Various Artists

Total 3

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Kompakt's gradual and seemingly unending ascent continues with the third installment of the Total series; it's their tightest, brightest compilation of experimental techno yet, continuing to blur -- make that eliminate -- the boundary between the dancefloor and the living room. Bookended by two of the label's most melodic, emotional, and Detroit-influenced tracks (a good thing, no doubt), with Sascha Funke's gorgeous "Drei Auf Drei" as the opener and Closer Musik's equally spectacular "Departures" (why not "Deepartures"?) as the closer, the disc solidifies the notion that the best place to start with Kompakt is typically their latest release. Gathering some singles and some tracks, Total 3 also demonstrates how the Cologne label's stable is continuing to throw pop into the mix with great results. M. Mayer's "Hush Hush Baby" looks like a Brill Building pop homage on paper but sounds like Kraftwerk throwing away their icy techno-pop detachment in favor of romantic, burpy warmth. Jurgen Paape's "So Weit Wie Noch Nie" and Superpitcher's "Tomorrow" also use vocals in a more-than-just-background fashion; the latter's rainy-day spirit uses a simple line in a mantra-like fashion, managing to be evocative and uplifting. Most of the usual suspects also pitch in, including relative newcomer Ulf Lohmann, veteran Reinhard Voigt, and a surprise appearance from the always prickly sweet Modernist. And then there's the trademark eye-popping graphic design, which practically dares listeners to cram the entire thing down their throats. (The track listing of the double-vinyl version differs significantly from this CD version, including contributions from Peter Grummich, Schaeben & Voss, and Dettinger.)

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