Pass into Silence
Calm Like a Millpond
he entire concept of Kompakt's Pop Ambient series is to bridge ambient and pop. And while the two genres might seem to be at odds with one another, a slight look at both reveals, at their base, the two incredibly similar in their goals: memorability, ignorability and indispensability. In short, both want to make themselves absolutely essential listening to any modern home. That being said, it's almost impossible to critique ambient music on certain issues—if it ends up being New Age-inspired fluff hasn't it done its job? Only some of it, unfortunately. Because, the finished product must hold up to intense listening, just as much as it does the unfocused listening that most engagement will be had.
As such, Pass into Silence's new EP for the Kompakt label is halfway successful. Making visuals equally important (the EP contains three hypnotic video clips that accompanying every track aside “Sakura”), the actual music portion of the disc consists of four originals and one remix. They're luscious tracks laden with 10cc voices, tinkling keyboard melodies and unassuming drum patterns. In fact, there is little to be criticized in the construction of the compositions: they're of normal length, never reach outside of their comfort zone conceptually and rarely, if ever, grate in their repetition.
But, and it's a big but in this case: the album doesn't hold up to intense listening. There is little going inside the millpond, so to speak—all surface, no depth. Melodies float along, never-changing, beats emerge and disappear non-plussed and, worst of all, there's no minor developments. Which is, in the end, the key to understanding and appreciating the difference between ambient and New Age music. In ambient, minor developments in the shape of the sound take on intense importance. It's in these subtle changes and transactions that the currency of the genre makes its name upon. In New Age music, however, the currency is in its predictability—it lays it all out for you with no surprises and no changes. It's a subtle difference, but an important one. And it's a difference that makes Pass into Silence veer very closely into New Age territory.
Which isn't a bad thing. But compared to the rest of Kompakt's ambient roster and the ethos that the label has cultivated, it seems like it doesn't quite belong here. And, in the end, makes this release a palpable disappointment.