The latest annual compilation from the Kompakt label offers a couple new, yet familiar, wrinkles.
Now that the German electronica label Kompakt has almost a dozen of these under its belt, you pretty much know what to expect from a Pop Ambient compilation. That would be slow-moving, occasionally oscillating, moodiness performed primarily on synthesizers. The dozen tracks here are mostly placid to the point of sounding like thick, matte paint slowly oozing out of the speakers. Many of the usual suspects are accounted for, but there are also a couple eyebrow-raisers. Ex-Einstürzende Neubauten and Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld, recording with Alvo Nota as ANBB, turns in the rather creepy, somewhat tribal "Bernsteinzimmer". Esteemed producer Ewan Pearson, trading under the name Bhutan Tiger Rescue, provides a highlight with the Steve Reich-like, chiming beauty of "Beginner's Waltz", proving that ambient can be evocative, too. If only more of Pop Ambient 2011 followed suit.