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It's no small feat to keep an ambient compilation fresh and interesting for over a decade, especially when the core aesthetic idea is as well-defined as Pop Ambient's. But this didn't keep Pop Ambient 2015 (KOMP 120CD/KOM 315LP) from finding a compelling balance between veteran contributors like Jens-Uwe Beyer and Leandro Fresco and new, idiosyncratic voices like Max Würden and Thore Pfeiffer. They all return for Pop Ambient 2016, joining a captivating cast that also includes heavyweight soundsmiths, experimental composers, and ambient confidants. Pop Ambient 2016 opens with electroacoustic composer and installation artist Stephan Mathieu, whose highly textured opening drone "April Im Oktober" bears all the hallmarks of a pop ambient classic, stealthily weaving in layers of sound and moving fluidly between territories. Meanwhile, The Orb show off the full extent of their experience in the field and have their own little ambient collage opera going on in "Alpine Dawn," a slight detour from their beat-laden 2015 full-length Moonbuilding 2703 AD (KOMP 124CD/KOM 330LP), but on that same level of masterful sonic dexterity. SCSI-9's Anton Kubikov builds momentum with a sweet melody, slowly evolving to the atmospheric backdrop of a light synth rain, while Würden imagines a dreamy yet twisted underwater world with lots of space to get lost in. He later returns for a collaboration with Pfeiffer, the other newcomer hero from Pop Ambient 2015, and the result is a fascinating amalgamation of both producers' distinct sonic sensibilities -- the grittier, drone-based approach from Würden and Pfeiffer's penchant for roaming samples and skewed loops. Another dedicated collab comes from Sicker Man and Gregor Schwellenbach, who team up for the string-infused, cinematic epic "Turns." Longstanding Kompakt ally Mikkel Metal presents the surging "Titan," followed by Fresco's magisterial rework of Dave DK's "Veira" from his 2015 Val Maira album (KOMP 121CD/KOM 326LP). Pfeiffer's "Megamix" of Wolfgang Voigt's "Rückverzauberung" reimagines an entire concept series as one sweeping cut before Beyer continues his expeditions into hypnotic, semi-acoustic soundscapes on "The Bremen," transitioning into the windy mountaintops of Fresco's mysterious, multi-layered "Configuración de Ataque." Pfeiffer has the honor of concluding Pop Ambient 2016 with the appropriately titled "Idyll," a soothing, swirling synth study that gives the listener ample opportunity to return to mundane reality at their own pace.
LP A1 –Stephan Mathieu April Im Oktober
A2 –The Orb Alpine Dawn
A3 –Anton Kubikov April
A4 –Max Würden Unterwasser
B1 –Sicker Man & Gregor Schwellenbach Turns
B2 –Mikkel Metal Titan
B3 –Dave DK Veria (Leandro Fresco Mix)
B4 –Jens-Uwe Beyer The Bremen
B5 –Thore Pfeiffer Idyll
CD 1 –Stephan Mathieu April Im Oktober 4:42
2 –The Orb Alpine Dawn 6:17
3 –Anton Kubikov April 7:02
4 –Max Würden Unterwasser 5:27
5 –Sicker Man & Gregor Schwellenbach Turns 3:36
6 –Würden* & Pfeiffer* Feinherb 5:53
7 –Mikkel Metal Titan 7:32
8 –Dave DK Veria (Leandro Fresco Mix) 7:17
9 –Wolfgang Voigt Rückverzauberung (Thore Pfeiffer Megamix) 4:49
10 –Jens-Uwe Beyer The Bremen 4:31
11 –Leandro Fresco Configuración De Ataque 6:06
12 –Thore Pfeiffer Idyll 3:45
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