Sometimes a tracklist forces your hand.
That was certainly the case Monday morning, when word of Wolfgang Voigt’s RA.570 (May 1, 2017) first flickered past my eye. “The Kompakt co-founder writes a personal pop music diary,” read the blurb. "What would that be?" I wondered as I scrolled down. Kompakt has been more or less the best dance label in the world for nearly 20 years, and in the mid-2000s it released a number of singles with a glam-rocky strut-beat it dubbed schaffel. I figured Voigt’s set might have lots of '70s glam, similar to the Freiland remix of the Justus Köhncke (feat. Meloboy) version of T. Rex's "Hot Love" on the compilation Kompakt 100 (2004).
I was partly right: the original “Hot Love” is on RA.570. But I was wrong about emphasis: the T. Rex tune fairly dissolves into the soup, because rather than accentuating the strut of Marc Bolan’s boogie, Voigt emphasizes the production’s airy luster. And that's the point throughout the set. Though there are tracks from the '70s (Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain”) and the '90s (take a bow, Glaswegian Britpop also-rans Texas), the deep focus here is on the synthed-up '80s at their most swooning.
Call it “Cream of Kompakt” -- or “a secret history of Kompakt minus the actual house and techno,” as writer Jess Harvell puts it, pointing out that aside from Texas, every track predates 1987, the year of the acid house explosion that ushered in modern dance culture.
An American hit-radio addict might find Kompakt’s “pop” leanings a trifle understated, or hell, even minimalist (speaking of words with wildly different resonances in pop and dance circles). But many of the songs that surface on RA.570 (the 570th installment of dance site Resident Advisor’s 11-years-running weekly podcast) share the same limpid melodic lines dot Kompakt releases. Two tracks by Prefab Sprout and two more by Scritti Politti, Robert Palmer, George Michael’s pensive and beat-less “A Different Corner,” Barry White’s “Love’s Theme” dissolving into the Blow Monkeys’ “Digging Your Scene” -- this stuff is so gooey you could almost call it candy. (Sorry, raver kids, not “kandi”).
So yes, this mix is utterly shameless, and if your natural feel is for pop is more peanut brittle than cotton candy, even the tracklist will feel like insulin shock. But let me highlight one moment in particular. Voigt, in his Q&A for the mix, notes that he is a “no-DJ-for-life,” so the transitions are all a mite rough, but that works in their favor, and nowhere more than around the 33:15 mark, when he moves from Culture Club’s “Time (Clock of the Heart)” into the song that likely inspired it, Smokey Robinson’s softer-than-feathers “Being with You.” He does so by using a filter that gives Smokey’s opening strings a seashell-over-the-ear sound; he veritably melts from one to the other. It feels like he’s falling in love with the way songs talk to one another, with or without our help, for the first time.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily – and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.