Briefly in early December, autumn turned to winter in London. There were crisp frosts, blue skies and sub zero temperatures. It was the way that the coldest of seasons ought to be.
It coincided with the release of the annual Pop Ambient compilation by Wolfgang Voigt’s Kompakt label. For a brief time, German techno and the London weather were in perfect synch.
And then it changed – we’re up to 15°C and it is all a bit murky again.
No matter though, let’s dust off Wolfgang’s latest offering.
Once again, it is unfailingly good. If like me, you’ve become a bit disillusioned with the old drums/guitars/bass schtick, it is a blast of cool calm fresh air.
We’ve got a couple of returnees from last year’s compilation which I reviewed here. Max Würden follows last year’s “Unterwasser” with the throbbing pulse of “186,000 Miles Per Second” (i.e. the speed of light) and “Fernfeld”. Leandro Fresco also gets two tracks, a bit of a rarity for these compilations. Jens-Uwe Beyer is back with “Final 10”, which closes out the compilation with a beautiful static single chord and Thore Pfeiffer contributes with “Good Life”, a glistening bauble of a track, just right for Christmas.
There are some interesting additions too. Soulsavers’ “Hal” has received the Wolfgang Voigt remix treatment. Soulsavers have been kicking around for a few years now making interesting music often via collaboration. They’ve done a couple of excellent LPs with Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and Mark Lanegan each as the vocalists. The Lanegan LP was a particular favourite with the wonderful “Revival” getting played to death in our house. It took Lanegan’s deep gruff vocals and introduced a gospel backing. It was rather wonderful.
“Hal” named after the computer in Kubrick’s “2001” is a stately electronic piano based track with some beautiful swelling strings and a smattering of percussion. Rich Martin and Ian Glover have been working on an LP inspired by the film director’s work and Voigt’s treatment of the song is just wonderful.
Yui Onodera gets 1.5 tracks with the opening “Cromo2” and a joint venture with Scanner on “Locus Solus”. The latter is a gently pulsing piece of soundart with a fragile guitar melody, a distance away from Scanner aka Robin Rimbaud’s work with police and emergency radio broadcasts. Onedera is a Japanese artist who has a background in architecture and there is certainly a sense of space in his music.
One of the benefits of Voigt’s approach to these compilations is that it isn’t just techno artists doing chill out music but he widens the net with people like Onedera and Stephan Mathieu on last year’s compilation.
Anton Kubikov’s “Dekka” is a new one on me. He is a prolific Russian electronic artist who has recently moved to Prague to open his own shop selling clothes and music. His piece is glides icily across the landscape, perfect for watching the European landscape from the window of a speeding train. It contrasts with the following track “Sonido Espanol” by the Spanish artist Fresco, which creates an Iberian warmth, like the late afternoon sun dying behind the mountains. Much of the music on the compilation has that sense of the physical and works both in the background and in the foreground.
It sounds corny but writing this piece in our living room, set up for Christmas with the scent of gingerbread hanging from the tree – it is a healthy indulgence. I’d recommend the LP to anyone who enjoyed side 2 of “Low”, any Tangerine Dream or Jean Michel Jarre fans or those who enjoyed the electronic music in the 90s.
You can buy the LP directly from Kompakt’s Bandcamp page here.