Taragana Pyjarama: Tipped Bowls (Kompakt)
I missed this one when it first came out last summer. I just read a blurb about Kompakt’s latest 20 year compilation release that seemed somewhat dismissive of the label’s aesthetic as being pretty and armchair-ish. I found this to be odd because Kompakt always struck me as advanced and forward-thinking, at least in its early years, with offshoots such as Profan and Auftrieb that explored unique niches within the so-called minimal techno arena. Kompakt flirted with popularity in the mid-00s when techno seemed to be getting more of a mainstream nod (in America, at least), and artists like Superpitcher were beginning to cross over to broader audiences. Since their mild decline back into more of an underground label, Kompakt’s founders have remained true to their own vision of releasing music they find inspiring. The glut of Speicher records may have greatly slowed, but through releases from acts like Jatoma, Rainbow Arabia, and Taragana Pyjarama, they seem keen on flirting with pop music via artists who seem comfortable lingering in its outer fringes. This album is quite good from start to finish, mixing techno and IDM tropes with something lush and vaguely pop at times. (Perhaps about as “pop” as Kompakt’s long-running Pop Ambient series is, yet in a different way.) Tipped Bowls is perhaps better enjoyed as home-listening though it’s not without some dancefloor potential. It’s not until the third track that a beat even enters the scene — “Lo Ng” is an unassuming yet infectious dancefloor track that touches on space disco as much as techno. “All Those Weird Things” follows, which is another dancefloor-compatible gem, but otherwise the album veers into leftfield and is decidedly aimed at listening more than body-moving. “Pinned,” appearing in two parts, is an oddball swirl of synths and scattered beats, recalling some of the odder moments of Actress. But what I like about the album is that TP isn’t afraid to let the beat drop out completely; “Tipped Bowls,” “Terror Paradise,” and the aforementioned two leading cuts shimmer with surface and texture without much of a rhythm section at all, and the title track resonates with meditative drones before it ends. Much like labelmates Jatoma, there’s something compelling about the juxtaposition of typical dancefloor gestures and textures and ideas that veer far away from those expectations. It gives the album an interesting trajectory, with more abstract, pastoral sounds working in tandem with a few lush dance tracks and some leftfield excursions that fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.