Ambient Megathread

megathread

#1

I love ambient music, and my guess is a lot of you do too. I’ll start off by sharing an obvious one, but one that’s almost always on whenever I’m writing documentation for Audulus.

Aphex Twin is a master in simplicity. The repetitiveness waves of beats and melodies wash over you, but it never gets old.

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 [1992]


#2

No thread on ambient is complete without mention of Brian Eno, who literally defined the genre. The story goes that after he was hit by a car, he was convalescing in a hospital. A friend who came to visit put on some chamber music, but accidentally left the volume at nearly inaudible levels when he departed. Unable to change the volume on his own, Eno listened as the music blended with the sounds in his environment in such a way that Eno was inspired.

Eno’s premise was that Ambient music should be as ignorable as it is interesting, and implemented the idea with absurdly long tape loops, which he populated with piano and synthesizer, running through his collection of reverbs and delays and phase with each other, creating rippling interactions. While he had explored mellow static textures before, most notably with Robert Fripp, Eno’s first intentionally ambient record was 1975’s “Discreet Music.”

While I love discrete music, it is the soundtrack of many bike rides and lost afternoons, Eno’s ambient music would become more defined and span half a dozen records in the coming years. The culmination of this evolution would be 1982’s “Ambient 4: On Land.”

On Land would encapsulate myriad techniques and push the sonic palette of ambient music from sonorous to boldly environmental. Eno would say that he put all of the unused recording from the entirety of his career through the his tape treatments as well as organized bizarre scenarios where microphones were hidden in resonant vessels to create far away textures while he and his cohorts would bang on rocks with broken branches. For me, this is Brian Eno’s best album of any kind and is way too interesting to be ignored.

While the ideas of ambient music would continue to ripple throughout different genres and inspire many followers, Eno himself seemed to bookend this era with 1984’s “Thursday Afternoon.”

While sonically a throwback to his work on “Discrete Music,” “Thursday Afternoon” was one of his first albums to heavily feature the DX7 and was mixed specifically for the new digital format of CD with an subtle dynamic range that would have been muddied by vinyl. It also runs a continuous hour in length. While not as pioneering as “Discrete Music” or as boldly inspired as “Ambient 4: On Land,” “Thursday Afternoon” is one of the best albums to listen to in the way Eno originally envisioned providing a completely immersive relaxing environment in which to recover from whatever ills the world has thrown your way.

MEGA POST!


#3

A talk on “deep listening” by Pauline Oliveros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QHfOuRrJB8

More about sound than music, but so much of ambient music is about exploring the sounds (or not) that it feels related.


#4

The recently released “Music for Installations” by Brian Eno is also worth a listen!

I also love the Pop Ambient compilation series on the Kompakt label: https://www.discogs.com/label/401559-Pop-Ambient


#5

The Tangerine Dream albums from Alpha Centuri to Rubycon are a great mix of primitive electronics transitioning to the Berlin sound, and very ambient in nature.

Ignore their first album, Electronic Mediation, from an ambient perspective, as it’s nearer to prog rock, and after Rubycon they made much more use of drummers.

Zeit in particular is a favorite of mine, and I’d certainly put it near the top of my list of favorite ambient albums.


#6

#7

I don’t have the link, but I remember seeing a YouTube video of them performing live around the same time as Phaedra, and the thing that impressed me most was the minute tweaking of sequencer tempo and pitch controls that took place throughout - they were really on the ball and didn’t ever let things get out of control.


#8

This is really a blast from the past. I haven’t listened to this in years. I still have the vinyl LP somewhere in my stash.


#9

I think Phaedra really holds up. So much textural exploration and it still has a pretty broad appeal.


#10

Good music is timeless. :cowboy_hat_face: