The Sight Below

todos: Ten Years of A Strangely Isolated Place

 
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The impossible task. Find a way to summarize the last ten years of music featured on the A Strangely Isolated Place blog and website.

First off, we have created the ‘tagged’ project, listing some of the hundreds of artists featured on the blog for you to explore over here. And pretty soon, we’ll have a special release for you all.

But I also wanted something that was closer to our blog beginnings, and a story told through a mix. What better way than tasking our favorite journey-maker, todos.

todos and his Kilchurn Sessions have been a staple of ASIP over the past ten years. We’ve even collected them all in one place, given how many posts they ended up spanning. I don’t need to add many superlatives about him here, but they are some of the best recorded mixes I have ever heard. And I mean it. You can hold-up (my personal favorite) professional mixed CD’s by Sasha, or James Holden for example, and I would be just as pleased listening to some of todos’ Kilchurn Sessions. He has a knack, a perfection and an obsession with mixing unique journeys that span everything from ambient, electronic, techno and instrumental elements, alongside a unique use of samples and movie quotes. He creates familiar and emotive narratives that need multiple revisits to appreciate the detail, skill and passion he put in.

Once todos agreed to my ask (nearly a year-ago now) I sent him the archive of posts from the old site, and a list of all the tags used across both new and old. My only criteria was that he needed to select tracks from artists or albums that were a part of that list - an attachment to ASIP and the blog. He had hundreds to sift through, some known, some new to him.

I don’t know how he did it.

I do know it was a headache for him, for months, but what he turned in, was something well beyond my expectations. He went through many iterations and different approaches, trying to do one chronologically in the order they were featured on ASIP for example, sending me revisions up until the very last minute, but in the end, he managed to find a selection of tracks that truly reflect the past ten years of discovery here on ASIP. And in a style only he knows how to execute.

A big BIG thank you to todos for soundtracking ASIP all these years. And for this, a superb piece of no-doubt painstaking work to help us celebrate ten-years of existence.

Once you’re done listening here, check out our ‘tagged’ project to explore even more.

Download MP3

Download WAV

~

Ten years of A Strangely Isolated Place - mixed by todos

Tracklist:

1. Minilogue - ‘Yesterday Bells’ edit (2008)/ Grzegorz Bojanek - A Huge Explosion After The War’ edit (2017)

2. Altus - ‘Virgo’ edit (2013) / Little Dragon - ‘Twice’ edit (2008) / Lights Out Asia - ‘Except Europa’ edit (2010)

3. Herbstlaub - ‘Softly hidden she.’ (Stray Theories remix) (2016)

4. Stellardrone - ‘Pale Blue Dot’ (2010)

5. Freescha - ‘Kite High’ (2009)

6. Benjamin Dauer - ‘Harmony Bound’ (2011) / Rhian Sheehan - ‘Standing In Silence Part 1’ edit (2010)

7. Jon Hopkins - ‘Private Universe’ (2008) / Opus III - ‘It’s A Fine Day’ edit (2009)

8. Sasha - ‘Broadcast’ (2016)

9. Umber - ‘Tomorrow We'll Throw Out Some Old Shoes’ (2011)

10. Kiyoko - ‘Sea of Trees’ (2012)

11. Bjorn Rohde - ‘Forest of Forgotten Hearts’ (2013) / Nils Frahm - ‘Peter’ (2013)

12. Jason van Wyk - ‘Eyes Shut’ (2017)

13. Roel Funcken - ‘Android Robson’ (2016)

14. Synkro - ‘Midnight Sun’ (2015)

15. Martin Nonstatic - ‘Open Minded’ (2015) / Aphex Twin - ‘Rhubarb’ (2009)

16. Sonitus Eco - ’Storegga Slide’ (2015)

17. Vermont - ‘Übersprung’ (2014)

18. Ocoeur - ‘Resonance’ (2013) / Sigur Ros - ‘Takk’ (2011) / Carbon Based Lifeforms - ‘Intro’ / ‘Hold’ (2014)

19. Donnacha Costello - ‘That Empty Feeling’ (2011)

20. Rhian Sheehan - ’Sileo’ (2013)

21. Markus Guentner - ‘Baryon’ (Feat. The Sight Below) edit (2015) / Porya Hatami - ‘Fen’ (By Segue) edit (2015)

22. Tegh - ‘Down’ (2014)

23. Arovane - ‘Woven’ (Peter Benisch Remix) edit (2015)

24. John Beltran - ‘Seasons Go’ (2013)

~

Includes audio recordings taken in and around USA, Germany, UK, Italy, Poland, Australia, Netherlands and Japan.

Special thanks to Ryan, Marcel, Eiko, Spencer and James for the support and sending me snippets of your own strangely isolated places. It was a pleasure incorporating them into this mix.

*Years indicate when tracks were featured on ASIP, not necessarily when they were released*

Artwork by ASIP, containing elements from Mario Morales and Nick Brzostowski.

 

port-royal - You Ware Nowhere (Remixes)

 
 

I'm a sucker for remix albums and I'm certainly a sucker for remixes by  a whole bunch of artists on this remix album of port-royal's, You Ware Nowhere.

With thirteen takes on port-royal's distinct glistening euphoria, you can expect the best of n5MD's powerful roster with a wide array of styles.  However, n5MD also opened this one up to a remix competition, so alongside the likes of bvdub, The Sight Below, Arovane and Ocoeur, comes competition winner Gustaf Fjelstrom. Not content with label regulars in full-force, n5MD also invited the likes of Atomnation's catchy electronica artist Tonik Ensemble and techno legend John Tejada amongst many others.

With Ocoeur's latest album coming down the pipeline soon, I was keen to see how he would handle the port-royal magic, and his take on Ain't No Magician is a nice little taster of Frank Zaragoza's upcoming album Reversed; melding modern classical styles with stripped-back electronica.

Remix competition winner Gustaf Fjelstrom elaborates on port-royal's unique style, taking the trance-like original down a notch and adding a touch of class, replacing the Italian's heavy synths with a subtle bass undercurrent.

Adding space, succinct drums and a twist of analog flair, Arovane opens up the vocal-heavy Alma M into a familiar IDM space, whilst fellow ASIP collaborator Rafael drives home the bubbling, twinkling expanse of Heisenberg as The Sight Below.

Tonik Ensemble lay down a dirty bass-line for Alma M serving up the polar opposite to Arovane's earlier careful caress. And in another similar extravagant take on the original, bvdub raises his notorious imagination level to eleven, with an energetic trip through a multitude of breaks, complex beats, trance-like pads and highly pitched vocals - undoubtedly a palette Brock had fun bringing to life. 

