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Kompakt (various artists)
Pop Ambient 2010 David Stubbs , January 28th, 2010 11:49

The regular compilations of the Cologne-based Kompakt label are always welcome, with their familiar and seasoned set of names, from Thomas Fehlmann to Dettinger, and the trademark, dewy waft of their dark, lush Techno pastures reminding you of their many former glories. However, they can also be distinctly hit and miss. It's not that they are carrying any passengers in their roster as such, just that each of their artists are prone to moments where they are chugging and pumping through the generic Kompakt motions, rather than digging deep in the crates of inspiration.

This, however, the latest in their Pop Ambient series has a very high hit rate indeed, while at the same time remaining deeply imbedded in Kompakt terrain. Perhaps Ambient suits Kompakt particularly well – as the recently (re)issued Gas Box Set by founder Wolfgang Voigt suggests, Kompakt musik is at its comfiest luxuriating and recoiling in its own, richly layered, reverberant upholstery.

Marsen Jules sets off with 'The Sound Of One Lip Kissing', which is like the slow dripping of a gigantic Techno tap into a dark, still pool, cumulatively dispersing its ripples across the surface. Brock Van Wey/BVDub follow with the first of two contributions 'Lest You Forget', in which female vocals hove like holograms from deep space to a gently pulsating backbeat. Wolfgang Voigt's 'Zither Und Horn' continues his tradition of taking motifs of traditional instruments and marinating them in a lava of dusky echo and reverb. Andrew Thomas's 'Clouds Across Face' almost fades into oblivion, going beyond Fripp & Eno's 'Evening Star' into wispier, remote regions. The Orb have regenerated magnificently under the Kompakt aegis – they're more, well, compact for a start and 'Glen Coe' is a shimmering, grandiose, natural triumph which argues its case closely, repeatedly and overwhelmingly. DJ Koze provides further reminders of Eno, and some of the nautical elements of Another Green World on 'Bodenweich'.

Dettinger's 'Therefore' laps beautifully and benignly, like the motions of some forgotten but still functioning water mill, Thomas Fehlmann (among the most ultra-reliable of Kompakt contributors) doesn't disappoint with 'In The Wind', whose spare vibes are gradually overshadowed by a looming weatherfront of glitch. Finally, Brock Van Wey/BVDub bring it home, far from home, with the 17 minute 'Will You Know Where To Find Me', in which Dead Can Dance-style vocal interventions periodically stab a keyboard whirlpool like slow lightning. All in all, no patchy effort this, but a patchwork of quilted pleasure, intoxicatingly immersive, soberly spectacular.