Kompakt’s “Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1” – Review
By Spencer Smith
Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 is a new compilation from Kompakt, the German techno label who has brought us landmark releases from the likes of DJ Koze, GAS, The Field and Burger/Ink. They have also made a name for themselves in the past twenty years through curated compilations, namely the Pop Ambient series. Those collections focus on a thumping and hypnagogic brand of 4/4, spacious and misty, but somehow pop in its most primal, innocent form.
VDM takes this same approach geared toward mood and flow but applied to guitar-based music. This umbrella ranges from subdued New Order pop to cut-and-paste guitar deconstructions akin to Blithe Field and their folktronica cohort. The title of the album hints somewhat at the alignment of surreal mindsets with noticeably Western aesthetics (the press release even name drops both David Lynch films and Johnny Cash); however, these suggestions do not do justice to the seamless commingling of Cologne electronic with folk, country, and indie pop on display here. Although it has some moments of spiraling dystopia, Velvet Desert Music is simultaneously unintimidating and familiar while maintaining an experimental edge.
Techno veteran Joerg Burger organizes this collection and is featured heavily, whether it be as remixer or producer under one of his many aliases. “Memphisto” from Burger/Ink is one of my favorite tracks here, with a reversed acoustic sample powering a hypnotic, oscillating base for the track to roam. “Mountain Eagle” reinterprets 4/4 dance music for raw, backyard percussion, a Telecaster, and the overall sonic profile of a tumbleweed. Though some tracks fall flat (the song from The Novotones feels a bit uninspired), Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 is thoughtfully assembled, sheds limelight on a few emerging artists, and marks an intriguing move from an excellent label.
Album is available tomorrow, March 29, 2019.