If you're not content with the range of styles so far, there's a touch of 80's flair and pop to a few of the remixes too, with John Tejada and Ambidextrous bringing out the european in port-royal. 

With such a wealth of energy, complexity and power in the original music from port-royal, the remixers certainly had a wealth of material at their fingertips, leaving us with an absorbing and intense listen from start to finish, and an educational journey across one of our favorite labels out there; n5MD.

Available now via n5MD and Bandcamp.

 
 

Tracklist:

The Last Big Impezzo (HatGuy Remix)
Disco-Adorno (Ambidextrous Remix)
Ain't No Magician (Ocoeur Remix)
The Last Big Impezzo (Remix by Gustaf Fjelstrom)
Alma M. (Arovane Amx)
Tallinn (bvdub's 46 Pieces of Estonia - feat. Aaron Molyneaux)
The Man Who Stole The Last Big Impezzo (Nseven Remix)
Whispering In The Dark (John Tejada Remix)
Alma M. (Tonik Ensemble Remix)
The Last Big Impezzo (Northcape Mix)
Karl Marx Song (To Destroy A City vs port-royal)
Heisenberg (The Sight Below Remix)
The Last Big Impezzo (Attilio Novellino Rework)

 
 

The Angling Loser, The Sight Below, Christian Kleine, Atomnation

 

The Angling Loser - Ocean Song

Forthcoming on ...txtLee Norris, Gordon Jones, Porya Hatami and Shintaro Aoki combine in this stunning track, taken from an upcoming album called Arena of Apprehension. An additional, more piano-centric track called Lady Of The Stream, is also available to preview.
...txt have previously responsible for Arovane'sdwell_tevvel_structure and look to be going from strength to strength.

 
 

port-royal - Heisenberg (The Sight Below remix)

There's an apparent port-royal remix album in the works titled You Ware Nowhere, and given it's at the hands of n5MD we can likely expect some quality output and some ASIP favorites to turn in a track. Proof in point, The Sight Below...

 
 

Christian Kleine - Coreal

You should know by now that we were big fans of City Centre Offices and its notorious electronica early 00's output. One of the artists involved in that movement was Christian Kleine, also known for being one half of the infamous duo Herrmann & Kleine (alongside label co-founder Thaddeus Herrmann). Christian returns with a new album titled, Coreal, self-released on Bandcamp, and it's a straight-up nostalgic trip back to the sound that helped define the infamous label. Beautiful, melodic, IDM/electronica - a certain style we haven't heard in quite some time. Available on Bandcamp.

 
 

Atomnation - 2015 Compilation

Applescal's label, Atomnation, had another great year on the release front, following a powerful 2014 including the release of Gidge (a firm favorite here at ASIP). And they're celebrating it by pulling together some sublime edits from their quality roster, including a new edit of Gidge's, You, a new track by Fran Seven and quite possibly one of the best house remixes I've heard in a while by Henry Salz. Unmissable and available on Bandcamp.

 
 

Interview: Expressive drones from the other side, with Rafael Anton Irisarri

 
 

 A cross-country move can be unsettling, let alone a move that follows the unfortunate theft of an entire studio. It's enough to make anyone pack-up again, give-up even. But then there are some who use it to channel energy to be even more creative; who use it as an opportunity for deeper expression. 

Not only did Rafael finish up a festival on the other side of the country during this turbulent time, he's been quick to jump back in the studio and put his emotions to good use. A Fragile Geography is Rafael's latest full-length under the RAI moniker and his third for Lawrence English's Room 40 label; after his 2010 release The North Bend, and 2013's sublime, The Unintentional Sea

A Fragile Geography is a personal tribute to Raf's torment over the past few years, and when such emotion is channelled into ambient or drone music, it's often a daunting, heavily-drenched, noise affair. But you should know by now that RAI is a master of sound manipulation, and channeling this type of emotion is his craft. With pure intensity, comes fragility. With a wall of noise comes waterfalls of color. With detailed field recordings, comes subtle storylines. 

Empire Systems is the apex of the albums intensity, a heart-crushing crescendo that powers and rattles through your head as the minute details, static and textures bounce from sine to sine. Hiatus, channels a feeling of displacement, discern and uncomfortable ground. Persistence glimmers with hope across softly degrading melodies. Secretly Wishing For Rain, a love song from the depths of falling mountains, grey clouds and a deep haze. Some people need lyrics to convey emotion, and some just need a guitar, the patience and skill for manipulation, and the ear for fine-tuning acoustics. 

With such a momentous return and a story behind it, I sent a few questions Rafael's way to get to know a little more about the album, his approach and what inspired such sounds.

 
 

Hey Raf, how’s the new studio treating you? Is it finally complete or are you looking to improve it still?

RAI: It's going really well, thanks for asking! Very busy these days, working on tons of projects- from mastering for several labels on a regular basis to mixing and remixing other artists - all while trying to finish a new The Sight Below album. 14 hour days are becoming the norm around here. But that's a very good thing: busy means working, and working means not starving. Can't complain really!

In terms of adding/improving: there's always room for this area. A studio is never 100% “finished.” It's always in flux. I've gone through several iterations of my current setup, and I only opened for business back in February, so I've been changing things around every couple of months or so.

I still have a long list of gear to reacquire, as I've prioritize to more immediate mixing and mastering gear. Eventually I'd like to build a bigger room out here in the woods, just so that I can incorporate a lot of those composing aspects I used to have in my Seattle studio and be able to write music more effectively. A piano would be fantastic, I miss that part a lot.

 
 

How’s New York? A departure from your previous home, Seattle no doubt? I’m jealous you’re getting some defined seasons over there (being in LA now I’m missing it!) Do you see your new location inspiring your music going forward?

RAI: NY is a strange place. It's been quite the cultural adjustment. Finding descent coffee in the Northeast is quite challenging, for example. We were very spoiled in the Northwest (though I reckon LA has some seriously great places – lots of Seattle & Portland transplants there). My location at this very moment is rather nice. I live away from the city in a fairly wooded area, so it's very quiet and isolated in a nice way. When I first got here, it felt a bit strange going to bed at night and not hearing any city noises – we are constantly bombarded by it in urban environments. Out here, I can open a window in my studio, clap fairly loud and hear the reverberation carry through the forest. The scenery is rather beautiful, though I reckon the weather is horribly mercurial. I miss that even keel gloominess of the PNW weather.

