Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Ambient Techno
The first thing you'll notice scanning the tracklist for Pop Ambient 2014 is the element of throwback. Ulf Lohmann returns to the annual collection for the first time since 2008, contributing two swaths of narcotic bliss. Jörg Burger appears as The Bionaut, albeit remixed by Triola. Throw in contributions by Kompakt stalwarts like Thomas Fehlmann, Marsen Jules and Wolfgang Voigt (under his real name and as Gas), and it seems like Kompakt's looking ever-fondly back at its early to mid-'00s heyday.Gone, for the most part, are the modern classical leanings of artists like Sylvain Chaveau, or the black-hearted metallic scrapings the Fun Years.
Kompakt's annual Pop Ambient comp is the venerable techno label's moody roundup of its prettiest wallpaper, a chance to show off dream-gaze clouds, barely there beats and the occasional cover. The 14th edition brings ambient music's nostalgic longing full circle: It boasts the first new music since 2000 from Wolfgang Voight's cult project Gas, whose bleary slush has long been a Kompakt touchstone. Elsewhere, German drift architect Ulf Lohmann (a staple of the comp's early years), Danish dubster Mikkel Metal and a remix of headphone-house pioneer the Bionaut all meld patient guitar plucks with thick drone fogs.
Volume 14 of the Kompakt label's Pop Ambient series contains a surprising amount of material that is aggressive, almost piercing -- certainly less lulling -- compared to gentler series highlights like Donnacha Costello's "Dry Retch" and Triola's "AG Penthouse." Ulf Lohmann, who reappears after an extended absence, provides the opening and closing tracks, both of which resemble extended introductions to mid-'80s rock anthems. Under his birth name, Wolfgang Voigt contributes the challenging "Rückverzauberung 8," all whipping whirs. Just after that, as Gas, Voigt reduces the Field's "Cupid's Head" to reverberant gusts, its vocal sample barely audible.
A regular fixture in the electronic music calendar, Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series is now on its 14th iteration. Despite those 14 years, and much of the world around them, little has changed in format, style or approach. From its distinctive floral album covers to the roster of artists, Pop Ambient has stood proudly unaffected by trends or fads and remained stoic in the pursuit of its vision.