Pop Ambient

Kenneth James Gibson - The Evening Falls


Kompakt's Pop Ambient album series returns with its fourth installment by multi-faceted artist Kenneth James Gibson.

Producing under several aliases, most notably his minimal techno focused, 
[a]pendics.shuffle and as Bell Gardens alongside Stars Of The Lid's Brian McBride; Kenneth has earned the respect of many across multiple genres, but The Evening Falls will be his first full ambient production, and also marks the first Pop Ambient album release by an artist previously not featured on any Kompakt compilation.

With Leandro Fresco, Jens-Uwe Beyer and Thore Pfeiffer preceding this release, The Evening Falls leaves us keen-eared in anticipation from such an esteemed multi-instrumentalist, yet whilst talking with Kenneth, an ambient album seemed to have always been on the horizon: "I have always listened to tons of ambient music and always had plans to produce a full album like The Evening Falls. It just took a little longer then originally planned to get to it. I made this record in my head many years ago, it just didn't physically come out of me till recently. There was nothing stopping me, I just wasn't in the right state of mind to see it through. It took cruising at a slightly different pace then I was at before".

The Pop Ambient sound has seen a slight progression over the past few compilations, and for the album series to continue strongly, it would undoubtedly have to stray into previously unfamiliar ambient territory. With The Evening Falls, we see Pop Ambient's least electronic foray yet, as Kenneth takes us through a range of emotionally charged pieces, simple in format, intense in storytelling, including everything from "guitar, pedal steel, pianos, strings to synths and digital processing", alongside minimal field recordings. 

Spurred by a move away from LA to the town of California's Idyllwild, the album comes from his new-found inspiration amongst the mountains: "I'm surrounded by awesome nature up here in Idyllwild and having more of a connection to that changes everything in your daily life. It's very quiet and very dark here at night. At my cabin, when it's 7 or 8 pm it feels like 2 in the morning. That feeling had a big effect on the record".

The first progression in Pop Ambient sound you'll notice is the modern-classical, soundtrack style approach. Kenneth's music is organic in feel, with only the subtlest, static buzz of synthesizers, accentuating an otherwise purely instrumental album.  Instruments interchange in lead throughout the nine tracks, but one particular sound may spike the ears of the chill-out aficionados amongst us. 

In tracks such as A Conversation Between Friends, you may start to recall a notorious instrument from an infamous '90s album adorned with sheep, Elvis and steel-guitars. When asked about its potential influence, Kenneth tells us, "Kompakt head-honcho, Michael Mayer said one of the reasons he and Wolfgang Voigt liked this record so much was because of the pedal steel and their love for The Chill Out Album, and how the album brought them to a similar place. I only heard that record a few times when it came out but it didn't stick for some reason. I did however go back and listen to it again recently and really enjoyed it. 

I'm a huge classic country music fan and obviously pedal steel is a big part of that sound. I think between country music and Daniel Lanois' use of the instrument was the big inspiration for me on that end. One of my oldest friends David Cuetter was the man behind the steel on this album. He nailed it. We were skateboard kids into punk rock growing up in Texas. I would have never imagined that we would be working on this kind of music together so many years later. I'm also in a band called Bell Gardens and get to work with another awesome steel player named Julian Goldwhite on that stuff. I'm just a big pedal steel fan. It can work well with so many different kinds of music!"

As the steel pedal lulls us across the summer skies, a melancholic piano paints a slow pace in tracks such as, Weighty Repetitions and, Failed To Interrupt; the latter of which benefits from a glorious uplifting synth that acts as an opening scene to the more introspective soundtrack score of my favorite piece, Poured Semi Silently Upon You

Layered string textures play a vital role amongst the album, adding the warmth and padding that often comes with any of Kompakt's ambient outputs. Combined with minimal digital processing on tracks like The Art Of Forgetting Yourself, and Long Gone Canadian Summer, you hear the faint distant electronic-echoes that have inspired so many Pop Ambient albums over the years, but in a completely new light, portrayed by a truly talented instrumentalist. No better moments exists than the tense violins of Poured Semi Silently Upon You dramatizing a sublime soundtrack moment you'd come to expect from the likes of Jóhann Jóhannsson, Dustin O'Halloran, or Bell Gardens collaborator Brian McBride. 