Your new album, A Fragile Geography, is a personal affair by the sounds of it, no doubt influenced by your last two years and the difficult times you faced regarding the studio. I’m interested to know how your mood affects your music. Do you set out with these intentions to portray, or is it more on reflection that you start to see the experiences come to life in your music?

RAI: For the longest of time, music/s been a way to cope with my own frustrations and health issues. Depression can be a powerful ally when you channel it correctly. This new album is indeed a reflection of a period of my life. There's great beauty in sadness. One could say it mirrors the general anxiety we are currently living in the United States today. Some of my earlier works reflected on the notion of a decaying American dream. Almost 10 years later since my first release, and we are living in a very tense America, one where opportunities seem to be eroding more and more which each passing day. Sometimes I look at the world and the only sensible thing to do is make a bunch of noise and let it all out somehow.

Is your music always emotionally charged? The complexity behind your music would definitely make me assume so, but I also know you’re very much a scientist, as well as an artist (with regards to your studio, production, techniques etc). How do you balance the two? 

RAI: Yes, it's definitely driven by it when it comes to my own productions. Of course, when it comes to other people's music, then my focus is a clinical one. I'm doing technical work, creative still, but more focused on problem solving and making small improvements to the material I'm working on.

 
 

Whenever I listen to your music it sounds harmonious and refined, yet I can imagine given your guitar usage in much of your music, there’s some serious manipulations and tricks hidden behind what is a very simple end sound? Can you explain some of the processes or techniques used on the record? 

RAI: Yeah, there's a lot of different things going on the album. Lots of heavy processing of source material. For example, the very final piece on the album, “Secretly Wishing For Rain,” was a sketch I recorded in my Seattle studio early in 2014. Just a piano improv. Sometimes I would sit on the piano and just play, from the heart, no click track, no backing tracks, no specific tempo – just whatever I'd be feeling at the time and record it. Well, since I lost all my recordings, this one should have been lost along with the rest. I just happened to have recorded it as well on my phone's voice memo. So as I was transferring files into a new phone, I discovered it. I then took the source material, processed it in the studio here in NY and composed a piece with that source material. It was a very low quality recording, so it took some time to shape it into form. After I had written the piece, my friend Julia Kent played a few cello lines on top, which then I used as source material and created many layers with her playing, which ended on the final recorded version of the song.

Are there any surprise instruments or samples on the record which might not be distinguishable to the normal listener?

RAI: One of my favorite sounds on “Empire System” is a recording of one of the biggest organs in all of Europe. I was field recording in Cologne back in 2013 and captured a Catholic sung mass. As a recovering Catholic, it was fascinating to hear this familiar ritual in a completely foreign language, German in this case, and still be able to follow it (12 years a catholic school boy). Anyway, I took a section where the organ played solo and was playing very sustained notes, so I put in my sampler later on and used it as one of the layers.

 
 

I’m sure lots of people will be surprised just how much guitar and its many manipulations plays a central role in your productions. Why is that? 

RAI: I started to play guitar when I was a teenager. It's a very powerful instrument, very versatile – you can play very aggressive music, or very melodic music with it. It's punk, it's rock, it's classical, it's ambient, all in one. For the longest of time, I wanted my guitar to not sound like a guitar, but more like a synth – I can play it with a bow and get cello-like sounds from it, I can use some very light picks and a volume pedal and make it sound like some very nice Enoesque pads. As time has passed, and I've gotten older (and dumber), I've started to see the guitar in the same way one would see a module in an Eurorack – strictly a sound device. I can sound design with a guitar and a few effect pedals, record it, then load into a sampler and then continue processing in my laptop, to the point it is no longer recognizable as a guitar. It's become something else, something new, unique and very much my own. Where most people would see a limitation, I see endless sonic possibilities.

Are there any instruments you don’t play and wish you could master one day? 

RAI: I would have loved to be born with a velvety voice and be able to sing. The human voice is such a fascinating instrument.

Lawrence English mastered your album and helped on a few tracks. What’s the thought process behind getting someone else to master your record (when you’re fully capable to do so?)

RAI: This may come as a shock, but I NEVER master my own music. I relish having another person listen to it with fresh ears and opine, then have a conversation on HOW it should sound. Lawrence is somebody I trust, like his aesthetic and he knows my music very well. This is very important, possibly more important than any equipment. I wouldn't want the same person that worked on the latest EDM atrocity touching my work, no matter how good they might be as an engineer or how much gear they've got – without a real connection to the music, it means absolutely nothing. It's one of the reasons why I refuse to mix or master music I do not genuinely enjoy.

Are you still learning? If so, what or who is your inspiration? Is it just through self-experimentation or are you always seeking out further knowledge when it comes to production, mastering etc?

RAI. Of course, one should never stop learning and been inquisitive. I learn a lot from my peers, my colleagues, etc. In Seattle I had a huge community of people surrounding me, many artists, etc. Here, I was expecting to be VERY isolated when I moved out here, BUT, as it turned out, I'm extremely lucky: I live now close to two other amazing engineers, Dietrich Shonemann (who cut AFG to vinyl), and Taylor Deupree (who's also an amazing artist on his own right as well, as running the 12k label). We are always hanging and exchanging ideas, discussing, testing and comparing gear, or simply just chilling out. It's nice to have a community, even when you live in the middle of nowhere.

Outside of music, what else inspires you?

RAI: Visual art is always inspiring. I'm naturally drawn to minimalist painters, and as it turn out, I live now very close to the Dia: Beacon museum, which is absolutely amazing and awe inspiring. Beautiful building with possibly the largest collection of minimalist art in the world. I also find inspiration in films, books, and history.

You’re working on a secret ASIP  remix project at the moment, can you tell us how you approach remixes? Do you decide whether it’s an RAI/The Sight Below remix beforehand, or do you see what happens in the process? What defines the style?

RAI: Well, first and foremost, I must enjoy the music, or at the very least, find something, maybe if it's one element, that captivates my attention in order for me to commit to doing a remix. A remix, in my opinion, must hold the same weight as any other of my songs, sound just like any other of my own tracks, have that sonic footprint.

In regards to how I decide which musical persona: that's fairly simple, sometimes I hear something and just know, “oh, this would be a great little motif for a TSB” track. It's something that happens organically, so unless somebody actually requests a specific remix, I'll pretty much just let the process play out.

Speaking of remixes, your Unfurled Remix EP was a momentous occasion and I’m the proud owner of a copy. Can you tell us a little bit about how that was conceived and the decision to not make a digital download available?

