Ryuichi Sakamoto

isolatedmix 92 - Midori Hirano


Born in Kyoto, Japan and now residing in Berlin, Midori Hirano’s discography has spanned a wide spectrum of experimental electronic music. From her 2016 album on the esteemed Sonic Pieces, to her latest praised work on Australian label Daisart and her beautiful extended piece for the Longform Editions series, Midori’s work is often recognizable when in play due to her manipulation of the piano.

A talented player from a young age, Midori’s work revolves around these classical elements, often told through soft pieces, with added electronic processing and field recordings. The result draws you in through attachment, as differentiating layers and effects change productions from a simple modern classical score, to an engaging experimental piece. Think Steve Reich, or other minimalist innovators, and you’ll enjoy Midori’s experimentations.

For any electronica fans, take Midori’s work as MimiCof however, and these minimalist productions take on new rhythmic layers, often finding themselves in an even more electronic guise, sitting alongside the finest moments of labels like City Centre Offices and Morr Music, the melodies of a Lusine and the classical manipulation and experimentation of a Ryuichi Sakamoto. A high bar by all accounts, but evident in the pieces captured below, where the extremes of this sound have seen Midori’s most energetic piece to date, Moon Synch, expand with rich experimentations originating from the Buchla synthesizer.

Not only is Midori pushing the boundaries of electronic music as her own name and as MimiCof, Midori has recently signed with Erased Tapes Music, and has contributed remixes for the likes of Sonae, Kid 606 and Liars. And of course, the talent doesn’t stop there - Midori has also helped provide some photography for Christian Kleine’s ASIP release, taking pictures of her newly adopted home in Berlin.

But, back to what you’re here for, the music, and here’s what Midori had to say about her isolatedmix which combines the art evident across both her monikers with recent experimental pioneers that stay true to her sound:

“This mix consists of recent favourite tracks of mine including two of my own songs. A few tracks have voices or field recordings which I often like to use also for my music, as I often want to have a kind of feeling of watching films every time I make a mix. It puts me into a place isolated from a world while I’m listening to it for myself” - MH



01. Tujiko Noriko - Ride
02. Senking - Ep 4
03. Félicia Atkinson - Valis
04. alva noto + ryuichi sakamoto with ensemble modern - Broken Line
05. MimiCof - Opal
06. Eli Keszler - The Immense Endless Belt Of Faces
07. Caterina Barbieri - Fantas
08. Driftmachine - Shift II
09. Ornate Coldtrain - Powerful Myth
10. Uguisubari - Nanzen-Ji
11. Mark Pritchard - The Blinds Cage (feat. Beans)
12. Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas - II
13. Midori Hirano - Haiyuki
14. Jim O’Rourke - And a 1, 2, 3, 4
15. Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson - Format And Formalize Desire
16. Robert Lippok - Samtal

Midori Hirano / MimiCof | Website | Bandcamp | Soundcloud |


isolatedmix 79 - Autumn Of Communion

Isolatedmix artwork 79 - 2.png

Mick Chillage and Lee Norris come together as Autumn Of Communion. Between them, their music stretches into the deepest roots of modern ambient music.

Lee Norris' monikers range from the cult 90's electronica of Metamatics and Norken, through to the beautiful tones of The Angling Loser - a collective of ambient artists that also includes Porya Hatami and Will Bolton. Lee's also helming the ...txt label, which has played home to many AOC releases and just recently, a monumental boxset that features the entire AOC discography. ...txt has also presented us with some brilliant albums by Sage Taylor (aka Textural Being) (Raintimeand the more psychedelic ambient sound of Ishq (2016's Fhorm being a fave of mine), as well as becoming home to many of Mick Chillage's productions. 

