- With drowsy compilations now coming from labels like Delsin, Throne Of Blood and New Kanada, it can be easy to neglect Kompakt's long-running Pop Ambient series. But ever since the first edition in 2001, the label's annual compilation has been a dependable year-marker for longtime listeners. Each release arrives just in time for the Northern Hemisphere's slow winter recline, giving the season a fitting soundtrack.
For Pop Ambient 2016, Kompakt once again turned to a host of regulars for their take on sleepy, comforting sonics, with inclusions from The Orb, Jens-Uwe Beyer, Mikkel Metal and Wolfgang Voigt. The mainstays nestle besides newer Kompakt signees like Leandro Fresco and Anton Kubikov. This time around, the label makes a noticeable effort to arrange the tracks into a coherent and subtly nuanced whole. Past editions typically found each producer working within their own niche, often leading to a wealth of riches that didn't necessarily meld together. 2016's tracks merge in an organic pattern of sorts, forming what plays out like a 67-minute mix.
As such, both the pacing and sequencing stand alongside some of the best editions. It's easy to misplace track transitions once you get lost in the haze. The sparkling drones at the end of The Orb's "Alpine Dawn" sink naturally into the piano and dawn-like atmospherics of Anton Kubikov's "April," and Max Wurden's astral tones in "Unterwasser" glide into the guitar notes and mournful strings that open Sicker Man & Gregor Schwellenbach's" elegiac "Turns." Thore Pfeiffer's "Megamix" of Wolfgang Voigt's "Rückverzauberung"—an attempt to reimagine Voigt's series as one track—blends its glacial throb expertly into the swirl of drones and uplifting synths in Jens-Uwe Beyer's "The Bremen." Likewise, the circling, John Cage-like pianos in Leandro Fresco's "Configuración De Ataque" lead into the compilation closer, the harsh blizzard winds and fried electronics of Pfeiffer's "Idyll."
Fifteen years on, it's comforting to hear a Pop Ambient release that feels so worn-in and instantly familiar. 2016 may not include the best standalone tracks in the series' history, but it certainly feels like one of the most shrewdly assembled editions yet.
01. Stephan Mathieu - April Im Oktober
02. The Orb - Alpine Dawn
03. Anton Kubikov - April
04. Max Würden - Unterwasser
05. Sicker Man & Gregor Schwellenbach - Turns
06. Würden & Pfeiffer - Feinherb
07. Mikkel Metal - Titan
08. Dave DK - Veira (Leandro Fresco Mix)
09. Wolfgang Voigt - Rückverzauberung (Thore Pfeiffer Megamix)
10. Jens-Uwe Beyer - The Bremen
11. Leandro Fresco - Configuración De Ataque
12. Thore Pfeiffer - Idyll