RAI: Well, first off, thank you VERY much for the support and plonking down some serious dough for that, so much appreciated! The track itself was the last TSB song I produced at my studio in Seattle. When all this crap went down last year, Ghostly were the first people to call me up. They were like “What can we do to help?” I'll never forget, so grateful for that...Anyway, as we were discussing perks for the fundraiser they were doing, I thought this might be a good track to release and have some remixes, as I happened to have the stems for it on my laptop, possibly one of the very few things left. I asked a few friends/colleagues I like and they were all like, yeah, of course I'm on board. They all put some serious thought to it too, and all the tracks came out superb.

I really wanted to make it special and unique, so early own we decided not to make it available digitally or elsewhere, just on that specific vinyl. It's an ACTUAL Ghostly official release, with it's own catalog number, so it's canon. It's the rarest Ghostly release ever, with just 40 copies made. I'm very happy with how it came out and again, couldn't be more grateful to everyone involved in making this happen for me.

 
 

Who would you love to remix and how would you approach it? (past and present?)

RAI: From a technical standpoint: I'd love to get my hands on an original Phil Spector session or anything off the St. Pepper sessions. From a personal standpoint: I'd of course love to remix (or work in any capacity really) with Slowdive (above).

You’re a big fan of drone (#dronelife!) and seem to be amazingly knowledgable on the genre. How did you get into it?

RAI: Listening to drone music is like enjoying eating a pomegranate. You have to dig through, but it rewards in the end. It's a sonic ecosystem which requires a certain degree of time commitment – generally all things ambient aren't expressed necessarily as the usual 3 1/2 minute song. A truly acquired taste - usually only gained through a personal epiphany enabled by patience - it doesn't necessarily provide instant gratification to the casual listener.

 
 

What do you think makes a good drone record? Attention to detail? Melody? Depth? 

RAI: Ambient music is a deceptively simple style – it seems as if anyone can do it at home, therefore easy to dismiss as pedantic or amateurish. And that may be true to a certain extent – it's not hard to do at all from a few technical perspectives. The important part is not so much about the ease to make, the sound quality or the performance of the musician but rather the content itself: is it distinct? Is it expressive? Is it memorable? This is why X piece of music can be a masterpiece and Y or Z total rubbish. In my view, I find a piece like “Not Yet Remembered” by Harold Budd and Brian Eno memorable, significant and impactful. I can't say the same about most music heard on commercial radio, dance clubs or elsewhere over the last couple decades. Then again, it's all in the eye of the beholder...

For anyone new to this style, who would you recommend listening to?

RAI: I'd just say, browse through my curatorial CV on my website, www.irisarri.org. Anything I've book for Substrata Festival (2011 – 2015) is a good starting point – it's a diverse ecosystem of all things minimalistic and gorgeous.

A Fragile Geography is available now on Bandcamp in digital and vinyl formats.

~

Listen to Rafael's contribution to Markus Guentner's upcoming album, Theia, below.

 
 

Neither scene nor heard: a journey through ambient music

 
 

I’ve seen a few articles over the past few years detailing the best ambient albums, the state of ambient or the return of ambient, and whilst they’re often very positive for the genre, the artists and every other person involved in making this type of music, I can’t help but feel a bit empty after reading them.

These articles rarely scrape the surface of a genre that has never gone away, and will probably never “make a comeback” but instead, the genre continues to evolve. Ambient music will always remain a sub-culture of many popular music styles out there, or more to the point of this article, be the hidden undercurrent that’s helped inspire many other styles of music.

Whilst I’m not opposed to the genre getting any more popular (hell, I might get more traffic to the site or sell more records), I can’t help but feel a little annoyed when it’s not represented well, especially when some people have been involved for years and so, so, so, so many styles, producers and labels are consistently overlooked.

It’s a big reason why I created this site back in 2008, and it’s why I’m writing now.

Since the inception of this blog, I’ve focused on those who don’t really get the exposure they deserve and the many hidden talents of not only ambient music, but electronica and to a lesser extent, techno. Why stop now? Whilst this article will dive into the early days and influences on the genre, it will also hopefully offer a different perspective from the more popular journalism outlets and instead, focus on the many styles of ambient music and it particular, the producers and labels that have accompanied me on my journey over the years.

Heads-up, it’s long. So take the time to explore the artists and labels featured and pay it a few visits once you’ve hopped off onto Discogs and Youtube. Every album and artist links out to further information, and there’s a full Youtube playlist at the bottom if you can’t wait. For anyone that really wants to dig into ambient music, I’m hoping here might be a good place to start.

Shit. Where the hell do I start?

Let me make an attempt to cover my own ass from the thousands of very opinionated music-heads first. I got into ambient music late. Very late. And I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I do spend much of my life listening to and writing about it, so I think it gives me a little bit of authorisation to talk on the subject.

Secondly, I haven’t listened to every ambient record out there. Like every piece of journalism ever written, this will be a subjective take, based on my own biased experiences. The last thing I want is for this to sound like a Wikipedia article on ambient. We’ll get the background done sharp, talk about how ambient music developed for me in the 90’s and then get into the many styles I experience today as a result of exploring the genre further and further. By the end of this, I hope I’ve done it justice, introduced newbies to an ever expanding landscape of music, and helped the veterans of ambient find some new pieces to enjoy.


BACKGROUND FOR BACKGROUND 

What is ambient music? (No I’m not joking). Seeing as many of my friends don’t even know what it is, this could prove a very helpful entry point. And to take a quote directly from ambient music pioneer, Brian Eno’s ‘Music For Airports’ (1978) liner notes:

“Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting”. 

Which to most people means, it’s background music. But to dive deeper, a more interesting quote reads:

 
An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My (Brian Eno) intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres
— Brian Eno
 
 

This is where it gets very interesting for me. I’m a big believer in music for different moods, for different times, and different feelings, and this is just one of the reasons why my site/label is inspired by Ulrich Schnauss album A Strangely Isolated PlaceThis type of music transports me to wherever I want to be. It enables me to escape; helps me picture myself somewhere else entirely. And this is often the strength of ambient music – its atmospheres, emotion and the clear intention of depicting different environments.

I listen to ambient music to help me relax and escape. And I’ve now reached a point where I can respect the power of it so much, that I pay attention to the many differences, techniques and subtleties of productions. And that’s why I do what I do, listening to so much, writing about what I love and helping musicians get their own passion of producing this music, out there.


I HEAR 1978?