The label and indeed AOC's sound is no doubt influenced by the legendary FAX label, which also presented Autumn Of Communion's most seminal piece to date, their 2012 self-titled masterpiece. The album was perhaps overshadowed by the unfortunate passing of FAX founder Pete Namlook in 2012, but you can think of no better home, or higher praise for the duo. Mick, is no stranger to this high praise either, with one of the most revered albums on the FAX label, FAXology in 2011, followed by releases on FAX-dedicated output, Carpe Sonum

The web of productions between them both runs deep into some of the genre's best rabbit-holes. Just last week, I was in a record shop in Bellingham WA, at a random second-hand record store. I got talking to the owner about the type of records and artists I was on the hunt for and he said, "I just bought something new last week from Databloem". Sure enough he went on to play a CD and out comes Mick Chillage's 2016 album, Paths. It's the type of music that breaks down boundaries and epitomizes the true early 90's ambient sound and arguably, Autumn Of Communion is the purest distillation of their combined works. 

For isolatedmix 79, the duo wade through some of the genre's finest producers, both old and new. Track-by-track, it's a who's-who of ambient music, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts - this AOC mix channels the very essence of pure ambient music and the many inspirations behind AOC. 



01. William Basinski - 92982.1
02. Tangerine Dream - Sequent C
03. Ryuichi Sakamoto - Fullmoon
04. David Sylvian - The Healing Place
05. Billow Observatory - Plum
06. Tetsu Inoue - Elevator Drops
07. Dots - Dense
08. Cluster & Eno - Für Luise
09. Autumn Of Communion - Streams Pt4
10. Jochem Paap - Dx-Snth
11. Harold Budd & Robin Guthrie - Twilight

Autumn Of Communion: Bandcamp | Discogs

Artwork/image by Ricardo Gomez Angel


ASIP - Reflection on 2017


2017 was undoubtedly a year for many of us turning to a softer, more comforting style of music to help heal and escape the real world. Many of you reading this probably use the type of music covered here on ASIP as a remedy and form of escapism, and some may just be getting acquainted. Now more than ever, I feel like people are connecting with ambient music, and I see it in the comments, feedback, support and thoughts that accompany each release, friends releases, mixes etc, and and in the growing popularity of the genre in the wider-music spectrum. 

We’ve managed to present three vinyl releases this year, and I'm extremely proud of each one. Starting with the organic calming of Lav & Purl'sA State Of Becoming; we then went denser and deeper with Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri'sLa Equidistancia. In August, Arovane & Hior Chronik returned for their second album, Into my own. And in the middle of all of this, we experienced the worst possible outcome with our vinyl production (as did many others), but that was put into balance with your amazing support and kind donations for La Espera; the companion EP by Leandro and Rafael, which helped raise funds and get us back on track to continue with a new press (more to come on that one soon, along with news on the vinyl for La Equidistancia).

We're already looking forward to 2018's releases, with the announcement of Christian Kleine's upcoming album in January. But before we get ahead of ourselves, it's time to look back at all the music that kept the inspiration high and the mind elsewhere over the last year...

Here's a breathless-quick rundown on what’s included...


