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V/A - Pop Ambient 2009

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Artist: V/A

Album: Pop Ambient 2009

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Apr. 23, 2009


The Fun Years - "I am Speaking Through Barbara" (Pop Ambient 2009)


Through the aughties, Kompakt has released a Pop Ambient disc to coincide roughly with the commencement of spring. (I live in Southern California, and I rarely have any idea what time of year it is unless Iím in the seasonal aisle at Walgreenís, but itís an apt reference.) Curator Wolfgang Voigt, fresh from the warm reception given last yearís Nah und Fern box set (collecting his work as Gas), takes a few risks here, mixing some fresh stuff with a quality dose of the familiar.

The comp doesnít set out to "redefine" anything Ė part of the charm of the Pop Ambient series is that itís somewhat predictable, and when the í09 volume looks away from its brain-rinsing, neo-Eno techno-ambient stock in trade, it looks more sideways than ahead. Klimekís "True Enemies and False Friends" sounds like a bombastic symphony running out of battery juice after several generations of cassette-to-cassette dubbing. Sylvain Chauveauís "Nuage III" is also on the out-classical tip, less true to its title than it is evocative of a soft-focus death scene in some arty soap opera. "Nightliner," Popnonameís slinky cop-show theme, has the closest thing on Pop Ambient to a beat, albeit an implied one. This yearís fresh faces, the Fun Years, contribute "I am Speaking Through Barbara," a guitar-based meditation that wouldnít sound out of place on a Spiritualized record. (The Fun Years might not be poised for that rare, Field-style breakout, but it wouldnít be undeserved.) Chauveauís "Fly Like a Horse" might work in that context, too.

On balance, though, the disc has that comforting familiarity. Voigt plays on two tracks and remixes one, none of which is on par with the best of Gas and all of which are pleasantly moody, soothing and glacial. Tim Hecker checks in briefly with "Shosts in Silver," a three-minute taste of that icy, noisy, melancholy thing he does. And Kilmek returns for the 10-minute closer, intriguingly titled "The Godfather (For William Basinski and Snoop Dogg)," an eerie, weary drift headed no place in particular.

By Emerson Dameron

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