Facing no discernible competition when its first eight volumes were released, Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series monopolized the ambient-techno compilation field throughout most of the 2000s’ first decade. In the label’s eyes, Innervisions' Muting the Noise (2008) and Mule Electronic's Kompakt-distributed Enjoy the Silence (2009), featuring Pop Ambient vets Thomas Fehlmann and DJ Koze, were likely seen as welcome, or even validating, releases -- extra assurance that their untiring support of ambient music has not been in isolation or vain. This particular volume of Pop Ambient keeps the ever-shifting array of contributors in (slow) motion, mixing in relative newcomers with the establishment. The most pleasant surprise is the re-emergence of Dettinger, who remixed Pet Shop Boys' “Gomorrah” in 2006 but hadn’t released one of his own tracks since Pop Ambient 2002. His “Therefore” is typically soothing and unsettling, pitting a persistent jutting effect against cotton-soft drones. The lone true newcomer, Brock Van Wey (aka Bvdub), closes the disc with the series’ lengthiest and most dramatic (and perhaps most 4AD-indebted) track yet, but his blissed-out “Lest You Forget,” earlier in the set, is as much of a highlight, possibly an homage to Slowdive’s Pygmalion with its gently picked and strummed acoustic guitar, gentle atmospheric washes, and distant/heavily echoed vocal refrain. Other tracks leaving immediate and lasting impressions come from the Orb, Andrew Thomas, and papa Wolfgang Voigt. If the comparative value of each Pop Ambient compilation is measured by the length of its lingering effect and sheer gorgeousness, this one comes pretty close to the 2002 and 2003 volumes.
Pop Ambient 2010 Review
by Andy Kellman
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