January 28, 2014
Today's Hotness: Pop Ambient 2014, Cloud Nothings
>> The transient and shifting nature of popular music, and the ideas that drive it, is in fact one of its most important traits. Certainly there's a lot to be said for consistency as well, which we imagine is why Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon held a place in the album sales charts for 741 consecutive weeks, from 1973 to 1988 (and one can speculate that string might have persisted had Pink Floyd not cannibalized potential sales of Dark Side when it released A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in September 1987; the latter record would ultimately go quadruple platinum in 2001. BUT WE DIGRESS.). There are, of course, myriad examples in contemporary music of consistency (or more to the point, of consistent excellence), something of which Kompakt Records reminded us this week. The esteemed Cologne-based electronic label Monday issued the latest annual installment of its Pop Ambient series, Pop Ambient 2014. The compilation series has presented the best in ambient electronic music each year since 2001. That every last collection has been rife with contemplative beauty and dazzling texture is a testament to the stable of artists Kompakt has cultivated. Many artists -- including The Field, label co-owner Wolfgang Voigt and Thomas Fehlmann -- contribute tracks year upon year. Others come and go: making a return after a six-year absence is Ulf Lohmann, whose glacially stuttering composition "Kristall" was a highlight of Pop Ambient 2008. As was the case with its predecessors, Pop Ambient 2014 is a timeless set of thoughtful dreamscapes, and one we expect will stay with us for years to come. Stream samples of the entire album via the Soundcloud embed below; in particular we recommend Mr. Fehlmann's placidly rippling exploration "Treatment," as well as Marsen Jules' "The Philosophers Trap," which is being promoted with this very compelling music video. Somewhat criminally, we last wrote about the series here in 2008. Purchase Pop Ambient 2014 on LP, CD or as a digital download from Amazon (which will save you the cost of importing from Cologne) right here.
>> The meteoric rise of Cleveland trio Cloud Nothings persists. What began as a lo-fi bedroom concern now stands as a legitimately big-font indie rock act, in large part due to the fact that its sophomore album-as-mission-statement (we don't count Turning On, as it was essentially an anthology) was a behemoth. Drawing equally from the urgent post-hardcore of Drive Like Jehu and the slick indie pop sounds upon which fronter Dylan Baldi built his fame, Attack On Memory dotted many best-of-2012 lists. It helped that Cloud Nothings toured the tar out of the set, making a few stops in Boston along the way. Fast-forward a year-and-change and the band has since downsized to a trio, but you wouldn't know based on "I'm Not Part Of Me," the act's latest anthem of dissatisfaction, and the first taste of the newly announced third long-player Here And Nowhere Else. We're particularly drawn to the way Baldi drawls the "youuuuuuu" in the song's undeniable chorus, a nice echo of the slight vocal tics Baldi would affect on newer tunes as the touring cycle for Memory wore on. The adolescent angst is dialed back slightly -- slightly -- on "I'm Not Part Of Me," but even so the track may yet shape up to be the new record's "Stay Useless": the (relatively) poppy anomaly among a slate of guitar rave-ups. Here And Nowhere Else, which touts eight tracks, will be released domestically by Carpark and Mom + Pop April 1 as an LP, CD and digital download; it is also being released into the UK, EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China -- not bad for some regular dudes from Ohio, yeah? Stream "I'm Not Part Of Me" via the embed below, and pre-order the whole set via ITunes here or Mom+Pop right here. -- Dillon Riley