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  Pop Ambient 2003  
  various artists  
Release Date:
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Something interesting is going down in Germany. I don't know what, but recently i have heard a flood of interesting mostly electronic music pouring out of Deutschland. (See: Mouse On Mars, Christian Kleine, The Notwist.) Kompact is a label based in Köln, and apparently they annually release an album in this Pop Ambient series.

In all honesty, i am only aware of this release because it contains a new Orb track. However, i am glad i checked it out. This is a fine sampler containing 10 tracks from 8 different acts. Chances are you, like me, have not heard of 7 of these acts before. For the most part, this is interesting, mellow electronica in the radically different German school.

And what i mean is that even though the rhythms are bizarre and obviously cut and pasted, the overall sound is lush, rich and alive. Not cold and mechanical like British (see the latest releases by Autechre or Aphex Twin) or American (see Electric Birds or Kid 606) come across. Consider Alltag 5 by All. The drum beat here is positiviely epileptic, stuttering, stopping, restarting, and gyrating all over the place. It is so mangled it defies my ability to count the rhythm. 12/14 maybe? But, on top of this is a nice keyboard drone and some light fuzzy sample. The overall effect is inviting, not off-putting. I want to comfort the beat as it has it's spasms, not run screaming in terror. A nice effect, and a generally wierd song.

Express Yourself by Markus Guentner is perhaps the most organic song on the album. It sounds like old school New Age, or the stuff you hear on Hearts of Space. Really lush synthesizer sweeps that swell, gradually, and combine with one another over the bare minumum of rhythm. It's a nice meditative tune, if you like that sort of thing.

Another great ambient track is (Sun)Rise by Klimek. This act has two tracks on the compilation, and this is the better of the two. It is very Mouse On Mars influenced: it is built out of acoustic guitar strumming that has been heavily processed in the computer, creating a light flowing track with odd rhythms. A fine example of this kind of work.

MY favorite on the disc is Nicht Die Welt by Ulf Lohmann. This is one long, echoey keyboard drone, with a lovely melody and wierd laptop noises in the background. It almost sounds like muzak -- it's so smooth and light and relaxing, and the melody is so good that i keep trying to imagine what the cheesey words to the song would be. This might not sound like a recommendation, but it is. It's a lovely and utterly inoffensive little tune.

But i know what you're thinking: what about the new Orb track? How is it?

Well, it's called Dilmun and it is, well, not spectacular. Not bad, but not great either. It's a nice tune built out of stuttering keyboards, and really shows Thomas Fehlmann's influence on the current Orb sound. On the whole, it is middle of the road for The Orb, and not the best track on this disc by far.

Overall, this is a nice sampler. It contains a few noteworthy tracks, and is generally quiet and pleasant. If you are curious to hear some of the current wave of German electronica, then this is a good starting place.

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