As always, with the dawn of a new year there’s the reliable arrival of a new volume in Kompakt’s ongoing ‘Pop Ambient’ compilation series, and this latest instalment sees them continuing to power into their 17th year of continuous operation, an impressive feat in itself. While as you’d expect by now there’s the usual impressive cast of contributors with often exclusive tracks, for this 17th volume Kompakt have decided to do things slightly differently. Firstly, several of the artists here contribute more than just one track to the tracklisting, with some of the segues representing mini-suites at points here. Secondly, the techno and house elements that were occasionally present on previous volumes in the series are completely absent here, with the focus falling more upon pure ambience and droning textures, with the occasional subtle instrumental interjection.
Yui Onodera’s glacially smooth ‘Cromo2’ gives good indication of what’s in store here as it scatters sparse melodic piano keys over an enveloping backdrop of warm reverbed out drones, the lazy percussive sounds that crunch and slosh away beneath calling to mind the shifting of ice floes in some Northern sea. More than anything else, there’s a sense of your ‘listening metabolism’ being slowed amidst of wash of reassuring calm, to the point where your attention is allowed to focus on the tiniest of details. Max Wuerden’s ‘Fernfeld’ meanwhile sees a slow rippling melodic loop merging with reverb-treated steel guitar bends, the interplay of the various elements cycling around each other building the sense of atmosphere whilst also evoking a moment in time being trapped and allowed to feed back on itself.
Elsewhere, Pop Ambient curator Wolfgang Voigt contributes a gorgeous remix of Soulsavers’ ‘Hal’ (taken from their recent Kubrick-themed collection) that throws the emphasis on dark shades as lush synth-orchestration swells beneath delicate muted piano runs, the sparse slow beats that echo through the mix adding to the sense of foreboding counterpointing all of the beauty. By comparison, Leandro Fresco’s ‘El Abismo’ sends things wandering off through hypnotically droning filtered electronics and a cosmic wash of reverb, the sense of mantra-like repetition that’s induced reaching out more towards classic prog-ambient along the lines of Popol Vuh and their ilk. As is customary by now with ‘Pop Ambient’, Voigt’s curation of this latest volume in the series proves consistently sharp, with nothing approaching a dud moment to be found here.