Every year, the German label Kompakt gathers a bunch of minimal techno tunes and lush, textural tracks for its terrific Pop Ambient compilations. It all makes for good chill-out music. In fact, this year's set is so delicate, accessible, and emotionally stirring, it could persuade even an ADD-addled kid to slip into a long, soothing daydream. Pop Ambient 2008 not only gathers some of Kompakt's most noteworthy artists; it also serves as a signpost to the future of ambient music.
Songs drift from the engaging to the densely environmental. Axel Willner, who records as the Field, checks in with a sequel to last year's low-tech and throbbing "Kappsta," while Thomas Fehlmann's "Camilla" whirls around clustered percussion and a soft-focus hush — a striking build-and-release. Elsewhere, drones inhale and hiss: Klimek's "The Ice Storm" drifts in a swell of strings, Markus Guentner bookends with the acoustic-guitar teases "Oceans Day" and "Sparks," and Popnoname's "Fembria" goes deep in Pop Ambient's purest cut, sounding like it should play out beneath one of Blade Runner's post-whatever scenes. Like most of the cuts on the CD, it points to a future that may already be here.