Staying away from the allure of Berlin, they gave the city the cultural hub it needed and put it on the electronic music map worldwide. Their coat-of-arms like logo, the German eagle, was even inspired from Cologne’s city shield. It didn’t take them long to begin dominating the industry in Germany, and before long they were exporting their music all over the world. It is not a stretch to say they are one of the most well respected labels globally, especially within the minimal and techno circles. A Kompakt showcase in India is not just a clever move strategically but a damn exciting one.
Among Kompakt’s selection for their Magnetic Fields showcase is one of their most dominant producers; Justus Köhncke. After making a name for himself in Cologne Justus signed on with Kompakt at the turn of the millennium and has never looked back. He has played around with everything from techno and acid to punk and disco, jumping from genre to genre, keeping listeners wheezing breathlessly while trying to keep up.
The second act in the showcase is Terranova, the moniker of Fetisch. While primarily a solo act he has spent time teaming up with producer &ME. Together the duo are an electronic dance act, splitting their time between Berlin and Paris. Fetisch, as Terranova, have run through a wide range of vocalists and collaborators, experimenting with electronica, hip-hop, house and punk before finding &ME and settling on a unique sound. A long-standing relationship with Kompakt has seen them make a big impact in Europe over the last decade. Terranova comes to India in his original form- as the solo act of Fetisch.
WEVAL on the other hand is a collaboration between the young, enigmatic Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers. Relatively new to the label and based in the Netherlands, the duo combine trip-hop and house music sensibilities to dramatic effect. They recently released a stellar EP 'Easier' on Kompakt's label.
We’re particularly excited about this one.
So there it is. This December, we’re going to find ourselves once again listening to some incredible German music yet only this time, we’ll be in the desert swirling in a sea of sand and stars at Magnetic Fields Festival.
More information on Magnetic Fields Festival, including information on line up and tickets can be found on their official website here.
**This showcase has been made possible with the support of Border Movement**
Words: Aditya Keswani