BEST AMBIENT The Best Ambient Music on Bandcamp, March 2024 By Ted Davis · March 26, 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 trudge through the final days of winter, here are a number of featherweight glitch records, some golden guitar sketches, a sprawling baroque dirge, and more.

Geotic
Anchorite

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Cassette

For almost 20 years now, Los Angeles producer Will Weisenfeld has established himself as a master of aural whimsy. While arguably best known for his influential work as Baths, Weisenfeld uses his longer-standing moniker Geotic as a home for passive listening experiments. Leaning into shimmering fretwork, downtempo lullabies, and Balearic beat-making, Geotic is an underrated project that played a big role in sparking my early interest in ambient music as a college student. Weisenfeld’s new Geotic album, Anchorite, is one of the most wholeheartedly beautiful records he’s released to date. Clocking in at over 50 minutes, the album boasts full-bodied electric guitar, melancholy piano motifs, and elusive singing atop a pleasant layer of hissing noise. Named after a term for a religious recluse, the whole record feels forged from flecks of shimmering gold. Anchorite is moving and cinematic, taking me back to glum teenage afternoons I spent wandering through springtime suburbia.

Laurel Halo
Octavia

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Vinyl LP

A lengthy Laurel Halo piece recorded at GRM and issued by Félicia Atkinson’s label Shelter Press seems almost too good to be real. But the 21-minute “Octavia” offers proof that dreams sometimes can come true. The track is centered on Halo’s piano and electronics, peppered with cello from recent tourmate Leila Bordreuil, and guitar played by French artist TRUSTFALL. Where Halo’s 2023 record, Atlas, was warm and hopeful, Octavia is comparably austere. It seems indebted to baroque classical music, as well as Halo’s desolate early albums Quarantine and Chance Of Rain. Loosely inspired by the “spiderweb city” in the Italo Calvino novel Invisible Cities, “Octavia” pinpoints Halo’s unpredictable formula at its most academic and thoughtful.

Mixmaster Morris, Jonah Sharp, & Haruomi Hosono
Quiet Logic

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

Mixmaster Morris pioneered ambient DJing in the ‘90s, dropping mixes that blended downtempo grooves and blissed-out pads. Looking back, it feels like the English selector paved the way for shows airing on trendy online radio stations like NTS and Dublab today. In 1997, Morris teamed up with similarly influential chillout musician Jonah Sharp for a record produced by forward-thinking Japanese legend Haruomi Hosono. Hosono is an ambient forefather in his own right, renowned for the serene atmospheres of his ‘90s work. The trio’s cottony recordings have now been remastered and reissued via Swiss label WRWTFWW Records. On these six tracks, featherweight drum machines support lush synths and dubbed-out sound effects. Revisiting the album in 2024, it feels shockingly ahead of its time.

Buttechno
Lost Sounds

I’ve written a lot in this column about the state of ambient club music. Increasingly popular among a crew of artists operating around labels like West Mineral Ltd., the combination of misty aural textures and dance-inflected rhythms can yield captivating results. For the better part of the last decade, recent Berlin transplant Pavel Milyakov has been at the forefront of this sound, releasing jazzy soundscapes eponymously and hazy outsider house as Buttechno. Milyakov’s new record, Lost Sounds, arrives under the latter alias, somehow straddling the harshest and most delicate ends of his spectrum at once. Phased-out jungle and 2-step beats emerge from layers of pearly pads and crinkly background noise. I tend to be wary of breaking out the overwrought Burial comparison when describing an overcast electronic record. But Lost Sounds effortlessly recalls the UK producer’s 2007 masterpiece Untrue, if it was stripped of its trademark R&B samples and YouTube voice snippets.

Wrecked Lightship
Antiposition

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Vinyl LP

There’s a bit of a sci-fi quality to the music released by elusive Los Angeles label Peak Oil. This subtle undertone creeps to the surface of Antiposition, the new record from Bristol, UK duo Wrecked Lightship. The project is made up of Shackleton collaborator Laurie Osborne (Appleblim) and Adam Winchester. Their third record together contrasts crackly percussion and fluttering melodies. Across six sprawling tracks, bass wubs churn beneath broken-beat grooves and icy synthesizers. Antiposition is shifty and proudly uneven, a 2024 glitch highlight. Intricate and tripped-out, it harkens back to the ‘90s heyday of labels like Chain Reaction and Mille Plateaux with enviable ease.

