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13 December 2017

Michael
Mayer: & (Kompakt)

Michael
Mayer’s reputation precedes him, having helped helm Kompakt from its
earliest days across nearly two decades of high caliber dance music
and forward-thinking electronica. When his debut album Touch came out
in 2004, I was so excited: his 12" releases were consistently solid
and an album would give him more room to roam. And yet somehow Touch
is one of his less satisfying works start to finish, feeling like an
assemblage of unrelated tracks instead of a bigger idea. 2012’s
Mantasy felt more focused, but in stronger contrast is &, his
third full-length album. It’s structured around collaborations with
an eclectic roster of artists and vocalists, which perhaps allows
Mayer some of the same ease he seems to enjoy when remixing other
tracks, an automatic structure to play around with and build upon.
Every track has the cleanness that has so often characterized Mayer’s
productions; even when his tracks have bite, they are usually crystal
clear and well balanced. About half of Mayer’s collaborators are
Kompakt regulars, including Kölsch, Jörg Burger (The Modernist),
label co-owners Reinhard and Wolfgang Voigt, and Gui Boratto.
Boratto’s collaboration, “State of the Nation,” is a true burner,
emphasizing the best strengths of each producer. Mayer’s
collaboration with leftfield piano artist Hauschka is a real
highlight as well, with its syncopated bassline and canned orchestra
hits making a nod to 80s freestyle without sounding like pastiche.
The only less obvious dancefloor track is “Comfort Me,” a
collaboration with Prins Thomas and Irene Kalisvaart that gradually
unfolds new layers but only properly throws down a steady kick with a
minute or so left in the track. It’s a satisfying evolution of the
sound that sidesteps expectations in its beatless front act. Similarly
smooth is Andrew Thomas’s collaboration, “Cicadelia,” the last
track of the album. Its delayed piano phrases and light hand drums
give it an after hours feel, the comedown of a party as the sun is
rising.

& by Michael Mayer

The opening cut with Alter Ego’s Roman Flügel is
characteristically Kompakt jaunty techno, with a rollicking nod to
oompah, another standout for me. Of the vocal tracks, my favorite is
definitely Mayer’s collaboration with Ed McFarlane of Friendly Fires,
hitting on that sweet spot of melancholic techno and dancepop that
Kompakt does so well. Joe Goddard of Hot Chip appears on “For You,”
a gently rousing number that is sweet without being cloying: “It’s
for you that I wake up / It’s for you: try not to break up / It’s for
you I keep walking / It’s for you… lift my voice and sing.” Miss
Kittin’s “Voyage Interieur” has a Moroder-esque arrangement with
a broken beat under Kittin’s spoken French vocal, feeling not so far
off from some of her work with The Hacker. Other collaborators
include Agoria and Barnt, two more solid entries. Only Burger and the
Voigts’ collaboration is a miss for me, but I usually prefer Mayer’s
productions that are less exuberant and more sleek. It’s definitely
Mayer’s best album of the three for me, always yielding a slightly
different result and staying fresh by virtue of the rotating talent
on these tracks, covering a lot of ground while still feeling focused
around Mayer’s distinct sensibilities as a DJ, producer, and label
owner.

Buy it: Bandcamp

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