"Dwelling, in the proper sense, is now impossible," wrote Adorno in 1944. "The traditional residences we grew up in have grown intolerable: each trait of comfort in them is paid for with a betrayal of knowledge, each vestige of shelter with the musty pact of family interests." Glibly extrapolating the German philosopher's arguments about subjects, nations, and knowledge, we might note that in 2003, the House of Techno is no less shaky; "the musty pact of family interests" sounds a lot like the compromise that comes with any allegiance to genre.
But Cologne's Kompakt seems out to disprove the theory, having moved into a new space that promises to be the international seat of the microhouse nation. Kompakt has built microhouse its home, because techno, the wandering genre, only dwells in the mix. Kompakt's recent compilations-Friends (mixed by Triple R), Immer, and Speicher (both mixed by Michael Mayer)-are like techno's Real World sans the drama, architectural cross-sections revealing what happens when microhouse's public and private natures collide.
But dwelling is an issue of nation as much as place, and if Kompakt is the world's microhouse superpower, then Traum is its UN label. Label head Riley Reinhold has spent the last few years scouring Eastern Europe, the Americas, and Asia for refugee strains of Kompakt-styled shufflepunk, recording them and bringing them back to the fold. Elektronische Musik-Interkontinental 2 represents Japan, Poland, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and more, suggesting both the durability and the mutability of the form.
It's uncanny, at first, to hear how closely these tracks hew to what we think of as intrinsically Teutonic (post-)techno, but the tiniest details mark their distance from the source like pushpins on a map. If anything, Fax's "Danz" outdoes the Profan crew at their own game. The sound may have been born in Cologne, but Fax (a.k.a. Mexico's Ruben Tamayo) updates the blunted lurch and gritty glide of M:I:5 and Jochem Spieth with a particularly dessicated feel that's as addictive as a fistful of salt. France's Yomgaille reworks Dettinger-styled ambiance with "There," a chugging swirl of competing downbeats that seems perpetually on the verge of drowning in its own wake. Straying further afield, Denmark's Mikkel Metal sets up a shrine to Chicago and Jamaica with "Delete," a plaintive fusion of dub effects and post-rock guitars.
This isn't just about artists mimicking German styles; what's fascinating here is how Traum has uncovered an intercontinental unconscious. Japan's Darmush and America's Smartypants for instance, both tap into the same strange, striated synthesizer tone, as though each were holding up one end of an international taffy-pull. Their similarities have less to do with genre than with a zeitgeist that privileges highly interiorized but still dance club-worthy music, presupposing both infrastructure and audience. It is' dare say, a utopian project. Like virtual states such as Elgaland-Vargalandia and the State of Sabotage, which sidestep the collapsing world of nation-states with mental and digital "border territories," Traum and its allies accomplish the same in purely sonic terms. Elektronische Musik-Interkontinental 2 is the passport to a state of bliss."