Pinning down what separates an excellent ambient outing from the pack can be a tricky business. With craftsman using, largely, the same, or at least similar, tools, what divides the transcendent from the yawn-inducing is often difficult, in writing, to satisfactorily argue.

This isn’t so much of a problem when it comes to Ripperton new release, Contrails. The Swiss native is, quite simply, wildly creative. Working within a genre in which unexpected flourishes can be in opposition to its very goals, Ripperton, real name Raphaël Gros, consistently manages to surprise.

Things begin traditionally enough, with the soft entry of ‘First Snow’ proving something of a fake out for the gripping journey awaiting. Things begin to descend into Gros’ netherworld with ‘Pendant Qu’ils Dorment’, disconcerting blips of sound, akin to some odd, fading emergency signal providing a tantalizing layer to its more staid ambient elements.

The plunge begins in earnest with ‘Ghetto Berlino’, its latter half giving way to the sound of wooden percussion, creating an eerie, yet welcoming air, as if the listener has just exited a stasis pod into some alien landscape, gorgeous and uncertain all at once.

‘Lonely Walk’, then, pulls away, retreating to a stance so muted it seems to be coming from somewhere in the distance, far out of reach, rather than your headphones. It proves an important point: however unique his ambitions, don’t get the impression that Ripperton intends to upend ambient.

This is precisely what makes Contrails so powerful. Gros experiments, and filters in his own startling ideas, but he never ventures outside the genre he adores. He manages to craft something that feels excitingly new, to even the staunchest ambient-head, without ever betraying its confines. That’s no small feat.

‘Vespa’ excels by use of precise juxtaposition. An entrancing dance of buoyant sound plays against a repeated, insistent mechanical throb, the latter feeling like angry helicopter blades constantly advancing and retreating, creating an enticingly jarring balance with the song’s prettier elements. It feels trapped between a war zone and a crystallized paradise.

Pinned near smack dab in the center - certainly by no mistake - of this sinewy mass is a single spoken word insertion: “I’m afraid of what I might find, but I’m even more afraid of not facing this fear. I love you. I love you more than my life.” The Paris, Texas sample surely speaks to Gros’ own process.

To plunge into music, let alone an arena with so decisive a fanbase as ambient, is to risk immediate judgment, yet despite whatever insecurities the man Raphaël Gros may have felt, his love of the form demanded Ripperton be born. Students of the genre the world over are lucky he chose to engage. Contrails is a distinctive, idiosyncratic work, and undoubtedly will stand as a highlight of its form for the year.