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

What’s the story?

Pop Ambient’s place in the calendar is a reassuring recurrence, as is the music it contains.

For more than 20 years now, Kompakt’s beatless compilation series has given a steadying hand to its listener’s, and the Cologne label see no reason to tinker with their formula.

Once again the tracklisting is a blend of familiar names and new talent, curated as ever by Wolfgang Voigt. His question is simple: What happens when the dancefloor is empty, and everyone’s home to drift away?

What’s the music like?

Once again the carefully selected and sequenced music of Pop Ambient takes its listeners to a special place. Voigt has an uncanny ability of choosingmusic that takes the heat off everyday life, but retains an exquisite tension keeping the listener on board.

The steady chimes of Coiling, from relative newcomers Blank Gloss, is a great example before a deep dive into the watery textures of Yui Onodera‘s Cromo 6. Kari, a collaboration between Markus Guentner and Joachim Spieth, is absolutely lovely, suspended in a blanket of sound.

The bell-like sonorities of Reich & Würden‘s Grainscan prove unexpectedly moving with the addition of a poignant trumpet line, while the steady pulse of Triola‘s Mutterkorn is dressedwith birdsong. Perhaps inevitably some of the best music comes from Thomas Fehlmann, whose Rosen Fliegen has waves of consonant harmony. Later on the notable Retrospektive, from Max Würden, sparkles around the edges.

Elsewhere the calming selection includes blissful moments from Andrew Thomas, Thore Pfeiffer and Weiht, a strong collaboration between Morgan Wurde and Maria Estrella. Closing out the sequence we find Blank Gloss again, further enhancing their reputation with Anticlimbers.

Does it all work?

Yes. It may be a tried and tested formula for over two decades now, but there is surely no need to change the record for Voigt and Kompakt.

Is it recommended?

It almost goes without saying. Pop Ambient is as important now as it ever has been, and shows how Kompakt still have their finger on the reassuringly slow pulse.

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