Switched On – Various Artists: Pop Ambient 2021 (Kompakt)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Pop Ambient has always been one of Kompakt’s flagship projects, but in 2021 it is surely needed more than ever. With no reason to change the winning formula of seasoned regulars and bright new things, the series – in Kompakt’s words – becomes ‘a sprightly young adult waltzing out of its teenage joys and tears’.

What’s the music like?

It is no understatement to say this really is balm to soothe the soul. From the moment new Kompakt signings Blank Gloss begin the music takes its listener to a special and very relaxed place, the Sacramento group letting their guitar run free through On A Vessel.

Then Yui Onodera pans out with Chromo 5, with similarly warm textures that seem to hang on a gentle breeze. Reich & Würden‘s Lens proves to be rather special, with a slightly mournful trumpet lead that hints of a detective or intelligence series theme. Joachim Spieth & Pepo Galán‘s Libration proves to be one of those wonderfully immersive ambient tracks, holding still on one pitch but moving subtly above it. Max Würden‘s Center does the same, with a simple but probing piano line, while Neozaïre‘s Vor Den Toren Europas resembles the sound of an orchestra playing slowly outdoors.

Neozaïre is one of three new Kompakt artists on this release, along with Blank Gloss and Seventh World, whose Light The Waves Before Dawn is a beautifully stretched mood piece suggestive of the lazily moving waters themselves.

Does it all work?

Effortlessly so. The great thing about Pop Ambient is that it works so well but never rests on its laurels, giving new pointers in ambient music with each installment.

Is it recommended?

You know the answer. As a standpoint in the ambient music calendar, Pop Ambient is eagerly awaited and delivers with as little effort as possible. As, indeed, ambient music should.

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