DJ Birdbath
Memory Empathy

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Cassette

Just a handful of releases deep, Australian label and mix series Theory Therapy has already hit its stride. Hot on the heels of a moody record from Piper Spray and Lena Tsibizobva, as well as a spa-ready 12-inch from Other Joe, the label returns with a full-length from DJ Birdbath. On Memory Empathy, the New Zealand producer pairs aqueous breakbeats and groggy vocal samples. The record ruminates on the past, evoking ‘90s IDM classics filtered through a golden, dream-like lens. Mastered by Hysterical Love Project’s Ike Zwanikken, the record floats in the cloudy gray area between nostalgia and futurism.

Slowfoam
Transcorporeal Portal

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Vinyl LP

Madelyn Byrd’s work as Slowfoam explores cerebral themes, like ecology, queer theory, and the modern condition. The Berlin-based musician got their start releasing EPs on labels like Jungle Gym Records and Mappa—fitting homes for music that is as jagged as it is beautiful. Byrd’s official full-length debut, Transcorporeal Portal, arrives via Glasgow imprint Somewhere Press. Here, Byrd seems confident in their translucent sonic skin, experimenting with filtered field recordings, whispery vocals, and jittery melodic elements. The album is adjacent to the groggy sounds emerging from underground Berlin spaces, like kwia. But there’s a cold naturalism to Transcorporeal Portal that leaves it better suited for a solitary walk through the snow than the end of a long night out.

Li Yilei
NONAGE

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Li Yilei wandered onto the avant-garde scene in 2019, and quickly found her footing in large part thanks to the acclaimed album / OF. The China-born, London-based artist uses her compositions to ponder existence, and the way it relates to the listening experience. Yilei’s practice often employs unconventional tools—like the human body, and damaged gear—to create foggy, mesmerizing worlds. Her new album, NONAGE, arrives via Métron and uses sounds drawn from kid’s toys, Chinese television shows, and custom-built instruments as it considers the journey from youth to adulthood. But the record is more eerie than warm, carried by inky pads, whirring effects, and claustrophobic samples. There’s a darkness that courses through these unsettling cuts, which seem to view innocent memories through a jaded—perhaps even jealous—lens.

Stás Czekalski
Przgody

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Cassette

On his latest full-length, Przgody, Stás Czekalski paints New Age sounds in child-friendly shades. The record is named after the Polish word for adventure—an ode to urban exploration in his Warsaw hometown—and the music flaunts a fittingly wide-eyed, free-spirited quality. Chintzy woodwinds, synthetic voices, and cartoon-y percussion create a playful atmosphere, which could pass for opening theme sketches from some long lost children’s show. The album arrives via Mondoj, further solidifying the Warsaw-based label as a hotbed of jazzy releases with intoxicated temperaments. Przgody is like seeing through a toddler’s eyes, the furniture and adults looming above like shadowy mountain ranges.

Oro Azul
Water Seeds

The records released by the Canadian electronic label Mood Hut tend to be house-y yet vibed-out. While I wouldn’t necessarily call the Vancouver institution an ambient imprint, it’s definitely the first place I’d point an ethereal music head who was looking to get into dance music. Mood Hut’s latest release lands at the airiest end of the label’s spectrum. A collaboration between experimentalist Michael Red and dembow-leaning DJ Ultima Esuna, Oro Azul’s Water Seeds explores a strain of melodic downtempo that’s laced with Latin influences. Across four tracks, deep basslines and chirpy sound effects quiver around hypnotic grooves. It calls to mind a buzzy aviary cast in the glow of a giant pink lava lamp.

Nate Scheible
or valleys and

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Cassette

In a recent column for Nina Protocol, veteran electronic music journalist Shawn Reynaldo celebrates the enthusiasm that holds the Washington, D.C. underground scene together. Near the heart of this community is Nate Scheible, a percussionist and electronic musician whose music inventively defies genre. His new record, or valleys and, arrives via Outside Time, a brand new label from Bandcamp Daily contributor Jonathan Williger. The record came to life as a collaboration between a handful of woodwind players, whose playing is warbled by tape and synthesizer techniques. Over six tracks, which generally hover below the one-minute mark, jazzy melodies are outlined by grainy textures. Or valleys and is at once compact and nuanced, like a miniature depiction of an emotionally complex scene.

Coolin
one day away from home feels like a hundred

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Readers of this column might already be aware of Bandcamp Daily contributor Colin Joyce for his work as a longstanding music journalist. But the New York City-based writer also releases understated music under the moniker Coolin. one day away from home feels like a hundred—Joyce’s first release since 2019—is a half-hour composition, issued by dance-oriented label House of Feelings Records. It’s centered on ghostly sampled piano, peppered with choppy vocal snippets and calm field recordings. The whole thing evokes a video game score, as well as the 2022 Parannoul side project Mydreamfever. One day away from home feels like a hundred is accompanied by a limited run of 10 VHS tapes, which feature grainy footage captured in Joyce’s home state of Florida.

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