Well that’s when Brian Eno coined the phrase ambient. I don’t want to dwell too much on the evolution of ambient music, as this is where many other people could tell a better story. It’s my experience. Plus, I wasn’t around in 1978 and wasn’t even listening to music properly until a good fifteen years later.

To give it some context, and in the shortest of summaries, the likes of Tangerine DreamVangelisJean Michel JarreSteve RoachHarold Budd, Erik SatieWendy Carlosand of course Brian Eno are just a few of the many musicians often attributed as defining the approach we know today, through synthesiser-oriented styles during the 1970’s and 1980’s. And it wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 1990’s that the more electronic styles we associate with today came into play – the style that sparked my love for the genre.

The UK is often seen as the driving force for early electronic ambient music. The Orb will always be referenced for their pioneering work on The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (1991) helping spur a new approach by combining samples with innovative production techniques, depicting lengthy journeys, often with no defined beginning, middle or end.

The KLF did it one year before in 1990 (with the help of the Orb’s Alex Paterson), and their album Chill Out is often referenced as the best of its kind. I wouldn’t argue. Hang on, so what’s ‘chill out’ music? Not to diverge too much, but the term was used for the more drug-induced clubbing culture who created ‘chill-out rooms’ and without trying to rile up the genre fanatics, we’re still within the loose term of ambient music – you’ll just notice, as with most genres, there’s plenty more ways to describe styles and send you around in circles.

Back on track (like the Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border), and a beginning wouldn’t be a beginning without Aphex Twin. Richard D James gained much of his respect through his Selected Ambient Works – his debut album (as Aphex Twin) released in 1992, documenting many of his productions from ’85 to ’92. This album is one of the most accessible and enjoyable places to start if you’re trying to understand electronic ambient music. This album was followed by Selected Ambient Works Volume II in 1994, and again continued to define much of the electronic ambient music we here today.

SHEEP LEAD TO BLEEPS

The 90’s are often cited as the good years of both electronic and ambient music, and with this growth came a multitude of takes on the style. Electronic equipment became more accessible and an underground electronic music culture began to grow.

Alongside Aphex Twin, the likes of Autechre and µ-Ziq (Mike Paradinas) pushed the electronic (and in particular) “IDM” sound to new places. Whilst neither are strictly ambient artists, both played their part in creating some of the best ambient music during this period and shouldn’t be overlooked. This recent dedication to Mike Paradinas’ ambient work as µ-Ziq, is a great place to start, and Autechre’sAmber, whilst not often highly praised, will lead you down some seriously dark rabbit holes to explore. Autechre’s VLetrmx21 remains one of my favourite pieces to date - a dramatic, poignant and thought provoking piece. Needless to say, record labels such as Rephlex and Warp 
played a big part during this period.

Another innovator pushing the boundaries of ambient music and introducing more urban influences during this time, were The Future Sound of London. The Manchester pair are often overlooked unless you dive deep into their discography, but much like The Orb and The KLF, Lifeforms can be seen as one of those all-encompassing electronic ambient journeys.

Global Communication. 1994. Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard76:14 still remains one of the most ‘underground’ ambient albums despite The Guardian listing it within their 1,000 Albums To Hear Before You Die list. With tracks titled according to length, 76:14, continued to expand on the entire listening experience album we grew to love – not just a set of individual tracks.  I couldn’t tell you the title of a particular track, because I nearly always listen to it from start to finish – the way it should be. Global Communication went on to release several other records, but none came close to the prowess of 76:14. For those who’ve dug around Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard, their work on The Keongaku EP prior to this release is as close as you’ll get to the 76:14 experience.

Biosphere (Geir Jenssen's) 1997 album Substrata is perhaps the modern-day Brian Eno experience, focusing on intimate listening and the very definition of background ambient music. More genre terms come into play with Biosphere (ambient techno for example) but Geir is a true pioneer of ambient music and to this day can be found sampling in the plains of Norway, playing rare live performances and sometimes putting together an eclectic DJ mix. Geir remains an elusive character within my knowledge of ambient music, but is no doubt one of the most respected.

It was bands like Slowdive and Seefeel that started to put a spanner in the works. Whilst primarily seen as experimental or shoegaze, Slowdive released records such as the 5 EP in 1993, which focused on synthesised sounds – a first for Slowdive and a style that was very similar to that of Global Communication. In fact, Reload’s remix of Slowdive’s In Mind epitomised the ever-expanding ambient music of 1993 and its impact of styles outside of straight-up electronic. I love the comment on the 5 EP’s Discogs page – “The burgeoning ambient techno scene in 1993 was too much for them to resist…”!

Similarly, Seefeel’s 1993 release Quiqe is a perfect example of the genre expanding beyond it’s existing limitations, with steadfast ambient tracks like Signals and more experimental tracks such as Climatic Phase 3.

The late Pete Namlook and his German Label FAX were also a significant driver of ambient music during the early 1990’s (update - see this 2018 article for a great overview). This is an area which I still need more time to explore, but if you read any best of ambient albums you’ll be sure to find a FAX release in there somewhere. As of August 2005, Namlook and company had released 135 albums –  experience some of them through this tribute mix.

Moving towards the second-half of the 90’s, ’96 witnessed the debut of one of the most instrumental characters in the ambient scene today, Wolfgang Voigt. His self-titled album as GAS, triggered a whole new world of dubby, atmospheric ambient music. Wolfgang is undoubtedly the reason why ambient music still has its place on one of the biggest techno labels of our time (as co-owner of Kompakt) and as a result, a big reason why the genre continues to evolve and make an impact on producers today. Released on the influential label Mille Plateaux label, GAS' releases remain some of the rarest LP’s on Discogs.

The late 90’s were pretty much reserved for one special duo, Boards of CanadaIconic releases in ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98 saw ambient music meld effortlessly with electronica, offering a vintage, warm sound that felt like it had been around for years. The elusive Scottish pairing are solely responsible for the biggest cult of fans within the ambient & electronica genres (second to Aphex Twin maybe). Much like their music, their unique, mysterious ways are still going strong to this day and although many purists would argue until they are white in the face that they aren’t ambient, there’s no doubt they’ve played a massive part in inspiring and making the ambient sound more appealing to others.

Alongside BoC, the late 90’s witnessed Stars of The Lid progress the beautiful drone soundscapes which are so popular in today’s ambient music. Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie are often included amongst the best-of ambient lists and their pedigree shows to this day with Adam Wiltzie going strong as part of Winged Victory For The Sullen. The Stars of The Lid sound would end up becoming a big influence on the many guitar manipulations we hear in much of today’s ambient and experimental music.