Young composer, Sophia Jani opens up our mix; Kai Schumacher reimagines a Moderat favorite; and South Africa's Jason Van Wyk finds the magical atmospheric piano balance on his Home Normal release. Leandro Fresco pairs up with Kompakt companion Thore Pfeiffer (who also just dropped a new album with Max Wurden); whilst Warmth is back on the year-end list with another pure blanket of warm ambience. I watched Earthen Sea play live in a church this year, and his Silent Season anniversary release was one of the best of a brilliant bunch from the label. ASC strayed away from his Silent Season ambient home to put out a deep-cut on his own label Auxiliary. The powerful, heart-pulls of Black Swan, 36 and Secret Pyramid were some of my favorite tear-jerkers of the year, whilst Rafael Anton Irisarri's political masterpiece on Umor Rex took our emotions to the next level. Noveller moved to LA recently, which might've  inspired one of my favorites of hers in a long time. Ryuichi Sakamoto returned with a twisted and interesting set of compositions, whilst PAN released an intriguing dig through relatively new and unheard ambient artists on their highly regarded compilation, Mono No Aware. Field Records and Acronym are no strangers to us individually, but their combined output was undoubtedly one of this years best pieces of ambient music. The one sweeping piece of ambient from nthng’s original and innovative techno record makes the cut, triggering some deepness from Luigi Tozzi in a rare ambient remix- a break from his bubbling techno on the high-flying Hypnus label. Wanderwelle landed strong with one of the most innovative dub-techno records we've heard in a very long time, whilst my fandom for Alexsi Perälä went up a notch, via his relentless Colundi Sequence compositions. We get deeper with Primal Code (Hypnus with another great release) and then Artefakt pull out the swirling, progressive techno-stomp and another must-own album. Joachim Spieth finally unveils a full-length album spanning ambient and techno- one of the only people who could strike this balance so well. Loess is another big return for 2017 with their signature deep and unique glitches, and Purl continues his many guises with one of this years most original pieces under his Illuvia moniker. Speaking of originality, no-one comes close to the bvdub style, but again he manages to surprise and delight. Loscil pairs with Mark Bridges as High Plains in their brooding instrumental piece, which is followed by our very own modern-classical prodigy Hior Chronik and his debut album on 7K!. Ghostly's, Christoper Willits scores a film on The Art Of Listening with some beautiful textures and Leyland Kirby scored a lifetime of mental degradation this year with his Caretaker series, but chose to release some of his best stuff for free. Hammock and Billow Observatory were once again on point to soothe with their dreamy lulls and enchanting melodies. The Thesis Project continued to present unique collaborations with Anna Rose Carter and Dag Rosenqvist just one of the many standouts from the series. The Susumu Yokota stylings of Poppy Ackroyd, are followed by the now legendary sounds of Four Tet. And with one of my most anticipated returns in a while, The Gentleman Losers begin to end proceedings with their Air/Bibio/Quiet Village dreaminess. And finally, the curtain closer coming from the biggest return of the year, Slowdive.


Despite a hefty 36 tracks, and 2hr 42mins total,  I've still left-out a bunch of my favorite releases of the year from this mix. But, I let the flow of the mix dictate what is included whilst pulling from my whittled-down playlist from the past year. It's restrictive whilst also liberating doing it this way, as putting together lists is a near impossible task for me. This method forces my hand, whilst also presenting something a little different to the normal year-end lists. 

To all those artists I’ve missed out, keep doing what you’re doing, we’re still listening. If you need to see more of the music I've been enjoying, well, this blog is of course a good place to start, as well as everything I've purchased and supported on Bandcamp, shown in my Fan Collection (go Bandcamp!).

Thank you to all the artists and labels featured, and a big thank you to everyone for continuing to support ASIP this year, buy our records and listen to the music featured on the blog and the label.  Next year will be ten years since the very first ASIP blog post, so we’ll be celebrating with some very special projects.

Until then, enjoy a look back at 2017...

Stream tracklist (Spotify/Apple Music). (Not all tracks included)

Tracklist [label & link to buy] (ASIP links) rough start time.

