Since its inception at the end of the last century, POP AMBIENT has always been a labor of love: meticulously curated by Wolfgang Voigt, these releases never showed much interest in any particular style of the day. Much more genre-defining than trendsetting, they followed their own path and established a unique aesthetic sitting somewhere between experimental field recordings, no-age music and smooth synth pop – we like to think of it as elevator music for the vertically challenged. It’s also been an overflowing pan these last years, with a dizzying array of musicians trying their hands at beatless eletronics with certain time-transcending properties – as good a reason as any to take the brand one step further and introduce our listeners to our freshly minted Pop Ambient album series, where we’ll spoil you with full-length offerings from top-tier tinkerers in the field. Serving as the series’ glorious first instalment is EL REINO INVISIBLE, a diverse and conclusive collection of beautifully rendered synthscapes from none other than Pop Ambient staple LEANDRO FRESCO.
Famously chosen as one of the best Kompakt releases ever by Michael Mayer, Leandro’s “Amor International” 12″ (KOMPAKT 69) from 2002 struck a perfect balance between deeply felt melancholy and light-hearted cosiness – a major feat in the work from the Buenos Aires-bred producer that can be traced back to his earliest Nineties’ outings on Cologne’s iconic Traum Schallplatten or the short-lived, but legendary Argentinian imprint Fragil Discos. Having constantly refined his output since these first symptoms, LEANDRO FRESCO can now be considered a true master at his very own craft – the fine art of sculpting free-flowing sound, a task nearly as impossible as stacking water. With EL REINO INVISIBLE, he delivers an enticing and sophisticated narrative wrapped in gorgeous synth explorations – a slowly evolving wall of synthesized textures that certainly knows its way around pop-infused catchiness, but also operates as a collection of profoundly personal mnemonics: “this record is a journey inside my feelings… it’s emotional ambient music made at an emotional time in my life”, says the producer about the album, “it is a journey through my memories and also the end of an era in my life.”
However, this commitment to sonic intimacy on Leandro’s part doesn’t necessarily equal a tragic or pained sentiment: “I do not associate this album with feelings of sadness, but with hope, light and the summer heat, full of cyan and orange colors.” He goes on to make his point abundantly clear with wonderful efforts the like soothing, blissful opener LA EDAD DE ORO, the spacious guitar pluckings of LA HERIDA DEL SOLDADO, the splendidly oblivious SOL DE MEDIANOCHE or the title track, a subtle ambient anthem serving as an appropriately wide-eyed coda. Speaking of the project as a whole, Leandro posits that “the invisible kingdom can be the soul of any person – music that is true to its origins, as melancholic as the tango in Buenos Aires.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise, thanks to the album being recorded in equal parts in the Argentinian capital and San Martin de los Andes, a small, rural settlement town in Argentinian Patagonia, where Leandro’s parents live. Here, he found the peace of mind to focus on his work – resulting in an expertly crafted piece of experimental electronics that are as catchy as they are meditative. Simply put, this Pop Ambient at its very best.