On his Ferdinand Magellan inspired new album
Electric Selection - Michael Mayer

For Michael Mayer, life is but a journey; one of discovery, a voyage into new sights, sounds and sensations in search of something to add to the map.

For starters, take Kompakt, the Cologne-based label he helped set up alongside Wolfgang Voigt and Jürgen Paape in ’98. Set up to embrace a multitude of music styles under one unified umbrella, experimentalism has lived in its DNA as it has continued to ripen, refining its vision with countless releases feeding disco, ambient and pop (from Gui Boratto, Superpitcher, Justus Köhncke, DJ Koze, The Field) into the techno formula.

“From the beginning, there was this coordinated system, all these things (ambient, techno, pop, disco) were in the blueprint,” he tells Clash from his home in Cologne. “As we have become more self-confident, we’ve put out things that might shock or surprise our followers, but that is the fun of running a label. Sometimes you can take risky positions and see what comes out.”

Now consider his latest album, ‘Mantasy’ -  only his second of an illustrious career that has garnered collaborations with Supermayer and Matthias Aguayo and a hectic DJ schedule despite the day-to-day running, A&Ring and business operation of one of Germany’s most distinguished techno labels. Hardly surprising then that it’s taken eight years to arrive; the early part of 2012 offering the first opportunity to lock himself away in the studio for a few months since 2004’s ‘Touch’, which he cobbled together within the space of weeks.

“I just closed the studio door, tried to forget about everything else around me, all the music I am listening to in the office in my line of duty,” he reflects romantically. “It was really about fantasy. The album is called ‘Mantasy’, which stands for this mysterious place, where nobody has ever been. It could be an island or a continent but it is like this land where things are happening or are  not possible to mankind.”

Inspired by the real life journals of 15th Century explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who sought to discover a passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean as part of a sailing entourage of three hundred people on a single ship with two years of food, ‘Mantasy’ is the story of Mayer’s own internal musical exploration.

“They started sailing without knowing where they were going,” he speaks, bordering on reverence.  “They had bad maps - wrong  maps actually - but I was amazed by this character, how he ignored any reasonable thought and put everything in the service of his dream. I took that inspiration into the studio in the sense that I wanted to discover uncharted territory.”

Heard as a patchwork of styles that make up the Kompakt staple, it’s further proof that Mayer personifies the values that constitute the label he helped conceive. Dealing track-by-track with ambient textures, dark disco, kraut  electro and microhouse  with the sleek, steely techno  aesthetic that defines the imprint, ‘Mantasy’ delivers everything a Kompakt album would - and should - have the propensity to.

It's the result of an ear tuned by time but loosened by the fire of burning audacity;  old Pakistani folk music and ’60s and ’70s psychedelia from Korea and Iran on labels like Sublime Frequencies and Stone’s Throw’s Now Again making up just some of the listening  informing the album.

‘Mantasy’ is Mayer’s manifesto; his own attempt to leave an intelligible mark within an infinitely sprawling musical universe spiralling further out of the realms of human control. “I know it is difficult these days to do something that no-one has done before, but still I went on a journey,”  he reveals. “Not on the ocean, but inside to see what kind of music is sleeping down there.”



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