These elements of sheer beauty combine on a score that sits with the very best of composers, peppered with the faintest of electronic influences from its label curators. The Evening Falls welcomes a new dawn for Kompakt and their ongoing Pop Ambient album series as they push into a more experimental/modern-classical sound, whilst simultaneously serving up moments of welcoming reflection to keep you feeling at home.

Luckily for us, this doesn't sound like Kenneth's first and last jump into this majestic sound: "The follow up album is already started. I'll continue to do whatever I'm in the mood for, but there will definitely be more ambient music. There's a new [a]pendics.shuffle album coming out in July called "Aware Sequence Found Life" on my label Adjunct Audio. Lots of things always in the works..."

The Evening Falls will be available on Kompakt on Vinyl, CD and digital formats on April 29th.

Stream a continuos mix of the album in its entirety below.

01. To See You Drift
02. Long Gone Canadian Summer
03. Failed To Interrupt
04. Poured Semi Silently Upon You
05. A Conversation Between Friends
06. Lateral Decomposition
07. Broken Thought
08. Weighty Repetitions
09. The Art Of Forgetting Yourself


isolatedmix 58 - Joachim Spieth


In 2001, the very first Pop Ambient compilation was released by Kompakt.

Track one; You Don't Fool Me. It was a sound that had me hooked from the very start, amongst a series that still reigns supreme today.

Joachim Spieth had the pleasure of kicking off the legendary series but is yet to return, unlike many other Pop Ambient artists gracing more recent compilations. Instead, Joachim focused on producing techno, going on to release across Kompakt and in 2008 establishing his very own label, Affin.

The label has grown to become one of the most respected outputs for minimal, techno, and indeed ambient music, playing host to two Markus Guentner releases; Counting Stars (2008) and Crystal Castle (2009) as well as fellow Pop Ambient contributor Gustavo Lamasand many more cultivated artists from the mind of Joachim.

With such an esteemed background and deep interest in ambient music I invited Joachim to contribute to the isolatedmix series without any expectations of the sound he would put forward. As you'll hear, Joachim's gone back to his early ambient days, with a well-balanced respect for techno throughout. The dubby presence of Echospace Detroit plays an integral part and he's even been so kind to include one of Markus Guentner's ASIP tracks. 

It's also the shortest track list we've ever played host-to in the series, but with names such as Brock Van Wey and Echospace gracing the list, you can be sure this thing has enough depth to keep you submersed for years. 




01. Model 500 - Starlight (Intrusion Extended Dub) Echospace Detroit
02. Claudio PRC - From The Nebular Stars to The Mosses on The Granite Rocks - 06 Plantae - The Gods Planet
03. Markus Guentner - Limb - A Strangely Isolated Place
04. Brock Van Wey - Forever A Stranger - Echospace Detroit
05. Intrusion - Static Waves - Echospace Detroit

Tracknotes from Joachim:

Model 500 - Starlight (Intrusion Extended Dub) 
It’s an all-time favorite of mine. The original version touched me so much when I got into electronic music.. and years after I fell on this extended dub .... amazing... could be 20 min longer ...

Claudio PRC - From The Nebular Stars to The Mosses on The Granite Rocks - 06 Plantae
his is part of an installation at Botanischer Garten in Berlin. I was there when it happened. It was an amazing atmosphere... You can find the whole album as a free download on The Gods Planets Bandcamp shop...

Markus Guentner - Limb [available here]
Markus is a master of layering sounds... since our early Kompakt days I love his music.

Brock Van Wey - Forever A Stranger
...like voices of love...

Intrusion - Static Waves
Intrusion, another tune that should never end....


Joachim Spieth | Web | Affin


Pop Ambient 2014


It was just last night that I hit play on Pop Ambient 2007, and began to nod off before a swirl of melody forced me to check which track was providing a rather beautiful sleep song. It was no surprise to learn that it was the legendary Thomas Fehlmann and his track, ‘Next To The Field‘. That shift in pads at 3.53 is simply beautiful.

This is after all, one of the most successful and consistent ambient series of all time; a series that is nearly always packed full of many of the best ambient productions for the year that is to follow. 2014’s edition looks set to raise that bar just a little bit higher.

