Rex The Dog Selects His Top 14 Kompakt Tunes
Jake Williams, AKA Rex The Dog, is a wizard. Not of the fantastical Merlin or Dumbledore ilk, but of the modular type. He is an expert at crafting sonic spells and patches with his analogue electronics and a self-built modular synthesizer. His sound ranges from polished and brilliant to gnarled and noisy, and his extensive discography is overflowing with influential dance floor enchantments.
Debuting back in 1994 as JX on Red Jerry’s established Hooj Choons imprint, Williams jumped straight into the ’90s dance charts with dynamite tracks like “Son Of A Gun” and “There’s Nothing I Won’t Do”. After playing around under various monikers such as Mekka and Oblik, he signed to Kompakt Records in 2004 under his now revered Rex The Dog alias for his Frequency and Prototype EPs, before producing with Moby and Fever Ray and remixing The Prodigy, Robyn Depeche Mode, Röyksopp, The Knife, and more.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Rex The Dog returned to Kompakt Records with his You Are A Blade and Sicko EPs. The highly-acclaimed records marked a new chapter in Williams’ slick and driving output, which has continued to flourish on Kompakt for the past five years. From the high-flying sounds of “Teufelsberg” to his spiraling and potent “Vortex” — which just received a stunning remix from Krystal Klear — Rex The Dog brings all the bark and bite that one looks for in any chugging electro excursion.
A full-fledged member of the Kompakt family with a total of eight EPs released via the critical dance music institution, we hear from Williams about his 15 favorite tracks on Kompakt Records and the brilliant stories behind them.
Justus Kohncke – Homogen
This was the first Kompakt record I ever encountered. I liked the artwork first (which was a photo of a man washing another man’s hair) and then the analogue sequencer line and general fun of it. Michael Mayer recently mentioned that it was a significant Berghain record at the time, which seems amazing now because it’s such a disco sound. The last time I was on the Berghain dancefloor, it was wall to wall punishing techno.
Ferenc – Yes Sir I Can Hardcore (Michael Mayer Mix)
This was in the same batch of records as “Homogen” and, listening to it in the store seemed experimental and fun, which was quite inspirational. The very scrubby synths in the break are charmingly confusing and awkward, but then when the beat comes back, everything pulls into focus, and you know where you are again. It’s really fun.
Jurgen Paape – Nord
I came late to this track, but heard it the first time in the best circumstances: Michael Mayer was playing at an Off Sonar beach party, in front of a spooky oil refinery. This came on around sunset, and I was dancing in front of a big white speaker that was sinking into the sand (it’s a vivid memory). The bass and drums sounded so pure and fierce, and I was so overcome with excitement that a security guard rebuked me for leaping about too much.
Heiko Voss – I Think About You
Back in 2003, this was the first vocal track I’d heard from Kompakt. The vocal is short and straightforward but has a ton of yearning and emotion boiled down into one phrase: I think about you all the time. I wanted to try something similar, and the vocal for my track “I Look Into Mid Air” was inspired by this.
DJ Koze – Brutalga Square
Like Jurgen Paape’s ‘Nord’, this is boney and stripped and sounds super heavy on a club system. I used ‘Brutalga Square’ as the basis for a mash-up when I did a BBC Radio 1 mini-mix for Annie Mac. I put Mel & Kim’s “Respectable” over the top of it, which was quite a juxtaposition. When I met Koze, I played it to him, and he said (more or less) that he liked me as a person more than he liked this music, which I thought was very kindly put.
Justus Kohncke – Timecode
The ultimate slow-burn pleasure release record. It’s so beautifully produced and spacious. I’ve never played it as a DJ, but I’ve danced to it many times. I sampled the bass drum and used it on loads of my own stuff at the time. Maybe.
The Modernist – The International Loner
This track is all about the riff, which starts at 1:06. It’s kind of camp and exuberant in the way that Glam’s “Hell’s Party” or even “Doop” was in the early ’90s (super fun at a party). In my mind, it really needed a clap, so I made an edit with a big sort of New Order clap all the way through it. It made it a lot more direct and maybe a bit more obvious, but that’s what I wanted.
Oxia – Domino
This is another track I missed when it came out and heard for the first time at a Kompakt beach party. By the time I found out what it was, it had sixty billion views on YouTube. I love the whole trance riff and the dislocated bassline, which is almost — but not quite — out of time with the drums. I was aiming in this trance direction with my track “Teufelsberg,” but that was a very wide miss.
WhoMadeWho – Immersion
I wish I could hear this in a club, but there are no clubs right now. It’s a lovely wash of pads and fan faring synths all over a relentless bassline. If there were piano sheet music for this, it would say ‘with a driving beat’ as the instruction for how to play it.
Michael Mayer – Action
Michael Mayer getting playful and throwing the whole kitchen sink in. This is super fun with a rattling alarm/percussion bell all the way through, white noise rhythms, and a voice shouting “Action!”. And then it goes to a squirting acid line, and then by the end, there are referee whistles. A not-stripped-back classic!
Jonathan Kaspar – Young
This reminds me of my early experiences of Kompakt music, even though it’s a new track. It recalls those odd diversions which resolve into something more familiar and pleasing. It reminds me of other favourites like Koze’s “Brutalga Square” and Barnt’s “Chappell” with bursts of alarming electric fence noises and primitive drum machines.
Rex The Dog – Sicko (Bawrut Remix)
Bawrut is one of my favourite producers at the moment. I really like how this is quite similar to the original version — it doesn’t deviate from the original sound too much — but Bawrut has pumped up the wonkiness to the max. I thought the original was quite wonky, but this has been smashed around the head with a cartoon anvil and stretched to the very limit. I love it.
Reinhard Voigt – Der Mann, Der Nie Nach Deutz Kam
In the beginning, this is driving and pure, but then the Kompakt non-convention creeps in. Crickets at first, but then there’s what sounds like a horse followed by a cartoony female voice and then some field recording noise that’s either the municipal swimming pool or a riot. Then the horse comes back. I would love to hear this in a club but haven’t yet.
Clarion – Early Life
Pleasingly reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Shout” in the percussion breaks, this is really about the hyper-coloured cascading melody. It makes me sad not to be at a Kompakt beach party this year.