Kompakt: An Oral History

As it reaches its 20th anniversary, RA tells the story of one of electronic music’s most celebrated institutions.

Kompakt. Minimal. Cologne. All three of these words are intertwined in the consciousness of dance music fans. In its heyday, the label became synonymous with the genre and the city. But the story is much more complicated than that. Last month saw Kompakt celebrating its 20th year of existence. It’s not an exact anniversary, however. In 1993 Wolfgang Voigt, Jörg Burger and Ingmar Koch opened up a shop called Delerium. Michael Mayer, Jurgen Paape and Reinhard Voigt soon joined them, but it took five long years until they changed the name and Kompakt proper was born.

At the time it made sense to do so. Jörg and Wolfgang had amassed a ridiculous amount of aliases and labels. And in that initial half decade as artists and businessmen, they realized they would be better off consolidating everything under one roof. Literally. Nowadays the Kompakt building houses a shop, a distributor, the label’s offices, basement studios and living quarters for some of its staff. To call it a family affair doesn’t quite capture it.

On the other hand, some unkind commentators over the years have called it “cult-like.” Many of those insults were lobbed around the time that Kompakt was at its height, a label that seemingly delivered a new classic each week. Rex The Dog’s “Prototype,” Superpitcher’s ‘Happiness,” Michael Mayer’s “Lovefood,” Justus Köhncke’s “2 After 909,” everything Jürgen Paape put his hands on. As the Kompakt braintrust says, it all got a bit much at a certain point. What goes up must come down. And when the music industry took a dip, Kompakt took a dip with it. Their initial halfhearted engagement with the world of digital music led to a rough couple of years.

Buoyed by the success of Gui Boratto and The Field, and the strength of their distribution, however, Kompakt is once again on firm footing. Judging by the amount of bands they’ve signed in the past few years, you might be inclined to call them the German Warp Records. Only time will tell if that’s the road they will continue down, because Kompakt at 20 is a story that has no end. What follows is the beginning.

Read the rest of the story here… http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1436