Berlin became techno’s gravity center during the 2000s, much the way Brooklyn became indie rock’s. But the best dance-music label of the new millennium is actually situated some 300 miles west, in Cologne. Kompakt started out as a record store in 1993 and launched its label five years later, helmed by techno vets Wolfgang Voigt and Jürgen Paape and the younger, more house-leaning Michael Mayer. “Minimal” was the watchword – but rather than severe, this music was warm and mature, perfect for the post-Nineties rave hangover. Kompakt tracks filled Ikea-furnished living spaces as easily as clubs.
It’s easy to hear why several cuts on the smartly selected double-CD Kompakt 20 Jahre Kollektion 1 managed to cross over to indie-rock circles: Tracks such as the Field’s “Over the Ice” and Kaito’s “Everlasting” are unabashedly pretty without turning to sap. The Kompakt touch is often playful and beguiling, from techno trickster DJ Koze remixing Matias Aguayo’s grungy “Minimal” (what else?) into a sparkling disco love bomb to the cheesily triumphant synth hook of Rex the Dog’s “Prototype.” This is music that winks as much as it struts – and considering Kompakt’s many triumphs over the past two decades, the two discs merely scratch the surface.