German electronic music label Kompakt has been releasing Pop Ambient compilations for a while now, but Thore Pfeiffer’s Im Blickfeld is the second entry of Kompakt’s Pop Ambient artist album series. What does this mean for you? Honestly, probably not much. I suppose you could take a step back and process Im Blickfeld as a piece of a larger jigsaw puzzle, one where you don’t know what picture you’re supposed to be constructing. Or you can zoom in and soak up this album the same way you would any other Kompakt release. After all, Kompakt is serious about electronic music. For them, it’s not all about glow sticks, sweat, and dehydrating drugs. They don’t let any old DJ roll in from the outside and give them a deal, they sniff out artists who can drop new sounds way down inside the listener’s neurons. So it’s a small surprise that they give the keys to a newcomer so early in this series.
The only thing Thore Pfeiffer has done for Kompakt prior to Im Blickfeld are a pair of tracks for the Pop Ambient 2015 compilation. So does Pfeiffer qualify as an ambient heavyweight that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the label’s roster? Hearing Im Blickfeld, I’d say he’s more on his way than having fully arrived.
On first encounter, Im Blickfeld dazzles with its sounds. Opener “Allzu Nah” features those soft-yet-solid keyboards sounds that are calibrated just-so for a pleasantly timed slap-back. When it plays, you can feel yourself become centered and the fact that it doesn’t develop into anything bigger doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Then as “Drang” moderately bobs along, you start to wonder if Pfeiffer is going to transpose any of these neat sounding ideas into second gear. That’s when the title track swoops down and begins to toy with your brain by having two patterns slightly out of phase with one another overlap, a lovely gimmick that he reprises on the album’s 15-minute closer “Gipfel”.
The perfect sounds keep coming through Im Blickfeld, but Thore Pfeiffer continues to favor drone and repetition over organic development. It’s not that the former is such a bad thing and that the latter never, ever happens — it’s just that Im Blickfeld holds more potential than its displaying. Then again, this could be built into the album itself. You can take Pfeiffer’s word for it: “During production, I always had these images in mind, of a hunter sitting in the deerstand, contemplating his extended field of vision. He’s got a lot of time at his hands to muse about things and take in the silence before the storm.” It could be that the storm and the hunt are being saved for the next narrative, because all of the action here is within the hunter’s mind.
These observations shouldn’t dissuade anyone from checking out Im Blickfeld nor should they by any means serve as anything prophetic for Thore Pfeiffer’s career. This is a snapshot of a starting lunge.