TRANCE AND THE AMBIENT REMIX

This is where I risk a major drop-off in readers, but the late ’90s Trance era played a big part in my addiction to ambient and chill-out music, so I feel it’s important I cover it here. Perhaps this train of thought is new to many, or some don’t want to be associated with a genre which is now quite frankly, an embarrassment and laughing stock to anyone over 18 years of age. But the true Trance era (say pre-2002) was undoubtedly an offshoot of some of the best psychedelic ambient productions, and helped define the true meaning of chill out before it was commercialised by the likes of Ministry of Sound and Hed-Kandi, and ultimately generalised into EDM.

Rabbit In The MoonHumateBTWilliam OrbitThe Art of Tranceeven Tiesto (yes, just listen to his late ’90’s work as Kamaya Painters and Gouryella) and labels such as HoojPlatipusLost Language, and Bonzai were responsible for some of my favourite trance music in the 1990’s and in particular, a trend which emerged to be most relevant to this article; the ambient remix. Whilst this may send shudders down many ambient fans spine, I have no shame in admitting how much I enjoyed some of the remixes to emerge from trance music in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The ambient remix of Pete Lazonby’s Sacred Cycles (sampling Genesis no-less) and Energy 52’s Cafe Del Mar, remixed by Michael Woods (2000) come straight to the top of the pile and this compilation by Solar Stone (2001) encapsulates some the best remixes to emerge (ironically including Tangerine Dream’s Love On A Real Train).

I won’t dwell on it here, as you’ll know by now I’m a closet Trance fan, but I still visit the likes of Salt TanksSargasso Sea; Chicane’s, Far From The Maddening Crowds and Way Out West’s debut album on a regular basis. And if you still need persuading on the impact of ambient music on trance, Orion & J.Shore’s isolatedmix does a perfect job elaborating on some of the brilliant music being made in this vein today.

I’M STILL IN A TRANCE

Something that’s along the same lines but perhaps more familiar with ambient fans, is the term space ambient or psy-ambient and for me, there’s pretty much just one label responsible for this sound recently: Ultimae Records.

Established in France in 2001 and still churning out quality to this day, Ultimae has become the go-to label for this type of electronic ambient music. Space-ambient is often reserved for similarly trance-like tracks, but can more often be recognised by the expansive pads, washes, atmospheres and futuristic samples each track contains. Whilst I’d be a fool to pigeon-hole Ultimae into this sound, they’ve produced some of my favourite artists in this style, including Carbon Based LifeformsAes Dana (Ultimae co-owner) and Solar Fields.

Perhaps more obvious in design, but another great artist that pioneers this sound, is Lithuania’s Stellardrone (remind me to write an article on Lithuania’s ambient/electronica scene – it’s ridiculous) and randomly, this compilation by an old record store in London called Ambient Soho manages to traverse the ambient-space sound, in particular Innersphere’s Out Of Body, and b12’s VOID/Comm.

Spanning the more trance-inducing side of ambient and hailing from one of my favourite labels growing up, Global Underground’s Electric Calm series is also a well-respected and under-celebrated bunch of mixes and exclusive material that manages to transport you into the ether. Mixed by The Forth, they’re as formulaic as mixes come, but are packed full of great, fairly unknown material.

More recently, the likes of Petar Dundov is pushing the trance-like-ambient sound forward, invoking the spirit of synthesised ambient productions from the likes of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. And even beat-less reissues from the likes of Hiroshi Watanabe aka Kaito (Kompakt) draw parallels, with epic strings and countless moments of euphoria.

This may also be a good place to introduce Brock Van Wey aka bvdub. Whilst I definitely wouldn’t describe his music as trance, it’s certainly an original take on trance-inducing productions. His pieces are often over ten-minutes long and are a lesson in progressive atmospheres, peppered with techno undertones and more recently, garage-esque beats. He is a pioneer of the modern-day ambient sound and a must for anyone new to the genre, with an outstanding work ethic and an unparalleled output. I’d recommend starting at his 2011 release, Songs For A Friend I Left Behind, and in particular I Would Have Waited. Or, for that truly euphoric effect, try 2012’s, Don’t Say You Know.

AMBIENT ELECTRONICA AND THE BIRTH OF THE SWEET SPOT

Earyl 00's and some of my favourite labels are setting up shop, evolving the electronic sound. Electronica is a largely debated genre and in my eyes can represent a wide range of electronic music which isn’t necessarily meant for dancing, but more for listening. From glitchy IDM based analogue music, to downtempo and ambient drones infused with sparse beats and heavy melodies. This is where I truly fell in love with music. Ambient electronica managed to combine the escapism and relaxation of ambient music, alongside more interesting and complex electronic production techniques. And none can be more responsible for inspiring me more than City Centre Offices.

Beginning with ArovaneHerrmann & KleineBitstream and Casino Versus Japan, it was 2002’s release of Far Away Trains Passing By, from Ulrich Schnauss that really blew me away. Two years later, and A Strangely Isolated Place followed suite, and finally Arovane’s Goodbye Forever on Lillies presented the power of the piano on a largely IDM focused album. Admittedly, these releases were a far stretch from the beat-less soundscapes of ambient purists such as Brian Eno, but for me, they were just as powerful in emotion and escapism.

It was the early 2000’s that unwittingly birthed one of today’s biggest stars of the genre, Jon Hopkins. Released on British Label Just Music, (also home to Echaskech and Honeyroot – two more gems that need more listens) Jon Hopkins began his career with a sublime style of ambient electronica on Opalescent. Both Cold Out There, and Private Universe are essential ambient tracks that epitomised the promising career Jon had ahead of him scoring films (Monsters); being nominated for a Mercury Music Prize; making head-rattling electronica onImmunity and my favourite; sampling the London Olympic Games opening ceremony fireworks on Abandon Window.

Fast-forward to today, and this style has evolved so much it would be impossible to capture the hundreds of brilliant artists making this type of music. Ghostly International is however a decent place to start.

The birth of Tycho’s Sunrise Projector in 2004 was the beginning of his more recent dominance within the Ghostly family; his blissful sun-drenched guitars and live percussion are the closest you’ll come to Ulrich Schnauss’ early work. And whilst the likes of Ghostly’s Lusine and Recondite can hold any dance-floor, their music remains within the realm of escapism and hits home with many of todays ambient fans who need that up-tempo edge every now-and-then.

Dive further into Ghostly’s catalogue and you’ll find the purest of ambient and experimental music sat alongside the more popular electronic functions it’s now famous for. With artists such as LoscilThe Sight BelowHeathered PearlsChristopher Willits and KILNFor a true round-up of Ghostly’s amazing contribution to modern ambient music, head to their SMM Series.