01. Sophia Jani - Those Who Stay [Unreleased / Soundcloud] 00.00>
02. Kai Schumacher - A New Error [Neue Meister] 04.04>
03. Jason Van Wyk - Clouds [Home Normal] (Review) 07.55>
04. Fresco & Pfeiffer - Splinter [Kompakt] (Review) 10.16>
05. Warmth - Isolation [Archives] (isolatedmix) 14.00>
06. Earthen Sea - The Time Past [Silent Season] 17.50>
07. ASC - Quaoar [Auxiliary] (ASC isolatedmix) (Review) 22.22>
08. Black Swan - The Escapist [Self] 27.06>
09. Secret Pyramid - Two Shadows [Ba Da Bing!] (isolatedmix) 30.48>
10. 36 - Black Soma [Self] (artist page) (isolatedmix) 34.30>
11. Rafael Anton Irisarri - RH Negative [Umor Rex] (artist page) 39.34>
12. Noveller - The Unveiling [Fire Records] 43.40>
13. Ryuichi Sakamoto - honj [Milan Records] 46.30>
14. Malibu - Held [PAN] 48.30>
15. Acronym - The Final Decision [Field Records] (Review) 49.32>
16. nthng - Touches [Lobster Theremin] 55.34>
17. Luigi Tozzi - Yavin (Ambient remix) [Hypnus] 60.42>
18. Wanderwelle - The Starry Night [Silent Season] (isolatedmix) 63.28>
19. Aleksi Perälä - NLL561606935 [Clone Basement Series] 68.36>
20. Primal Code - Junkan [Hypnus] 71.47>
21. Artefakt - Entering The City [Delsin] 77.58>
22. Joachim Spieth - Radiance [Affin] (isolatedmix) 88.17>
23. Loess - Wrikken [n5MD] (Review) (isolatedmix) 94.02>
24. Illuvia - Illuvia (Exaltation) [Eternell] (Review) 99.00>
25. bvdub - Limitless [n5MD] (interview) (isolatedmix) 108.18>
26. High Plains - Ten Sleep [Kranky] (isolatedmix) 113.42>
27. Hior Chronik - That Mistery Again [7K!] (artist page) (isolatedmix) 116.30>
28. Christopher Willits - Beginning [Ghostly] 118.52>
29. Leyland Kirby - Dig Deep March On [History Always Favours The Winners] 122.12>
30. Hammock - Dust Swirling Into Your Shape [Hammock music] 127.04>
31. Billow Observatory - Montclair [Azure Vista] (Review) (isolatedmix) 130.00>
32. Anna Rose Carter & Dag Rosenqvist - Nothing Ever [Thesis] (Feature) 133.26>
33. Poppy Ackroyd - The Calm Before [One Little Indian] 137.50>
34. Four Tet - You Are Loved [Text Records] 143.38>
35. The Gentleman Losers - Holding Back The Night [Grainy Records] 149.30>
36. Slowdive - Falling Ashes [Dead Oceans] 154.24>


OKADA - Floating Away From The World


Released earlier this month, Gregory Pappas dropped his second album for the n5MD label titled, Love Telepathic and follows it up with this exclusive mix for ASIP. 

Following in the footsteps of his previous release, Impermanence, Love Telepathic is a dream-like trip through punching beats, ethereal vocals and layers of warmth, sitting somewhere between ASC, Kiyoko and bvdub. Taking the extended track approach (10+ minutes each), OKADA builds each piece with meticulous patience - the kind that makes time disappear and the world melt around you.

Angelic vocals set against conspicuous organic beats, tick over like the lull of a metronome, 
inviting you closer to its misty depths. A soundtrack for sinking to the bottom of a glistening ocean, or floating to the blue skies above. 

Gregory's influences are clear amongst his mix, presenting us with a range of styles from the beautiful vocals of Julianna Barwick, to the awe-struck complexities of Ametsub, and the euphoric ambience of Bersarin Quartett.


"Music of artists that intoxicate and evoke a pure emotional response from me and influence my OKADA compositions. Most of these artists I've been listening to a long time. In fact, one of the artists on this mix, World's End Girlfriend, is the reason why my music is in long-form, which I first started to do on the album Anathema under the name ZXYZXY" - OKADA.

1. Julianna Barwick - One Half
An artist with strong vocal composition skills. Someone I'd like to borrow for my own compositions, to be honest.

2. 2 8 1 4 - 真実の恋
Two-artist effort that have pierced the veil of vaporwave; hurling it far into the daydream atmosphere.

3. Ametsub - Faint Dazzlings
Japanese electronic music at its finest. Yes, there is a sound unique all to Japan and its electronic music scene. I'd say this is a great example.

