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Album of the Week: Pop Ambient 2012

We cast our eye over one of Kompakt's latest releases.

Artist: Various Artists
Album: Pop Ambient 2012
Label: Kompakt
Release Date: 30/01/2012

Germany's Kompakt imprint is a rubber stamp of electronic music quality. Sure, the sheer volume of output delivered by the label means it cannot always match our sky-high expectations, but nonetheless the camp consistently does aural arrangements very well.

It's important to note words such as ‘dance', ‘house' or ‘techno' have not been used, until just now. That's because whilst the organisation in question is most renowned for its explorations into the latter two genres, if there is a Kompakt sound it's fundamentally grounded in wider music, as oppose to club noises. This couldn't be more pronounced than in Pop Ambient 2012.

Labelling a beat-free collection of largely blissed out soundscapes as atmospheric ‘non house' might be a little like saying ‘spades are good for digging'. But so many producers have failed in their attempts to create this kind of music, proving that if something is harmonious and building it's not necessarily emotive or engaging at the same time. Here though the finished products do stand out from the often over conceptualised genre crowd, not least those coming from the dancefloor fraternity.

Take for example Superpitcher's lo-fi etherealism in Jackson. The producer is usually associated with deftly crafted records for clubbers. Here though, with his first addition to Kompakt's ambient album catalogue, he manages to avoid the boring pitfalls of many a techno head experimenting with chill out, by taking the musicality inherent in so many of his tunes, and applying more moments to create some imagined film score of staggered piano chords and looped keys.

Further sounds suitable for the big screen are present in the typically experimental Wolfgang Voight track, Ruckverzauberung 5. Like a slightly deranged musical interpretation of Alice In Wonderland strings reverse out, creating an uneasy feeling of tension, whilst chimes twinkle and provide slight moments of calm. If you're looking for freeform composition work, then consider the search over.

Far from your average album release then, both in terms of style and standards, everything works well- from the most tranquil outing (arguably Loops Of Your Heart's Riding The Bikes), to the harshest wall of sound (unquestionably the grungey synth workout Manifesto by Mohn; AKA Voigt and Jorg Burger). Perhaps most notably of all though, aside from being a fine LP of arty ambience that hasn't been overly conceptualised (and therefore remains universally enjoyable), Pop Ambient 2012 represents a showcase of great producers in a different light, and is a suitably gentle wake up call after January's hibernation.

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