Sprawling over two discs, Nobody Knows Anything, the inaugural release of DFA sub-imprint Death from Abroad, compiles two year’s worth of releases from the Berlin-based Supersoul Recordings. Label head Xaver Naudascher has a hand in seven of the 19 tracks on offer here, either alone or assisted by Paul Mogg. Mogg & Naudascher’s four-part “Moon Unit” series wends its way through this compilation and serves as a sort of stylistic template here. The approach is maximal, drawing on italo disco, many iterations of house and techno, and krautrock, even as it avoids excessiveness. There are no wailing divas here (the ones that appear sit back in the mix and don’t pull any funny business), no "HiNRG oonce oonce," no sense of being tied down to anything local. This is cosmopolitan music, and it doesn’t suffer for that fact — I don’t sense any feeling of lost opportunities — but there is a mirage-like quality to the music when you take the whole two discs in one hit.
Not unlike the four-and-a-half hour “roadshow” edition of Soderbergh’s Che, the retro-necro feel of Nobody starts off rapturously panoramic and ambitious but ends up making the brain feel waterlogged and achy. Moment by moment, it’s enjoyable, high-caliber dance, and the subtle differences between artists make for fun mini-suites. Plastique de Rêve’s “Resist” and Strangelets’ “Riot on Planet 10,” on the first disc, or Skatebard’s “Marimba” and Plastique de Rêve’s “Lost in the City” on the second are quick shots displaying the album’s range with none of the claustrophobia that listening to the whole “Moon Unit” suite might induce.
It would be easy to knock these tunes for their obsession with the now-distant past on tunes like Detroit-techno-homage “Motor City,” but the fact that this compilation often feels like too much for its digital envelope, and would fare better on 12-inces is a fact that works in Supersoul’s favor. Last year’s Hercules & Love Affair full-length may have referenced a similarly broad swath of dance music history, but mid-album cuts like “Iris” make concessions to albums qua albums in a way this comp doesn’t. I also get the feeling that the artists would probably have little interest in doing so anyway. This is one of the cases where apparently regressing is also somewhat visionary: Balanced between white labels and digital singles, Supersoul Recordings’ expansive take on what’s come before just can’t accommodate itself to the present.