Pop Ambient 2022 features 15 tracks, from around 10 artists, plus upon purchase you receive a download of a continuous mix, and I think that’s key. Complied by the pioneering co-founder of KOMPAKT, Wolfgang Voigt, I believe that the album is intended to be listened to, if not in one sitting (the running time totals 1 hour and 27 minutes), then certainly not individual tune by tune. Even without mixing the selection is at pains to segue seamlessly between likeminded artists, and the whole set (yeah I did listen to it one sitting) is linked by an overriding “vibe” – one of peace and tranquility. There are no dark shadows, abrasive edges or stretches, to watch out for. Nothing jarring, or deliberately “avant”. Rather the serene sonics of sun breaking cloud.
This is synthesized calm consolidated, and consequently can be considered “mood-altering”, and therefore psychedelic, without resorting to the aural equivalent of flashing strobes and fractals. The performers producing the varied vapour-like arrangements from particulate patterns of buzz, hum, and drone. Electronic ecosystems of frequencies that blink and flicker in flux. Patient, unhurried, pieces which rise in warm romantic waves. Often expanding from whisper to roar. Syntheses that swell like muted massed orchestras, reprised distant fanfares, but fanfares all the same. Musical reference points, as usual for such stuff – aching ambient atmospheres rich in resonance, reverb, and delay – are Eno & Lanois, Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd. A lot of it, in my humble opinion, is also indebted to the work of Brock Van Wey.
There are ripples of bird song, field recorded water, the static-like crackle of sampled rain showers, amidst the streams of sustain, ethereal error and glitch. These treated textures, Tangerine Dream sequences, teasing with glimpses, traces, of their source instruments – largely acoustic piano, but also harbouring hidden guitar intricacies, and hushed human harmonies. Cool blue brass blowing bold high above, while reeds sometimes sing somewhere deep within.
Pop Ambient 2022 is out now, on KOMPAKT, with artwork by long-term collaborator, Veronika Unland.