4. Bersarin Quartett - Bedingungslos
No one does it like BM. The guy is eons away from everyone when it comes to pure beauty in music. Any of his songs could fit here.

5. Ex Confusion - Speak Softly in My Dreams
One of my favorite n5MD artists. Any of his songs could fit here as well.

6. Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm - a1
Need no introduction here. Just a fantastic collaboration.

7. OKADA - Reconciliation
While I probably should have picked something off my new record, it just wasn't the type of mix I wanted to make. One of my personal favorites, and I plan to bring this style of composition back in the future.

8. MONO & World's End Girlfriend - Part 5
Two of my top 5 artists in collaboration right here, and they create a piece that is equal parts from both groups. The whole album is fantastic.

9. A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Requiem for the Static King Part 1
A short, yet elegant piece from these two fantastic composers.

10. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto - Moon
I adore all of RS's work, but his work with AN is always incredible. Perfect music to make me want to curl up in my bed on a rainy day.

11. envy - Fading Vision
A band I so badly wanted to sneak in this mix. Not easy since they are a screamo/post-hardcore band, but they're definitely in my top 5 as well and I had to have them here. This song is a great example of their breadth as musicians. Top tier group that exemplifies how to evoke an emotional response. I highly recommend them out.

Additional recommendation:

Eric Whitacre - Lux Nova
I couldn't fit this track on this mix, because of time and how it stuck out of place, but he definitely needs to be mentioned. His choral works prove that choral music is not dead. He is amazing.


OKADA n5MD | Facebook | Twitter


Portals: Modern Classical

As described in the Portals introductory post,  this series is an attempt to help everyone explore more, maybe point you to something new, or change your mind completely about a specific style of music. It's a once-click down from the article I wrote on ambient music (Neither Scene Nor Heard...) and will likely go through the many styles described in there as the series progresses. Up first, a style that's taking on the old.

I won't be making an attempt at listing the best Modern Classical artists of today; instead, I will be looking at several artists whose influences or style may relate back to classical music, artists that could be considered as defining or even re-defining what we think of as Modern Classical and tracks that have introduced me to, or led me to explore more of this specific style of music. If you're a die-hard Modern Classical fan, then this post will hopefully help you open up to something more, or different. If you're new to the genre, it may be your way in.

To wrap a loose definition around the term Modern Classical, it's often defined as music whose influences stem from early classical music (the classical music you are probably more familiar with), as opposed to rock, pop, folk, jazz etc. 

This article by  Luke Muehlhauser, provided some great in-depth background on Modern Classical music, but I hope to bring a more ambient/electronic lens as a result of my own personal experiences. I do, however, echo his sentiments surrounding the exploration of the genre; it's pointless trying to make you enjoy all types of Modern Classical music, but I do hope you find something you enjoy, can relate to, and ultimately explore further.

I encourage your comments, recommendations, and experiences in the comments below so we can help one-another explore even more.


When I explain to some of my friends or family that I enjoy Modern Classical music, they find it hard to understand. All my years submerged in electronic music - how can I possibly like something like Classical music?! Classical music has connotations of 70-year-old men, dusty record shops with gramophones, or theatres full of tuxedos watching the back of a conductor. Modern Classical and the many artists pioneering it today are breaking new ground, crossing into electronic and ambient music, playing at major festivals, making techno music on the side (or vice-versa), and recruiting a much younger generation of listeners.

Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons - Spring 1. (2012)

Let's start as close to the origins of classical music as possible. Max Richter is one of the best composers of the modern age and for many, responsible for defining Modern Classical music.

Richter will come as no stranger to many of us, and the renowned German/Brit is the epitome of Modern Classical music - forging the gap between the old and the new. In no production is this more apparent or beautiful, as Spring 1, taken from Max's reinterpretation of a classical masterpiece, The Four Seasons by one of Classical music's very own legends, Vivaldi.

