Various Artists

Velvet Desert Music Vol. 3

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Kompakt unveils the third volume of Jörg Burger’s “Velvet Desert Music” compilation series, dedicated to music that hits the sweet spot between the cinematic, the (pop) ambient, and the psychedelic. With “Velvet Desert Music Vol. 3”, Burger and his friends wander afar, taking trips away from, or adjacent to, the dancefloor that’s acted so long as the crucible for the Kompakt aesthetic. Like its predecessors, it’s a gorgeous, lambent collection of late-night mood music.

Because it’s such a broad church, “Velvet Desert Music” admits all kinds of new experiences, as well, with Burger looking for music that “goes beyond the desert to explore different corners of the velvet universe”. Indeed, of all the volumes in the series, this third installment feels closest to an album made by a true collective. The roster has changed, with new contributors Flug 8 and Seb Martel, both with his trio Las Ondas Marteles and with Chocolate Genius and Zsela as La Finca, joining regulars The Novotones, Mount Obsidian, The Golden Bug, Paulor and Sascha Funke.

Burger himself shows up alongside Fritz Ackermann of The Novotones and Max Würden and Thore Pfeiffer, in The Velvet Circle. Their contributions are pure lush life electronica: “Our Tribe” hitches a ride with a low-slung groove, flickering psychedelic reels of acoustic guitar traipsing across moody bass and taffeta layers of drone; their opening remix of Flug 8’s “Puerto Rico” gently introduces the album with softly tangling electronic tones, while guitars, drenched in reverb, pirouette in the background. Mount Obsidian’s remix of Burger´s The Black Frame “Sacrosanct” spins around the listeners ears like a kaleidoscope catching the reflections the sun makes in San Luis Potosí’s ornately decorated churches.

La Finca’s electronics and voice miniature, “What Clouds Say”, is a masterclass in poetic restraint; Martel’s “Dark Mambo”, remixed by Burger, is one of the collection’s big surprises, for it indeed does what the title says, a drifting, surrealist take on the mambo form, full of pensive chords, rich with unrequited longing, a breathy saxophone whispering under the song’s sly rhythmic carriage.

Old friends reappear, too: Paulor is back with the clicking grind of “The Last Coke in the Desert”, while Golden Bug’s “Es Cucuruc” is a muted slow burner. The Novotones chime in with a slyly propulsive, Krautrock-esque charmer, “Liberty Bell”, and the guitar-led tone-drift of “Valley of Oblivion”; Paulor’s “The Last Coke in the Desert” is a chiming, lilting dreamscape; Mount Obsidian are joined again by vocalist Charlotte Jestaedt for two modern takes on early-hours art song, „Fade“ and „Marole“, the closing track of the compilation, which is a spooked requiem for times passed. Sascha Funke’s “Mathias Rust” is a lavish dancefloor dream, vocal samples drifting through the song as it slowly envelops the listener in its opulent radiance.

What’s most compelling about “Velvet Desert Music Vol. 3”, perhaps, is the way everything sits together so tightly, so neatly – it’s the album in the series so far that feels the most like it’s been made by collaborators in one long, playful session of experiment and exploration; everyone’s on the same page, exploring the fractured wastelands, dust squalls, sunburnt scapes and psychedelic cacti of the psyche; burnt sienna, desert lilies and willows, fairy dusters, yucca and greasewood… an extravagance of blooming, riotous colour, erupting from the sun-cracked landscapes within each of us.

This is just a taste of the rich pleasures of Velvet Desert Music Vol. 3, a triumph of a compilation that takes the psychedelic visions of its predecessors and looks for the desert within, a dusty kiss, a road-movie hallucination flickering on the listener’s eyelids, a cinematic projection from deep inside the mind.

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