It’s within this style of music that you also start see the massive impact Boards of Canada have on the evolution of the warm, nostalgic sound. Relatively unknown but highly recommend artists such as Horizon FireNorthcapeFreeschaSarin Sunday (Com Truise in his early days) and even ASIP’s Parks do a great job at capturing this beautiful matrimony of synth-laden electronics and blissful euphoria.

Diving deeper and one of my favourite labels, n5MD has been responsible for some of the most interesting ambient electronica of recent years. LoessCrisopa(ghost)Ocoeur, and Preghost are just some of the artists coming from this brilliant label. n5MD has also played host to more ‘IDM’ style artists such as Arovane and Proem and the more recent ambient crossover with shoegaze & post-rock (see further below) via port-royalLights Out Asia and Bitcrush

POP AMBIENT

Whilst his very own Kompakt Records grew synonymous with the emerging minimal techno scene hailing from Germany in the early 2000’s, Wolfgang Voigt (GAS) quietly coined his own style of ambient music – labelling it Pop Ambient. This yearly series is now synonymous with a very certain production style and ethos, challenging the very meaning of ambient music, but always rooted in layered drones, cyclical sculptures and often traditional instrumentation.

Since its first release in 2001, Pop Ambient has established some of the most respected artists in the genre and similarly, re-established some favourites who would have otherwise been lost amongst a myriad of other guises or musical styles on the label. Markus Guentner has been a staple since the very first release and to this day pushes his unique ambient washes and faint melodies far and wide, including releases here on ASIP and Moodgadget (owned by Heathered Pearls).

Marsen Jules, whilst originally releasing on the aforementioned City Centre Offices, also makes regular appearances on Pop Ambient with his intense poems in sound. As does Argentina’s Leandro Fresco, another master of beautifully composed, richly coloured ambient music.  2015’s edition sees Kompakt continue to push into new realms, bringing regulars such as bvdubUlf LohmannGustavo Lamas and Leandro Fresco back into the fold alongside newcomers like Thore Pfeiffer.

AMBIENT INTELLIGENCE

As techno music grew and evolved in the 2000’s, ambient music was treated to some of its most defining and innovative moments. Ambient techno is an area so rich, that I still discover new (old) titles every week, but it was the likes of Mille Plateaux introducing us to GAS that kickstarted this evolution. 

More recently, German labels such as Traum Schallplatten and Raster-Noton gathered pace in the 00’s (see my tribute mix to Traum’s ambient output here) alongside the likes of Mule Musiq/Mule Electronicartists such as KossMinilogue, (Sebastian Mullaert is releasing a new ambient album with Eitan Reiter on 18th October) and Lawrence with his ambient LP A Day In The Life.

One of my favourite releases to define the ambient techno genre of late, was the Composure Ambient Techno for Japan compilation. Put together to raise funds after the Japanese Tsunami in 2011, this compilation includes some of the finest music to grace the term ambient, techno or indeed ambient techno. From here, if you dig further, your world opens up into the multitude of amazing artists included. From following Donato Dozzy, you’ll find his 2010 release ‘K’  and perhaps stray into the sublime ambient techno world of Voices From The Lake.

The Sandwell District, a couple of techno artists who (unfortunately) came together for just one album, will lead you to Feed Forward - another classic approach to ambient techno. And finally, one of my favourite producers, Donnacha Costello – I’ve done all the hard work for you here and highlighted some of his finest pieces to date.

And perhaps one of the most respected and innovative producers in this area, is Germany’s Carsten Nikolai aka Alva Noto. In 2009 Carsten released Xerrox Vol.2, and with it, Monophaser 2This video does a great job in capturing the sparse, yet emotive composition that sets Carsten apart from the rest.

AIN’T TALKIN ‘BOUT DUB

Given techno is such a wide all-encompassing genre, you can’t blame me for digging even deeper into its ambient half and exploring one of the most recent styles to emerge. Ambient-dub, or dub-techno whilst very similar to the likes of the artists listed above, has seen a particular focus recently, with several producers creating a very unique, deep and bubbly style. It’s often bashed by many as being very boring and repetitive, but when done correctly, it can be as dreamy as the very best beat-less ambient masterpiece.

You can’t mention dub or techno without Echospace and Deepchord. More recently home to the previously mentioned bvdub but more prominently known for releases by Model 500 (Juan Atkins), cv313 and Deepchord himself, the label is a favourite for die-hard techno fans and an innovative outlet for the more atmospheric techno productions that fall into this more ambient style.

Sharpening the ambient side of dub-techno even further, Iceland’s Yagya pioneered his unique style on his widely praised album, Rigning. It came some seven years after his first release in 2002 (Rhythm of Snow), and I can pretty much guarantee that any new fans of Yagya are working their way backwards through his catalogue, especially after his most recent release on Delsin. Despite having earlier albums, it was the sound of rain on your roof, the clap of thunder, emotional, rising pads and a driving dub-techno beat in Rigning that hit home for many. 

It seems as though this style is a thoroughly independent practice at the moment, with most of what I listen to released by the artists direct through the likes of Bandcamp. Finding dub-techno on vinyl is a nearly impossible affair, yet labels such as Dewtone Recordings, and Silent Seasontwo of my favourites, do their very best in pushing this type of independent music forward. Whilst neither are strictly focused on dub-techno, (or vinyl) both have a rich roster of artists that span this style, alongside straight-up ambient and more experimental sounds. ASCEdanticonfPurlAlveolSegueMartin Nonstatic and Adam Michalak come highly recommended. The below track by Textural Being epitomises the slow burning melodies and atmospheres of dub-techno I have grown to love.

#DRONELIFE

Whilst dub-techno added rolling beats to ambient music, there are those stripping away the more obvious mechanics and focusing purely on mood, atmosphere and repeated layers of sound. Drone is one of the more reserved and less accessible styles of ambient music, yet is probably the closest to the genres original conception, and arguably pre-dates Brian Eno through the 1960’s minimalist movement. BUT, they didn’t have a hashtag back in the 60’s.

I remain less familiar with drone music due to the intricacies of its design and origins, mainly because of the appreciation needed for the instruments used in the making of this music. But attending a workshop with Rafael Anton Irisarri aka The Sight Below, (or his Substrata Festival) you begin to see the complexity involved in sound design and the meticulous detail that goes into this style of music. What can seem like one single sound, is often a series of instruments, processors, loops, delays, vocals, samples and hours of hard work. And then sometimes, it’s just a plain and simple improv between the biggest music geeks in the world.