Spring 1, combines an emotional, soaring Moog synth which juxtaposes the sharp violins paving the way for the introductory piece of the record. It's the Yin to the Yang, the old parallel to the new, and this electronic addition is the most obvious of elements you'll witness amongst Max's many modern and minimal takes on classical music we've heard in the likes of Memoryhouse and Infra.

Watch a video of the entire concert here and a clip of Spring 1, below with Max on the Moog.


Steve Reich - Six Pianos (1974)

Steve Reich is often talked about in the same vein as Max Richter, both namely responsible for the modern-minimalist movement, but in many respects, Reich may be an easier 'in' for many of us - his variations and experimental approaches are more likely to resonate with you at some point along his 40+ year career. 

His track Electric Counterpoint, for example, the source for samples in The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds, and his most notorious release, Music for 18 Musicians, recently repressed for Record Store Day 2015 and his most celebrated and respected piece to date. 

But it's the 1974 track, Six Pianos which I've chosen to feature here. The repetitive pianos, whilst absent of any obvious emotion we heard in Max Richter's piece, are something I've come to see and respect within performances from the artists of today. The ability to hang an audience on single notes, or these repetitions, for minutes on-end... it takes a special someone to pull that off. 

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Completion (2007) (With Christopher Willits

Ryuichi Sakaomoto is another artist responsible for injecting new life into classical music. His extensive list of collaborators ranges from: ambient and experimental visionaries such as Taylor Deupree, (here playing an experimental set at St Johns for 
Boiler Room)  Fennesz (here combining Fennesz's fuzzy electronics in the classic piano track, Amore) David Byrne (here for The Last Emperor Soundtrack) Alva Noto, (here layering keys amongst the static and glitch of Raster Noton's finest) and the track chosen here alongside Ghostly's ambient star, Christopher Willits, combining textures on

Sakamoto may not be down as your most obvious Modern Classical character, but he's a prime example of an artist pushing the boundaries of what we may have previously deemed classical. Starting as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra and going on to record such infamous piano compositions such as, Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (still a big favourite of mine - watch a live recording here), he's brought the piano to the world in as many guises as physically possible.

Nils Frahm - Said And Done (2013) (pictured)

The German is single-handedly responsible for making me fall in love with this type of music all over again and Said And Done is just one example of Modern Classical at its finest. 

The track features three parts which repeatedly sends shivers down my spine. First, the sustained keys - I've seen Nils tease out the audience with this section for what seems like hours on end. Second, this (sometimes aggressive) playing eases into the track's gentle melody, which oozes with melancholy. Until third, the keys are once again pounded with such significance you wonder if Nils is even human - head down, beads of sweat breaking across his brow, arms drawn across the stage... and then it hooks you.

Spaces, his 2014 release, was without a doubt my favourite album of the year and whilst pieces like Said And Done are strictly piano, Nils continues to push the boundaries with his modern take on classical music, combining vintage synthesizers, custom piano builds (the largest piano in the world), dub-remixes for Jon Hopkins, his very own Piano Dayand more recently debuting a motion-picture soundtrack for Victoria.

The below video isn't of Said And Done, because to single-out this track amongst Nil's performances wouldn't do it justice, but if you're familiar with Nils, you probably already know the track. If you're new to Nils, then watch the below and have your mind and ears blown. 

Said And Done begins at around 17 minutes.

Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott - Verses - The Chopin Project (2015)

I found the following Youtube comment on one of Ólafur Arnald's videos for his recent Chopin project: "Chopin published the 3rd Sonata in 1844, Arnald's published this is 2015 ... There's 171 years of music in this 4 minute video"...

Just like Nils, Ólafur has been one of the biggest and most talented stars to emerge from this music style, bringing the pure beauty of a piano to the masses of people who now flock to his concerts and shows globally. Quotes like the above really put the gravitas of Modern Classical into context, and go to show that good music never really goes away - it just gets reinterpreted, sampled or built upon for new audiences who are willing to listen and learn. 

