VA: Pop Ambient 2005

Kompakt's seventy-minute Pop Ambient 2005 revisits the template of past excursions with twelve more oases of hazy, shimmering ambiance. The issue doesn't so much concern the general approach—we already know it won't deviate markedly from the preceding volumes—but whether there's anything that differentiates this latest installment from those that came before.

The collection is framed by pieces from artists of long-standing. Opening the album, the Orb sounds like it has wholly reinvented itself, given how naturally it adapts itself to the series style on “Falkenbrück,” all clouded washes and haunted emissions. At the opposite end, Thomas Fehlmann offers a majestic epilogue via the dense and blurred symphonic washes of “With Oil.” Markus Guentner's “Innenfeld,” a dazed, shimmering shuffle of gentle tinklings, wavering chords, and snuffling noises, and Popnoname's “Gold,” a meditative church organ drone that basks in delicate symphonic splendour, perhaps best capture the Pop Ambient essence. Despite its perverse title, Klimek's “Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death” impresses as one of the strongest outings, its resonating guitar twang stretched hypnotically across swelling fields of hazy shimmer; Ulf Lohmann likewise deploys cleanly etched and phased guitar tones on his “Waster years.” Pop Ambient veteran Triola opts for gently oscillating pulses and animated cycles of synth sparkle in “Mondlied,” while new recruit DJ Koze maintains his mix sensibility by alternating droning guitar strums with symphonic snippets in “Hummell.” Like the rapid flitting of insects across a surface pond, Peter Grummich's “Sunbeams” presents dancing interweaves of soft glimmering particles and synth burbles.

On the down side, Pass Into Silence's “Blue” seems excessively sweet amidst the other, more sober offerings; even so, it's hard to resist the angelic innocence of its heavenly harp strums, glistening ostinatos, and light shuffling beats. The album's biggest disappointment is Wolfgang Voigt's Gas contribution, an inarguably beautiful foray into becalmed flutter but also a lazy resurrection of material from Pop; surely it's not unreasonable to expect the inclusion of new Gas material, especially given the album title (emphasis on the '2005').

To be honest, there's not a great deal that sonically differentiates this year's model from the last, even if the roll call changes slightly from one year to the next. But neither should that be construed as a damning indictment of this latest chapter; after all, we paradoxically want Pop Ambient 2005 to recreate the listening experience induced by its predecessors while somehow representing a discernible change from them.

March 2005