Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series of records has been going now for over ten years but still shows no signs of becoming tired or struggling for new and relevant material and artists.

Pop Ambient 2016 (out on 13th November) continues the previous albums in the series’ themes – lush electronica that is perfect to float away with. Pop Ambient is accessible and easy to listen to whilst remaining clever enough to be stimulating.

The new record opens with Stephan Mathieu who is an electro acoustic composer and installation artist. His tune April Im Oktober is a building piece of electronic tonal textures that almost feel to be one long sound made up of several others.POP_AMBIENT_2016_Cover

Next up is The Orb, who has released stuff on Kopakt in the past, and the tune Alpine Dawn. For those of you expecting the dubbed out basslines etc of the likes of Little Fluffy Clouds you will be surprised at this offering. It’s a tripped out ambient piece (of course) with references to the tunes title in the form of cow bells and the like. There is a bassline of sorts in there that sort of comes and goes, but the main feature of this tune is the aural landscapes the good Doctor builds on… sat here listening to this I’m reminded of films taken from hang-gliders where the pilot happens along a different feature (and sound) in the landscape as he glides through it.

Anton Kubikov (SCSI-9) is up next with a more traditional arrangement (April) in that it has a lovely melody line played over an evolving synthscape and a slow throbbing bassline that just draws you in and takes you away.

Max Wurden enters the fray with an underwater inspired and wistful piece that really wouldn’t be out of place in a wildlife documentary featuring whales and what not. Again, another lovely piece that just allows the listener to glide into his own thoughts whilst the music guides a little…actually quite meditative and calming. On the CD version of Pop Ambient 2016 Wurden collaborates with Thore Pfeiffer which has both artists bringing a bit of their own style to the mix for a tune (Feinherb) that has messed up (but still very ambient) loops intermingled with drones and pads…perhaps the edgiest of the tunes on the record I’d say.

Also collaborating on Pop Ambient 2016 are Sicker Man and Gregor Schwellenbach who come together to create an impressively grand piece that ebbs and flows but has enough of a melody to have more widespread appeal. I loved this tune and my only criticism is it didn’t go on longer.

There are more artists on Pop Ambient 216 (Mikkel Metal, Leandro Fresco, Dave DK (a beautifully alien piece), Wolfgang Voigt, Jens-Uwe Beyer) but the theme remains the same throughout – accessible and enjoyable electronica created to quieten the mind and take them away from their every day lives and into an inner space, all the time with the music as a guide.
Personally I’d like to see a version of Pop Ambient that was DJ mixed and without gaps to allow for a more coherent and unified experience. Nevertheless, 2016 represents a beautifully hypnotic album that is reverie inducing and soothing. Just what you want at the end of a hard day at the coal face.

Stuart Smith

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