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V/A - Pop Ambient 2011

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Artist: V/A

Album: Pop Ambient 2011

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Feb. 1, 2011


bvdub - "Make the Pain Go Away" (Pop Ambient 2011)


A good single is an ad for an album. Itís like a trailer for a movie. See the trailer, go see the movie, hope for a few bonus moments, forcing tears or laughs, that werenít in the trailer. Hear the ad, buy the album, and sit through a few filler tunes to hear a few songs that may have also worked well as ads. Get your hands on a sampler or compilation, and youíve got a collection of ads. Throw one on, and youíre looking at 60 to 90 minutes of three-to-five-minute trailers, some of them ďtentpolesĒ designed to make the others sound less unconvincing. Sounds like a fun evening.

The people at Kompakt who curate the Pop Ambient series, they differentiate. These people donít make trailers. They make movies.

I once described these collections of beatless electronica as ďa new sort of pop music, with new, ever shifting relationships to rhythm, melody and texture.Ē I proudly stand behind it. But I canít predict which artists on the Ď011 edition will eventually overcome the pack, as The Field and The Fun Years did previously, and get love from bored, freshly unemployed poptimists. I can respect the freshness, but canít anticipate how these innovations will change the landscape. I hesitate to pick a few favorites. Iím too busy putting this thing on again and zoning out for 80 minutes. Iím not sure if Pop Ambient 2011 is the strongest collection of pieces the series has produced (I still think the Ď09 edition has more highlights), but itís the most front-to-back cohesive, the most cinematic, by a damn sight.

A melody appears. It flourishes. It evokes faded photos and the smell of home-cooked muffins. A hook or a wordless chant pops into the background, at first obnoxious, gradually hypnotic. Slowly, drone overcomes. Washes away the whole scene. Seemingly for good. The drone recedes. For a moment, thereís nothing. Another melody sprouts. Itís like the seasons!

Carsten Nicolai and Blixa Bargeld start us out cold and ominous. Marsen Jules brings the elaborate classical composition to the simple melancholy of a graduation ceremony on ďOnce In a Moment.Ē Recurring favorites Wolfgang ďGasĒ Voight, Jurgen Pappe and Bvdub turn up the heat until the exact moment it goes from uncomfortable and weirdly thrilling to irritating and distracting, then refreeze the ice. Thomas Fehlmann (of Orb fame) closes with a variation on Mahlerís ďTitan.Ē After an hour plus of this shit, it kicks ass and sounds not a whit pretensions.

Winter is not a wimp for succumbing to spring. Give me six months and Iíll pick a single.

By Emerson Dameron

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