BEST AMBIENT The Best Ambient Music on Bandcamp, February 2024 By Ted Davis · February 23, 2024

Each month, writer, musician, and DJ Ted Davis wanders through the ethereal outskirts of Bandcamp. Embracing a fluid, forward-thinking approach to ambient, anything deemed worthy of the genre tag is considered fair game for this column. As we settle into 2024, here’s a roundup of aloof techno, golden soundscapes, cosmic country jams, and more.

Donato Dozzy

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2 x Vinyl LP

As adept at crafting shifty dub techno as he is razor-sharp acid, Donato Dozzy is a legend of contemporary electronic music—I recently joked to a friend that the Rome-based producer is to Resident Advisor’s readership as Taylor Swift is to Pitchfork’s. Dozzy’s new record for Spazio Disponibile, Magda, lands on the airier end of his sonic spectrum. It’s a poignant tribute to family and the Adriatic Sea, far removed from Dozzy’s clubbier side. Across six tracks, bloopy synth arpeggiations rest atop sparse-yet-firm drum machines and deep bass drones. At a few points, the music wanders into techno terrain. But for the most part, the record evokes Dozzy’s opaque 2013 classic, Plays Bee Mask, filtered through a hi-fi lens.

Numa Gama
A Spectral Turn

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Vinyl LP

On A Spectral Turn, Brazilian artist Numa Gama unites a range of electronic styles under a soft glow. While the record draws on themes of hauntology and life post-capitalism, it ultimately cultivates an inviting, humid world. Full-bodied synths and gentle, ghostly vocals rest atop washed-out grooves that flirt with downtempo, jungle, and UK dubstep. Occasionally, the record veers into energetic, dancier territory. But A Spectral Turn largely leans into soothing chords and intriguing bloops. The album practically gives off the scent of incense and fog machine fluid, calling to mind the dreamy final hours of a long night out. Thoughtful DJs take note: A Spectral Turn is bone-dry kindling for the world’s greatest chillout rooms.

Andrew Tasselmyer
Where Substance Meets Emptiness

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Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

Few things are more up my alley than ambient techno inspired by the mysticism of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. As someone who fell in love with writing in large part thanks to the novels Kafka On The Shore and Norwegian Wood, then got way too into ethereal club music a few years later, the idea of someone fusing those elements seems too good to be true. But Andrew Tasselmyer’s new record for Mystery Cycles, Where Substance Meets Emptiness explores this combination to beautiful ends. Pairing manipulated pads, warped field recordings, and featherweight microhouse beats, the Philadelphia musician shuffles in the gray space between concrete existence and surreality. Evoking a plotline brimming with life, Where Substance Meets Emptiness is textured and graceful.

MJ Guider
Youth and Beauty

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Melissa Guion (aka MJ Guider) is a New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist whose music typically explores a goth-y strain of dream pop. Over the course of the last decade, this sound has turned up on Guion’s releases releases for labels like kranky and Constellation Tatsu. On her new EP for modemain, Youth and Beauty, Guion switches things up, turning her sights towards the flute. These five tracks came to life in the dead of a Louisiana summer, using woodwinds that were sometimes pushed to the literal breaking point. The EP has a fittingly searing essence, like it was fashioned from steel that had turned to liquid in the August sun. Mastered by illbient pioneer James Plotkin, Youth and Beauty is as serrated and uncomfortable as it is weightless.

Benoît Pioulard & Offthesky

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Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

Brooklyn-based musician and visual artist Thomas Meluch (aka Benoît Pioulard) is best known for releasing warm, contemplative drone albums on labels like kranky and Disques d’Honore. But last year’s Edidetic hinted at a more structured side to his sound. A collection of gossamer, poetic folk songs, the album felt more indebted to Elliott Smith than Tim Hecker. On Meluch’s new album, Sunder, he teams up with Colorado-based sound artist Jason Corder (aka offthesky) for the first time. It offers something of a return to form Meluch. Here, the guitar, modular synths, strings, and flute feel transcendent and ageless. Sunder billows and shrinks, like thin clouds dancing atop sunny sky.

Telo Hoy
Rubber Wing

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Compact Disc (CD)

Fusing live vibraphone and analog synths, Telo Hoy’s peaceful Rubber Wing plays more like a collection of lullabies than an experimental album. The New York City-based composer’s solo debut is inspired by light, and aims to mimic its texture and motion in the world around us. Neoclassical records sometimes have a tendency to come across as indulgent in their grandiosity. But Rubber Wing is more intimate and wistful, like hazy memories of an old friend playing on loop in the mind’s eye.