Approaches can vary from the very light and melodic ambient tones of Loscil, through to the legendary tape-loops of William Basinski’s 2002 Disintegration Loops. And further along the spectrum, the haunting wall of noise coming from Tim Hecker.

Any mention of drone or experimental music usually throws up one of the best labels in the business – Kranky. Not only home to Tim Hecker, this label has also pioneered a wide range of ambient, drone and experimental styles from the likes of Stars Of The LidLoscilGrouperWindy & Carl, and Pan American. Kranky can also hold part responsibility for the more recent emergence of the modern-classical sound, with A Winged Victory For The Sullen and Christina Vantzou.

THE TANGIBLE EXPRESSIONISTS

Compositions and performances are often meant to be heard, studied and to a large 
extent, watched – the opposite to how we defined ambient music at the start of this article. But recent years have seen such an emergence of brilliant artists that could be considered ambient via their modern-classical success. 

Composers such as Ryuichi Sakamoto played a large part in integrating modern classical into the ambient or techno genres, partnering with the previously mentioned Alva Noto for example, alongside the well-known re-interpretations from Max Richter or the lesser-known (but hugely respected) Murcof. But more recently there’s just one label that’s heavily influenced me: Erased Tapes.

Their unbelievably talented German wizard Nils Frahm has consistently released beautiful piano compositions on the label since the very beginning, but has only recently seen his greatest acclaim with Spaces. And rightly so, this was my favourite album of last year, hands-down and his recent Boiler Room set captures his magic perfectly.

Often alongside Nils is Ólafur Arnalds, the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist. Likewise, Ólafur is a genius with the piano and together the pair have propelled the modern classical genre forward in recent years, simultaneously restoring my faith in the live performance at the same time – spellbinding, magical and utterly breath-taking every time. Expanding even further into the Nordic realm, and Otto A Totland’s Pino, (hailing from the brilliant duo Deaf Center) is another great composer (Pino boasts a beautifully packaged CD to boot).

I’ve also seen a resurgence of young talented composers. The likes of ASIP’s very own Levi Patel and Halo, both under 25 and creating masterpieces that wouldn’t sound out of place in-front of an expectant crowd of hundreds. Their talent never fails to baffle me.

Young emerging label Serein recently presented us with Brambles. And Luke Howard’s Sun, Cloud remains a gorgeous yet powerful dose of theatre. New Zealand’s Rhian Sheehan continues to release some of the most spellbinding work I’ve ever heard, often traversing into an ambient guise on releases such as Seven Tales Of The North Wind.

Once I’m down this route, I often find myself leaning towards some of the masters of post-rock too. Balancing the emotion of the modern classical composition; with the raw power of guitars and drums; signed off with subtle ambient undercurrents; this style of music is yet another rabbit-hole of wonders.

The American Dollar, while specialising in post-rock, have recorded several ambient versions of their releases, highlighting the close melodic ties between the two styles. Similarly, Hammock are the true masters in this approach, producing some of the most emotional and climatic pieces of ambient, drone and post-rock you’ll come across. And should you need to dive in any further, I’ve long appreciated Stray Theories and Good Weather For An Airstrike – doing their own independent thing and definitely deserving of more ears.

And lastly, where instruments add depth and character, there are those that use them with subtlety, adding colour to an otherwise calm ambient drone. Keith Kenniff, (or Helios to many), is a great example of this approach, alongside 36 - an independent musician from the UK releasing some of the most powerful, tear-jerking, melancholic music possible. As are the many, many artists that seem to hail from Japan like Arc of DovesEx ConfusionNobuto Suda and the Home Normal collective.

THE NEXT CHAPTER

As I’ve already mentioned with the strength of recent modern classical music, I’m hoping we see plenty more prodigies like Nils Frahm shine. If a young pianist needs any inspiration they needn’t look any further than his Spaces album, or any of his live shows.

There’s a lot of love for what Burial started a few years back and I’m enjoying seeing this type of music evolve, (especially as I absorbed plenty of UK Garage when I was younger!) Artists such as Borealis and Sven Weisemann’s Desolate project nail the fine-line between this urban approach to electronica and the subtleties of ambient atmospheres. It’s hard to come across this type of stuff on a regular basis without it feeling too repetitive, but news of a new Desolate album is sure to keep it moving along nicely.

Similarly, the blissful sparse beats coming from the likes of Kiyoko push a new style forward, along with James Clements’ more ambient focused work as ASC and his label Auxiliary. With drum’n bass influences, productions range from industrial ambient to 170 BPM electronica (the Autonomic sound).

Recently we’ve seen a few artists start to integrate ambient textures and in particular modern classical elements into house and techno music. Max Cooper has been doing this brilliantly for the past few years, mainly through his remixes, and now Erased Tapes’ Kiasmos (Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen) are set to show what it truly means to integrate a piano composition into dance-floor-oriented music.

~

There’s no doubt that ambient music is at one of its strongest points for a long time (as FACT Mag politely pointed out recently – and to answer the question I don’t think we’ll ever beat the 90’s!) It would be easy for me to list some releases that are coming up this year which excite me, but that’s one of the main reasons my site exists. Ambient music, drone and modern classical in its purest form, will undoubtedly remain the same, as they aren’t scenes revolving around a place, a movement or a bunch of people. But I’m always excited by the producers, labels and artists that are looking to push this type of music further.

 I’m guessing ambient music will always be in the background, like Eno meant it to be. It will continue to take many forms, add different perspectives to more popular styles, and appear in places you probably wouldn’t expect it (hell, Zain Lowe may even launch Apple Music with an ambient track).

But that’s the magic of it for me; the modest, fluid, and intimate nature of ambient music demands attention, and if it’s given, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best music out there.  

I started this article to help dive a little deeper into ambient music, but upon reflection I’ve still only scratched the surface. There’s no doubt some subjective inconsistencies, a whole heap of brilliant artists and labels missing, and I’ve probably riled the genre police in every paragraph.

Hopefully I’ve either introduced you to a new genre, style, artist or label and from there, you’ll never know where you end up. You may even be inspired to set up a blog, site or record label after your favourite album…

Below is a Spotify playlist featuring some of my favourite tracks mentioned in this article. It should keep you going for a very, very long time. And lastly, always remember to support the many artists featured in this article, doing their own thing and making our lives much more pleasurable. Thank you for reading this far.

An edited version of this article was featured in the final Substrata 2015 festival program.