V/A - POP AMBIENT 2009 (KOMPAKT)
I didn’t get round to reviewing Kompakt’s latest collection of stratospheric pop techno in 2008, but rest assured it was one of my favourites of last year. Their latest addition to what is becoming a fearsome dual-pronged sustained assault on electronica is laced with a strong sense of tradition. What comes across in this interesting assortment of ambient selections which range from artists such as Tim Hecker, The Fun Years, Sylvain Chaveau and Popnoname, is musicality that is tied to the classical form. Perhaps this is in light of label owner Voigt (who appears on this under the rare guise of Mint and also with long-time collaborator Jorg Burger) who has re-entered the arena with the recent reissue of the Gas albums, which draw upon samples taken from the likes of Wagner, Schoenberg and Schubert. Certainly his own contribution is called “Hindemith”, perhaps drawing inspiration from the composer who had an ambiguous relationship with the Nazis. This ambiguity is a vital aspect of Kompakt’s aesthetic.
As a compilation, “Pop Ambient 2009” displays a reassuring array of sounds and emotions, although I will say that the contributions of Sylvain Chaveau and Tim Hecker fall a little short, especially the latter, whose static-charged noisescapes seem to fall between the polarised mantles of uncertainty and unbridled joy that seep through most of the pieces, and seems out of place. Chaveau’s crystalline guitar work touches upon some nice atmospheres but ultimately go nowhere. Elsewhere though, there are some true nuggets in this collection. The Fun Years produce a brief bit of distorted gold in “I am speaking through Barbara”, and Jens Uwe Beyer’s (Popnoname) “Nightliner” is probably the highlight of the album, that whilst not particularly original, he shows again that he has magic in the melodies he produces. The orchestral tones of Klimek’s efforts, especially on “True Enemies and False Friends” give the album a sheen that has been missing from previous efforts, and as mentioned before, there’s a slice of opulent elegance to anything Voigt himself touches nowadays, as his collaboration on “Frieden” with Jorg Burger demonstrates. Their remix of Paape’s “Ausklang” only furthers my belief that Voigt is one of the true masters of electronic music right now.
“Pop Ambient 2009” again demonstrates with some considerable ease the fact that there is another facet to Kompakt beyond the trancepop of the likes of Superpitcher et al, and it will be hard to find a compilation this year that has its finger on the pulse of a genre that continues to grow at a prolific rate.