Starting at the most immediate point of interest – the return of GAS. For those unaware of the finer details us music geeks obsess over, Wolfgang Voigt; one-third owner of Kompakt; Pop Ambient curator; producer in his own right and of course, the man behind GAS, has kept his infamous ambient moniker dormant since 2008. His return comes in the form of a remix of none other than The Field – one of 2013 stand-out records and certainly one of Kompakt’s best. “Cupid’s Head” is deconstructed from it’s driving nature and forced into a swirling, hypnotising oblivion. The chord changes come in the form of the infamous GAS pads and the loops distorted into a pulsating wash of textures.

Wolfgang’s named production on the compilation is a reminder of the intensity he sometimes likes to reach with the likes of Mohn (his production duo with Jörg Burger / aka Triola ). Intense pads create a rush of wind, a tunnel of pressure and ultimately, the darker side of the release.

A Pop Ambient original also makes his return in this 2014 edition: Ulf Lohmann. The elusive German producer always delivers some of the more emotive beginnings to the series and Ulf’s first track ‘Sicht’ is a classic; straight from the Pop Ambient manual. Taught, looping strings dictate a morning’s beginnings and the classic sunshine feel.

Book-ending the compilation; Ulf’s second cut ‘PCC’ is yet another stand-out. Emotion takes over as a story unfolds and soundtrack-esque backings grow into a tear-jerker of a ending – this is one of those tracks that’ll be played time and time again.

A relatively minimal effort from Thomas Fehlmann this time around, the Orb maestro emphasis his organic approach to clicks and beats, with a bubbling flow of texture and distant piano. It’s a far distance from any Orb constellation we know, but the perfect incision to the Pop Ambient series.

Marking a welcome return for quite a few artists, Pop Ambient 2014 also sees The Bionaut’s debut on the series. Jörg Burger’s original moniker, with releases dating back to 1992, remixes the old with the new under the Triola name, in anticipation of a new album due out on Kompakt in the Spring. One of the very few Pop Ambient tracks to feature a vocal, Triola’s intense remix is one of those tracks that epitomises the Pop Ambient approach- simple, looping and focused, it draws you in only to leave you gasping for more.

The consistently expected, more ‘electronic’ side of the compilation comes from Mikkel Metal. No stranger to Pop Ambient, Mikkel’s deep and dubby approach to techno bursts through in this lush, spaced-out production that focuses on a spell-binding guitar and sporadic, computerized samples. I’m hoping someone takes on remix duties for this one, as I can feel a pretty awesome dub-techno track bubbling away somewhere.

Clashing bells, chimes and the synonymous Marsen Jules organics come out to play again in ‘The Philosophers Trap’. Shimmering like a flicker of light amongst a dark, intense chasm, Marsen is once again caught constructing an elaborate novel of instrumentation.

A new one for me – ‘Cologne Tape’ makes it’s debut on the compilation. A “Kraut electronics allstar live project that has been dreamed up for the modern era”, consisting of numerous Kompakt related artists including Axel Wilner (aka The Field), Jens-Uwe Beyer (aka Popnonanme) Jörg Burger, John Harten (aka Cato), Daniel Ansorge (involved in a few productions on Pop Ambient over the years), Michaela Dippel and Volker Pannes. ‘Moorpark’ gives a retro, analog feel to the release, with shuffling drums, a multitude of layered guitar loops and what feels like a bunch of geniuses jamming in a Cologne garage on a warm summers day.

Simon Scott’s beautiful gem, ‘Für Betty’ also makes a gracious appearance. Stripped of his drums, Simon opts for a rumbling bass amongst soaring guitar textures and paralleled, distant vocals. Yes, I’m going to say it – if you’re a fan of Slowdive you’ll relate with this track- there’s just something in there…

With a series that’s over then ten-year mark, it’s easy to lose what you started, or to fade into the distance, especially when trying to run one of the worlds biggest techno labels. But with the revival of classic sounds (GAS, Fehlmann, Marsen Jules, Ulf Lohmann for example) and the pioneering of new (Cologne Tape, Triola, The Field, Mikkel Metal), Wolfgang’s Pop Ambient will always remain one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and 2014’s edition is easily one of their best yet.

Available in all formats on January 27th through Kompakt. Stream the compilation on Kompakt.

Read an interview with Kompakt’s Thomas Fehlmann here.
Listen to Marsen Jules’ isolatedmix here.