Always the first to arrive of Kompakt's two annual compilations, Pop Ambient has showcased the Cologne label's pursuit of celestial electronic music every January since 2001. Per usual, the 13th edition presents downtempo cuts from well-known members of the Kompakt family, plus new productions from a few old hands.
Last year's tracklist featured Kompakt mainstays like Axel Wilner and Superpitcher; this time the old guard is represented by Jörg Burger under his Triola alias and Copenhagen's Mikkel Metal. Burger appears again later with Matias Aguayo as Terrapin (their new studio collaboration) to cover Pink Floyd's "Cirrus Minor," with Aguayo delivering Dave Gilmour's lyrics in a suitably pastoral fashion. Lifted from the recent Mantasy LP, Michael Mayer's "Sully" is converted into a wash of ethereal drone by Kompakt co-founder Wolfgang Voigt, who (unsurprisingly) appears again near the end of the collection with the seventh segment of his ongoing Rueckverzauberung project. Elsewhere, the Buenos Aires-based Leandro Fresco returns to the series after an 11-year hiatus with two typically otherworldly compositions.
Despite ambient music undergoing a vibrant boom over the past few years, Kompakt has held resolutely firm at the more classic end of the genre's spectrum. Perhaps owing to this increased competition and a few comparatively flatter volumes in recent years, Pop Ambient has seen something of a drop in profile. As for this latest collection, it may not offer anything unique as far as style goes, but in terms of substance it feels like the strongest addition to the series since 2007.