Kompakt boss Michael Mayer dishes to DJ MAG USA.

Kompakt has done it again. A decade and a half after its first ‘TOTAL’ compilation hit record store shelves in 1999, the Cologne, Germany based label delivers a 15th installment that will delight the ears of electronic music lovers the world over. Curated by legendary label co-founder Michael Mayer, ‘TOTAL 15’ is not just a collection of the year’s dancefloor hits. While cuts from recognizable names like Kölsch, Gui Boratto, Wasserman, Audion (Matthew Dear’s harder-edged alias) and Mayer himself are scattered throughout, there are also gems waiting to be discovered by those not accustomed to rummaging through vinyl bins. 

The compilation varies in texture and tone, from the droning ambience found in Saschienne’s ‘Chambre Blue’ and Blond:ish’s haunting cut, ‘Stolen Romance feat. Audysea’, to the rolling energy of Hunter/Game’s remix of ‘Gimme Some’ by Weval, a Dutch duo on the rise. Label co-owner Jürgen Paape adds his own flair to the mix with an addictive, sitar-saturated groove on ‘Manipuri’ that is followed by one of the most luscious tracks on the entire compilation, Dave DK’s ‘Smukke Lyde’ — the combination of its wistful melody and diverse percussive elements create an acoustic masterpiece that is as cinematically euphoric as it is playable in a club. 

With such a wide variety of moods, tempos and tastes laced throughout, DJ Mag USA asked Kompakt boss and ‘TOTAL 15’ curator, Michael Mayer, to share his insight with our readers.

After 15 years of putting out compilations like this for Kompakt, how does this one set itself apart? 

MM: “‘TOTAL’ comps are like Christmas. Apart from number 13, which we’ve skipped for ‘triskadekaphobe’ reasons, it’s a fixture in my calendar, something to look forward to every year. And just like Christmas, it’s always special. When I look back older TOTALs, they tell me a lot about what was going on in these years. Some years are darker, others more melodic. There are musical trends that come and go and there’s the strange phenomenon of invasions from certain countries. Like in one year, we’d have four new Swedish artists on the label, then the Brazilians would take over, then the French, the Danish and so on. Total 15 will go down in history as the most international edition. It features artists from 11 countries. That’s a new record!”

What does ‘Total 15’ represent? 

MM: “‘TOTAL’ compilations always represent a full Kompakt year, from summer to summer. In addition to the exclusive tracks, I carefully select our biggest tracks and my personal faves. What makes TOTALs different from most other ‘best of’ compilations is that my focus is on creating a seamless listening experience. It’s more like a DJ mix. I wouldn’t automatically put the five biggest tracks of the year at the beginning in order to encourage more sales. It’s like in a good football team … the team is the star.”

What kind of sensation do you seek to impart to listeners with this compilation? 

MM: “I want our listeners to enjoy the ride through a very heterogeneous selection of music. Kompakt is not just one sound … it’s a universe of sounds and characters. My task is to make everyone shine equally, to find the right place for every track within this universe, to make the whole thing sound like one.”

Looking forward, how do you see things evolving?

MM: “We’ve got an amazing group of artists to work with. Each on his own is constantly evolving and refining his or her sound. Kompakt serves as a resourceful framework that helps them to communicate their musical visions. Despite all the changes we’ve seen over past years in this business, we’ll do everything to remain that helping hand. We love to get excited by our artists’ music and we continue to work hard to be able to share our excitement with the world.”

If you’d like to catch Michael Mayer live in North America, you’re in luck: this weekend he’ll be bringing his wax to Mexico City, New York City and Montreal, and hitting up Los Angeles and San Francisco the following. More info here.