Braulio Lam

Braulio Lam is a San Diego-based experimental musician whose work is grainy and feverish. Claroscurohis new album for Los Angeles label Dragon’s Eye Recordings—draws from the poetry of natural light and its effect on human emotion. Stripping his sound to its core, on these eight pieces Lam paints with long sonic strokes. While the synthesized swells that make up the record are simple, they’re also effective in their poignance. At some points, Lam’s work feels daylit; at others, it’s shadowy and nocturnal. The whole record is sepia-tinted and arty, pinpointing Lam’s ability to create compositions that recall snapshots of time as much as they do straightforward ambient tracks.

Ariel Kalma, Jeremiah Chiu, & Marta Sofia Honer
The Closest Thing to Silence

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Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Chicago powerhouse International Anthem is known for releasing jazz music steeped in modernity. The label’s latest perfectly embodies this ethos, a collaboration between seasoned New Age composer Ariel Kalma, Los Angeles-based synthesist Jeremiah Chiu, and a second Angeleno: ambitious string player Marta Sofia Honer. On The Closest Thing to Silence, the trio smudge together psychedelic electronics and live improvisation. The project was initially sparked in 2022 as a byproduct of the BBC Radio 3 series Late Junction, and the musicians here locate a wellspring of inspiration in their shared admiration for one another’s work. The record is built around a collage-based editing process, which incorporates aural snippets that Kalma captured at GRM in the 1970s. The Closest Thing To Silence is murky, cinematic, and coarse—the sonic equivalent of running one’s hand over unwashed linen.

Sighs from Heaven

The January passing of New Age pioneer Joseph Bernardot (aka Iasos) shook the experimental music community. From the mid-‘70s onward, the California by-way-of Greece musician pioneered a heavenly strain of electronic music, paving the way for a wellness-oriented side of the genre that has become popular in recent years. Bernardot’s first posthumous release arrives via Australian label Longform Editions, which commissions left-field staples to craft lengthy, boundary-pushing pieces. Cosmic and philosophical, the 21-minute “Sighs From Heaven” is inspired by someone on Earth trying to achieve heavenly bliss. It’s a bittersweet capstone from Iasos, which seems to wordlessly murmur cosmic finality.


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Compact Disc (CD)

Zakè is a lowkey but vital player in a serene corner of the ambient scene. Since the late-2010s, the founder of label Past Inside the Present has honed a thoughtful strain of understated drone music. It’s a sound that has led to collaborations with like-minded artists, including (but certainly not limited to) Rafael Anton Irisarri and Patricia Wolf. Zakè’s new record, Lapis, arrives via influential UK label Quiet Details. It’s quintessential Deep Listening, in the same vein as foundational artists like William Basinski and Pauline Oliveros. The album is centered on deceptively-layered loops, drawn from piano, vintage synths, tape decks, and field recordings. These five misty pieces all hover around the 10-minute mark, creating an illusion of spacelessness. Lapis is like stumbling into a cerulean vortex, getting lost in a realm of boundless beauty.

Water Shrew Trio
following the lichen into the brush

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If Phil Elverum tried his hand at soundscapes, the end result would probably sound a lot like Water Shrew Trio. The Portland, Oregon “free drone” project consists of Skyler Pia, Emmet Martin, and Morgan O’Sullivan, and popped up around the underrated lo-fi pop band Boreen. Following the lichen into the brush, Water Shrew Trio’s new album for Seattle’s Drongo Tapes, is made up of two lengthy compositions. Embracing the imperfection in jamming, floaty fretwork rests atop an earthy, accordion-like drone. The whole thing is magically resplendent, like golden raindrops falling atop a patch of moss.

Cowboy Sadness
Selected Jambient Works Vol. 1

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2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette,

With members like David Moore (Bing & Ruth), Peter Silberman (The Antlers), and Nicholas Principe (Port St. Willow), one might expect Cowboy Sadness to serve up vulnerable indie folk. But the Brooklyn-based trio actually crafts ambling cosmic Americana, in the same vein as artists like SUSS and Chuck Johnson. While the band name might riff on trendy “sad cowboy” memes, the music on Selected Jambient Works Vol. 1 is no joke. The record came to life over the course of a decade, as a result of the crew’s recurring jam sessions, which were recorded on an understated handheld recorder. Eventually, Cowboy Sadness ventured upstate to lay down a proper record, and the end result is akin to watching the sun rise over the prairie in the dead of winter. On these 10 tracks, deep synth pads and lonesome guitar swells rest atop sparse, shuffling drums. Cowboy Sadness is a welcome addition to the exciting ambient country universe, which deserves to be 10 times more robust than it currently is.

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