Available on: Kompakt CD

Kompakt’s annual Pop Ambient compilations are a lot like county cricket. Bear with me here: both are traditions which drift along at their own pace, removed from the hustle of the world, always different but, more importantly, also always pretty much the same. And  while it would be a bit odd to get passionate about them, both can be a hugely comforting way to spend an afternoon with a cup of tea, a paper, a piece of cake. There’s something heartwarming, even romantic about the fact that they’re still going on; while months or years can go by without even giving them a thought, it would be a terribly sad day were they to vanish.

The latest Pop Ambient collection is another soft, cushioned collapse into techno lullabies. It’s all very pretty, and supremely pleasant. Listened to on a quite Sunday afternoon, watching planes circle in the January sky over the South London suburbs was a lovely way to spend an hour. Doing a track-by-track doesn’t seem quite right – it actually, seems a bit vulgar – with music like this, which is so happy to just sit to one side and help set a mood. But special mention must go to Wolfgang Voigt’s angelically beautiful ripples of melody on the self-explanatory ‘Zither Und Horn’ and the cosy melancholy of Jurgen Paape’s ‘864m’, a poignant little brass chorus spinning slowly in space.

There’s also a nice reminder of what a strange, brilliant producer DJ Koze can be; his ‘Bodenweich’ sketches a hushed eeriness out of a few scraps and smears of sound – it’s like the post-rave counterpart to the mighty ‘Brutalga Square’. But like all Pop Ambients, this is a compilation that should be taken as whole; a piece of civilised loveliness to slow you down so that you can appreciate the little things in life. Pop Ambient in winter, cricket in summer. Not a bad life, really.

Simon Hampson



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