Categories
ambient electronic pop

Velvet Desert Music #2

Another compilation. While I normally listen to podcasts and my own playlists when I’m on the move, being in quarantine at home makes me long for selections by others. Since I don’t like Spotify and Bandcamp still doesn’t offer a playlist option (what is wrong with you guys!?), I’ve been turning to compilations and mixes.

Now, the best compilations come from Kompakt. The record label from Cologne has some long-running series: Total, Pop, Ambient. The quality is always high. I love the label. It released some of the best electronic music tracks and my top 10 of best dance tracks ever is filled with Kompakt stuff. I wrote about them in 2013 in The Quietus (read it here).

But when they announced a new compilation series called Velvet Desert, I was sceptical. Desert? Really? I mean, I’ve lived in Cologne for a couple of years, and I still have a lot of different associations with the city. Desert isn’t one of them. Since I believed that Kompakt and Cologne are like ying and yang, I had a tough time figuring out how to fit in heat, drought and sand.

Well, I have this habit of overthinking stuff. Sorry about that.

With Velvet Desert, Kompakt wants to bring together contemporary electronic music that combines elements of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelics. Announcing the first edition, compiler Jörg Burger described the essence like this:

“Just think…from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Songs, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about…”

Totally get Jörg’s idea, but I still had some concerns. That’s my flaw, sometimes I need some time to adjust to new situations.

With this second instalment, I’m ready to embrace Jörg’s concept, although I still think the music on this compilation would do a great job as the soundtrack for a space-age western. Music-wise, this collection of slow and electronic excursions into folk, krautrock, psychedelics and world music is really nice. Starting off with ‘Not So Far Away’ by Michael Mayer, a slow moody track with an incredible bass sound, it sets an atmosphere of detachment, submission and fernweh.

All of the fourteen entries are great, but the ones by Michael Mayer, Sascha Funke (dub blending with 80s guitar prog) and Lake Turner/WEM/Hand (the only faster song: sort of Neu!-like indie glam-rock) and Pluramon (what La Düsseldorf would sound like in 2020) are amazing.

Maybe the combination Kompakt, Köln and desert isn’t so strange after all.

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Velvet Desert Music #2, compiled by Jörg Burger, is released by Kompakt.

Categories
electronic pop rock

Deutsche Ashram – Whisper Om

In the early 1970s, kosmische rock acts like Ash Ra Temple and Amon Duül organized their own ashrams, modelled after Indian examples, in the rural areas of West Germany. The ashrams were ascetic and spiritual places that offer room for meditation, yoga, experimentations with music and drugs. By creating an open space, they offered a way out of western society,

Are Merinde Verbeek and Ajay Saggar referring to these havens of consciousness with the name of their Deutsche Ashram project? Fact is that the music on their two albums sounds like a soundtrack of a world that is embracing the blend of the individual and the cosmic body. The basis is the shoegaze like indie pop that Verbeek already experimented with in her former band Mineral Beings. Sagger, of King Champion Sounds, adds deeper layers of psychedelic and cosmic instrumentation, without drifting too far from the shoegaze sound.

The combination of Verbeek’s airy vocals and Sagger’s walls of sounds works well. On second album Whisper Om the duo is drifting from Cocteau Twins like shoegaze over Ummagumma Pink Floyd to early 1990s Madchester meets My Bloody Valentine in the excellent ‘Slackjaw’.

Oh, and don’t forget to admire the beautiful artwork. An extra reason to buy the vinyl (the other being able to use your pitch and play the songs on all kinds of different speeds).

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Whisper Om by Deutsche Ashram is out now on Wormer Bos Records.