Ólafur began his career in a Heavy Metal band and to this day consistently reminds us of the power behind a composition. He integrates powerful vocals in For Now I Am Winter, writes music for Broadchurch, combines classical elements with dance music as Kiasmos, and here, with Alice Sara Ottreinterprets the legendary Polish virtuoso Pianist, Chopin.

Dustin O'Halloran - A Great Divide (2011)

This entire article could go on to feature many of the stars grown by the brilliant Erased Tapes label. From Germany's Nils Frahm, to Olafur Arnalds' early works, and Portland's Peter Broderick, to more recent label additions such as "the fastest pianist in the world"; Lubomyr Melynk, veteran composer Michael Price and the soaring beauty of A Winged Victory For The Sullen. The latter of which, formed of Adam Wiltzie (of Stars Of The Lid fame) and self-taught pianist Dustin O'Halloran

Dustin's release Vorleben, on the brilliant Sonic Pieces record label in 2011, seemed to be a defining piece for the American pianist and label alike. The Berlin based collective, now synonymous with some of the very best modern-classical music, housed early Nils Frahm albums such as Wintermusik in 2009, Otto A Totland's short and minimalist album, Pinô, and the Norwegian dark-ambient pairing, Deaf Center.  Despite playing a modest part of this well-respected label's growth, it's Dustin's work as one half of A Winged Victory For The Sullen which has propelled him, and in many respects, Modern Classical music, forward. 

Whether you prefer your piano blanketed in ambience alongside slow riffs from Adam Wiltzie in AWVFTS (read a live review here), or more classical compositions from Dustin's individual work, productions such as A Great Divide highlight just how accomplished this man is, alone or accompanied. 

Ben Woods - Fond Of You (2014)

Diving deeper into this particular style, I have a long list of ambient artists that could be seen as having Modern Classical influences. I'll create a separate Portals specifically for those artists, and they'll likely creep-in when I focus on Soundtracks, or dive into ambient music specifically, but for now I wanted to just keep it to one track and mention a few should you want to be eased into this softly-lit world. 

Strictly speaking, ambient music tends to go one of two ways for me. Either electronic, synthesized sounds, accentuated by samples or analog instruments. Or, where Modern Classical is concerned, instrumentalists adding textures, or even playing textures through piano, strings or guitar. Sometimes they're classically trained, or as I've learned, in many instances have no training whatsoever, and have simply mastered programs like Ableton. 

There's a whole world of these talented pianists, cellists, guitarists, and violinists that form the back-bone of much of the ambient music we hear today. They deserve to be credited with opening our ears to the powerful and evocative styles behind Modern Classical music; be it hidden amongst textures, or in Ben Woods' case, playing the lead role in the beautiful track, Fond Of You.

This more ambient focused approach can also be found in the likes of: Helios, Brambles, Halo, Hior Chronik, Jacaszek, Arc Of Doves, and when leaning more towards soundtrack styles: Bruno SanfilippoRhian Sheehan, Levi Patel and Luke Howard to name just a few to get you started... Expect more to come on this particular style of music in another Portals.

Christina Vantzou - VHS

I wanted to represent a few different styles throughout this post and Christina Vantzou's VHS does just that. Her experimental and omnidirectional take on Classical music is a refreshing and bold approach to reconstructing music. 

I was lucky enough to witness Christina at Substrata Festival a few years back, where she orchestrated a specially commissioned string-quartet, dancing around on stage bare-footed, her artistic qualities were evident, as are they in VHS, with its haunting 
instruments and hypnotic accompanying video.

Instead of crafting extended, complicated compositions, Christina can be found creating minimal, experimental stories, often focusing on string instruments, but as with VHS, combining a multitude of different approaches, tones, and emotions. 

