Shuffle | Compost Records

Shuffle | Compost Records

Finding Inspiration in a Singular Munich Imprint.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Thinking back on it since the announcement of its 20 year anniversary, Compost Records is, in so many ways, where it all started for me as a DJ and fan of electronic music. Sure there were others, the odd Ubiquity compilation or Ninja Tune LP. But Michael Reinboth and the Jazzanova crew can be credited with opening the floodgates as I began taking in the sounds of house, broken beat, downtempo, drum & bass and the myriad world-music styles they drew from—African, Latin, Brazilian—with abandon.

My buddies and I were just left of your average college dudes. We had most of the usual signifiers: beer, game day, Jay-Z and Master P. At night we deviated from that norm, smoking and dropping the needle on newly purchased vinyl from Amon Tobin, Thievery Corporation and the jazzy, percussive, alluring sounds of the Compost and JCR (Jazzanova Compost Records) catalog.

This is music that did more than define things for me personally. Reinboth's label and the artists he collaborated with defined a scene that thrived in the late '90s and early '00s, one that was rooted in the rich history of jazz music and bucked dance music's tendency to have a one track mind. It brought together disparate styles in inventive new ways, marrying the old with the new, forging a path all its own and serving as a precursor—and guiding light—to the scenes that would eventually be dubbed broken beat and nujazz.

I've spent the last few weeks digging back through my Compost vinyl collection, reminiscing on these early days and singling out my favorite cuts. In its 20 years, this label has done much to influence its little corner of the electronic music world, but for me, its greatest output was in those first 10 years. Below are five of the stand-outs. These artists collectively blew my musical mind. I knew then these were the coolest, most cutting edge sounds out there, and their discovery has kept me seeking out singular, future music ever since.

Disclaimer: Much of my collection is also on CD, which is a little harder for me to go through, so before we get to the list, some honorable mentions should be included. First and foremost, there are Compost's impeccable compilations including Future Sounds of Jazz and Glücklich, as well as the first Jazzanova collection, The Remixes 1997-2000. But also artists, among them Minus 8, A Forest Mighty Black, Beanfield, Kyoto Jazz Massive, Les Gammas and Alex Attias.

Trüby Trio "A Go Go"

This wild piece of Latin-esque drum & bass funk was one of the first 12"s I ever bought. I was so new to the music at that time I can recall not knowing what speed to play the record at—it sounded equally compelling to me at 33 and 45. I used it to sound check at the first gig I ever played out of the house, at another house for a party filled with people I barely knew. I remember little of the party itself, only the slapped-together set-up and this record with its rolling breaks and prominent horn riffs. Rainer Trüby was one to watch from then on out, a key figure in shaping the Compost sound with his compilations and his work with Chrstian Prommer and Roland Appel as Trüby Trio.

Jazzanova "Caravelle"

Dropping the needle on this song the other night, I was brought right back to being a 20-year-old digging for the first pieces of my now quite cumbersome record collection. I had never heard drums like the ones programmed on "Caravelle." They were live, but they weren't. That was Jazzanova for me, constantly expanding my idea of what this music could be. Years down the road, nights out with Alex Barck or opening up for Jürgen von Knoblauch remain fond memories. It was hard to single out the song that encapsulates this group's influence on electronic jazz and leftfield dance music, but the percussion breakdown towards the end embodies Jazzanova to me. Also, always 33 on this one (François K agrees). I never even knew it any other way until it showed up on YouTube years later. 

Koop "Summer Sun"

This is a song that definitely occupies a specific space in time. Maybe a bit 'light' for my tastes these days, back in 2001 it was modern jazz to me. It swings, it launched the career of Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano and it's bursting with brightness. Koop's work was a cornerstone of the Compost sound, it was more jazz than electronic and it was tailor-made for the compilations and hotel lobby soundtracks this music eventually became a staple in. For some, this may strike a sour note as the music's co-opting by car commercials, coffee shops and other entities leeching off its easily likeable cool turned much of it into 21st century muzak. But for me (and I'm not alone here) this was the ideal of lounge listening.

Felix Laband "Whistling in Tongues" (Todd Terje remix)

The Compost camp wasn't just prolific for its original productions. Often its choice of remixers served as a primer for a who's who of a new generation of producers to look out for. This shimmering bossa house remix from then-newcomer Todd Terje was my introduction to an artist who remains a major influence to this day. His remix for Johannesburg's Felix Laband is simultaneously tropical, hypnotic laid back and mesmerizing; it's a song for open-air dancing, for Balearic sunsets and that's precisely how I like my music.

Fauna Flash "Tel Aviv" (Peter Kruder remix)

Speaking of remixes, this one from Peter Kruder of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame serves as the exact opposite of Terje's: fast, dark, techy and brooding. Hearing it for the first time, I could barely discern any traces of Fauna Flash's original. I'm still not convinced it's there. But it doesn't matter, this remix represented the "K" in K&D, the dark side of dance music that I knew so little about, the yang to Compost's predominant ying. At 130 bpms, I didn't know what to do with this song when I first got it. I still think I've only managed to play it a handful of times. That hasn't stopped it from serving as an entré to the bigger world of dance music, namely techno—machine music—and the wonders that futuristic music holds.

Compost Records is commemorating its 20th anniversary with a deluxe book looking back at the label's history, including interviews, memorabilia and tons of photos. Each book comes with a download code for three separate collections of new, forgotten and favorite music hand-picked by label owner Michael Reinboth. The book and compilation are available now.


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