The renowned Cologne techno label Kompakt celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. While Kompakt itself wasn’t established until 1998, its roots were planted in ’93 with the opening of the record store Delirium, which eventually grew into Kompakt as we know it now. Whether it was techno, ambient, house, or electronic pop, founders Wolfgang Voigt, Reinhard Voigt, Jörg Burger, Jürgen Paape, and later Michael Mayer, chose to release it all under the Kompakt name, and thus began their dominance in each of those genres.
“We grew up with pop music and really like traces of pop in techno music,” Mayer once told Pitchfork. “This is probably Kompakt’s biggest strength—that we can detect these pop traces and give them a home. Not many labels release techno with vocals on it.”
That philosophy is certainly evidenced in their recent celebratory comp 20 Jahre Kompakt, and in the 20 choice cuts that we’ve selected below.
This minimal, beat-oriented bit from Dettinger, features a shuffled raw snare, and sounds like a precursor to the Kuduro and UK funky trends that followed.
One of the early artists on the label, Sascha Funke gives us warm and deep harmonics with some looping guitars and a gentle, rolling melody while darker textures loom underneath. This is a great example of the fusion between ambient and techno that the label is so well known for.
An early release from Michael Mayer, this is definitely a favorite of fans, and it features a memorable vocal sample from Fox the Fox’s “Precious Little Diamond.”
Closer Musik was a collaborative project between Dirk Leyers and Matias Aguayo, and this track is a classic for both the duo and Kompakt. Between the catchy lyrics, the ambient pads, and the jazzy guitar riffs, this track makes good on the “pop over techno” vision that Mayer et al had for the label.
All is one of many moniker of Wolfgang Voigt. This orchestral ambient piece is indicative of Kompakt’s early dedication to pioneering experimental music.
This track is reminiscent of the warehouse raves of the 1990s with its industrialized techno and low, round 4/4 kick.
“Heroin” is the track that put Superpitcher on the map and started his long relationship with Kompakt. Between the use of the live drum samples and the electro bass, this track has a super-retro feel.
Originally released on Kompakt’s Total 3 compilation, and then released as a single in 2002, this house tune features beautiful rising chords, a synthesized harp, a catchy vocal, and all other manner of happy sounds. Definitely a crowd-pleaser, and perfect for a sunrise or beach party.
Another amazing cut from Total 3, which Pitchfork ranked #175 on their list of Top 200 albums of the 2000s. This classic house gem from Reinhard Voigt sounds as good as any house cut today.
“Making it Whistle” is Fehlmann’s first release with Kompakt. One year later, he released his seminal Visions of Blah album.
One of the few tracks from Kompakt’s early days that contains a super-funky bassline, a shaker, and disco lasers. This cut could sit right next to some of the newer house tracks coming out of German from artists like SuperFlu, Andhim, and Monkey Safari.
One of Kompakt’s international artists, hailing from Buenos Aires, Fresco fuses together an amazing tech groove with ambient, chilled-out vibes.
A cut from their Kompassion EP which they released in 2003, this is the deepest house you’ll probably ever hear from The Orb.
This classic electro track is a banger, full of arpeggiation and retro synth chords. It’s a true club hit and staple of so many DJ sets.
Techno, disco, house—all in one beautiful package. Michael Mayer called this track “kinky.”
Appearing on Kompakt’s Total 7 compilation, this track started Boratto’s relationship with the label where he released a slew of other singles and LPs. His sound fits perfectly into the minimal, yet ambient and groove-based Kompakt catalog.
“Over the Ice” is a more recent cult classic from Kompakt, but has stood the test of time. This highly percussive techno track can sit well within any contemporary techno set.
This collaboration between Mayer and Voigt is not as widely known as some of the other releases from Kompakt, but certainly worth selecting for a set to challenge the crowd’s knowledge of techno history.
Filled with an assortment of weird field recordings and what sounds like a cash register’s noise, this tech-house track contains so much life. Underneath the techno textures are warm and harmonic chords that make this a perfect “the sun is rising” tune.
From the start, the organic claps and rhythmic bassline give this song a quirky feel. When the vocals come in and emphasize the quirk, you know this cut illustrates Kompakt’s mission.