Christina's albums on Kranky also provide the perfect entry point to explore a further multitude of artists that touch the Modern Classical realm; throughout her self-released remix albums No1 and No2. Loscil, Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Koen Holtkamp, ISAN, and Dustin O'Halloran are just a few artists who stepped up to reinterpret her works.

My favourite track of Christina's may actually be Going backwards to recover that which was left behindbut VHS provides a slightly different perspective to the music featured here. If you're in need of more experimental artists that have their own non-traditional approach, I'd also recommend Hauschka, whose prepared piano is an absolute spectacle. 

Jeff Mills & The Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra (2005)

You may be aware of Aphex Twin's Remote Orchestra? It received mixed reviews, but his intentions were never faulted and at the very least it gave birth to this rather beautiful remix of Rhubarb. The idea of controlling a 48 piece string section and a 24 strong choir by remote control, using a host of electronics, midi controllers, and remote visual cues wasn't RDJ's finest moment, but it was a stroke of genius, going one step further than anyone else looking to smash down any musical boundaries.

For the techno enthusiasts amongst us you may also remember Carl Craig stepping up in front of Les Siècles Orchestra - another great example of two musical worlds colliding. Or earlier in 2005, another techno legend, Jeff Mills, playing alongside The Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra.

For anybody my age growing up listening to electronic music, it's easy to recognise the classical elements or instruments in techno tracks; the piano leads of early house music, the Strings Of Life we came to recognize, but it's extremely hard to imagine them ever becoming so apparent. That is, until you witness the natural harmony between electronic musicians on stage backed by a 909 and fronted by an Orchestra. It's hard to not fall in love with what the likes of Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, and Aphex Twin have done for music across the board - irrespective of genre. 

The integration of classical instruments and the world of techno/electronic music can also be flipped completely on its head. From electronic music integrating classical, to classical music mimicking electronic. 

Irrespective of genre or label, these reinterpretations of early electronic music over the past few years have opened up my eyes to how powerful string, wood, and brass instruments can be, even without a kick-drum. In the same way I witnessed Jeff Mills and Carl Craig on stage in-front of an Orchestra, playing some of my all-time favourite tracks in a completely different manner; these performances gave me a whole new-found respect for anybody mastering these instruments.

Alarm Will Sound took on Aphex Twin with their version of Blue Calx (coming the closest to matching RDJ's original), but The Williams Fairey Brass Band may just be your favourite find of the article. Covering early 90's acid-house tracks from 808 State, The KLF, and A Guy Called Gerald, if this doesn't make you want to seek out the potential of a Trombone, then I don't know what will...

Moby - God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters (1995)

Lastly, something you probably weren't expecting: a track that cut straight through a plethora of electronic music during its most celebrated age, a CD full of rave music, a track that many people wouldn't consider Modern Classical, yet if played live would probably be one of the greatest performances of our times without the need for any electronic instruments at all.

God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters by Moby may be boxed as ambient, soundtrack or just simply instrumental, but it has all the elements of an epic orchestral performance. If you ever doubted the use of classical instruments, strings or piano in music, then this track could be your way in, as it was for me back in 1995.

I'm not sure if Moby has ever played this live with an orchestra but there's an amazing similarity between this song and many of the artists mentioned in this article. Moby gets a hard-rap nowadays, but he gets my nod for somehow producing one of the best instrumental tracks in the past twenty years and for being one of the very first people to make me think,"Wow. The strings and piano in this are really something, I wonder what else is similar?"...


Portals Episode 1: Modern Classical d/l


01. Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons - Spring 0 & 1
02. Nils Frahm - Said And Done.
03. Willits & Sakamoto - Completion
04. Dustin O'Halloran - A Great Divide
05. Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott - Verses
06. Christina Vantzou - VHS
07. Ben Woods - Fond Of You
08. Jeff Mills & The Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra - Imagine (Blue Potential Version)
09. Moby - God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters
10. Steve Reich - Six Pianos