Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best of ambient — 9 albums

I have always loved lists. That's often the way I discover new artists or albums I didn't know of. Since I have been listening to a lot of ambient music lately I decided to share with you my favorite albums of this genre [in chronological order]:

1. Brian Eno — Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)
Soundtrack for the movie For All Mankind about the Apollo moon landing. This album is a collaboration with guitarist Daniel Lanois who plays something like "space-country" here. I definitely prefer the synth parts made by Eno. This album is worth it, if only for the superb An Ending (Ascent) that was featured in many movies.

2. Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster & Panaiotis — Deep Listening (1989)
Ambient accordion? Yes, it's possible. This album is entirely made with acoustic instruments and recorded in an empty cistern. The result is a strange music made of reverb, trumpet sounds and resonating noises.

3. Hoedh — Hymnvs (1993)
Don't let yourself be fooled by the horrible cover art of this album. This is really a gem. Majestic dark ambient music with repetitive patterns. Almost sounds like religious music.

4. Aphex Twin — Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
Each track of this album is inspired by the photograph of a texture shown in the album booklet. This is minimalist ambient techno music. It took me some time to get into this album, maybe because it's so simple. It's now one of my favorites.

5. Robert Rich & B. Lustmord — Stalker (1995)
Fictional soundtrack for the sci-fi movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. This is the music of nightmares (but it never gets agressive). The sound of this album is strange, like looking at the beauty of an alien lanscape.

6. Biosphere — Substrata (1997)
This album spawned a whole genre called Arctic Ambient. Music sounds minimal and features the sounds of water, creaking ice, campfires (and some samplings from Twin Peaks). This is an album that I keep returning to.

7. Stars of the Lid — The Tired Sounds Of (2001)
The term Soporific Ambient has not been invented yet to describe Stars of the Lid. It is music for sleep, ideal to listen to at the end of the day. Sometimes sounds inspired by post-rock, like Godspeed You! on valiums.

8. Deathprod — Morals and Dogma (2004)
Helge Sten is a norwegian sound artist also playing with the jazz group Supersilent. I can't find other words to describe this album than "creepy". It is scary, claustrophobic music. The track Dead People's Things really stands out.

9. Deaf Center — Pale Ravine (2005)
Music for rainy days. Piano with a melancholic touch and some neoclassical arrangements. Includes sampling of sounds of nature (water, firecamp, wind).


  1. I'm not big on lists but this is an excellent one! Some of my favorites---I love Stars of the Lid, have met Robert Rich---others I'm unfamiliar with but will soon investigate. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I usually use lists as a way to discover new things. When I find that I love say 80% of the stuff in a list... I suppose that the unknown 20% part of the list must be of interest, and it's usually the case.

      I have spent too much time on website like rateyourmusic, trying to discover some new artists. It's like digging in a goldmine, you never know when you are going to find THE album that you are going to end up listening all year long.

    2. For many years, decades, really, I would compulsively (obsessively?) search for new music. Even before I was a DJ. Every week I would buy more stuff. This in the day when one actually had to go places to get it! I was addicted to British music mags and obscure music journals, etc..

      Now I don't listen to music nearly as much as I once did, though it's still one of the most important things in my life. Lately I feel that if I'm meant to hear something profound and meaningful (or merely entertaining) it will find ME! Perhaps it's because I'm just old and jaded and too tired to look. Or maybe because I've come to realize that I can find what I once sought by letting it flow through me, by making music of my own. None the less, I'm always open to whatever new sounds come my way.

      (Sorry for babbling on so much in your comments!)

  2. Don't worry, that's why there is a comments section on my blog, for babbling. Otherwise I would have disabled it. And that's idea of a blog, sharing with people, getting their feedback.

    Music dosen't find me yet. Maybe my tastes are a little bit too specific. And I don't know why, but I like it when I discover something by myself, especially when it's something totally obscure nobody knows about. It seems more precious then. I know, it's totally illogical.