VA: Ultrasoft! Anthems 33
Plastic Sound Supply

Don't mistake Ultrasoft! Anthems 33, Plastic Sound Supply's twentieth release, for a one-note ambient compilation, even if it does open with a quintessential ambient scene-setter by FOANS (“Pure Pensive Particles,” all serene synthetics and twittering birds) and follows it with ambient-styled pieces by producers such as offthesky and Radere. Instead one should regard the seventy-three-minute compilation as one that liberally extends the genre into other areas. In that regard, one need look no further than Grenade Fountain's “Momentary,” which is more akin to texturally rich, Deadbeat-styled dub-techno than ambient per se, and Sean Byrd's “Held Together,” a deep, melancholy headnodder more indebted to instrumental hip-hop than ambient. In a similar vein, Marcellus Lewis's synth-heavy incantation “Castles Are Ghost Stories” might have you drawing a line from it to M83 rather than Brian Eno.

Yes, some of the pieces are soothing, but that hardly argues against them, especially when they're as seductive as the luscious “Stretches” crafted by offthesky and Pillow Garden, and as marvelously textured as the “Some Birds Fly at Night” dreamscape proffered by Alien Taxonomy. Variety is present throughout: David Last serves up a near-menacing swirl of shuddering strings and bass throb (“Lemon Twin”) and CacheFlowe a countrified, dub-funk lilt (“Patter”), while dronescapes are provided by The Parallel Light (the blurry wooze of “Ceres II”) and Radere (the gaseous and sunblinded “Overtaken by the Night”). The set's peak arrives twelve tracks in with “Two Ghosts Before the Eye,” a shimmering, guitar- and bass-inflected meditation by that slowly ascends skyward.

One of the more interesting things about the collection is that it finds figures not typically associated with the ambient genre (an experimental beatmaker such as CacheFlowe, for example) working within it. All told, Ultrasoft! Anthems 33 is a splendid collection from a mix of established and new artists, and an equally splendid argument in support of the fertile music-making associated with the Colorado-based Plastic Sound Supply imprint.

October 2013