Tag Archives: Ambient

A Massive Survey of Contemporary Ambient Music

Ambient

Nicole Ginelli

Ambient music has been on its second (or third?) rise for a little while now, but at present it’s rivaling the wave of the mid ‘90s, when it soundtracked millions of ravers’ comedowns and backroom conversations.

Brian Eno, founding father of the genre, has just released his first ambient album in an age—the literally never-ending (if you play it in its app form) Reflection. On The Orb’s C.O.W. (Chill Out World) from 2016, they return to pure ambience (plus, they’re hosting a huge celebration of ambient music in London this April). Scene-defining London DJ Mixmaster Morris has just made his first album as The Irresistible Force in two decades, set for release later this year.

But it’s not just that the old greats are back at work. Threads in new music that were formerly hugely disparate—elements of post-rock, noise, dubstep, neo-classical, gallery installation music, documentary field recordings, even grime—are increasingly finding themselves woven back together into endlessly spaced-out tapestries. From the misty minimalist compositions of Bing & Ruth, to the grime-inspired sci-fi cityscapes of Yamaneko, some of the most exciting music being made right now exists free from traditional rhythm or structure—and plenty of the most cutting-edge DJs are bringing these together into sets that are completely cut free from the dancefloor. Here, we present just a small overview of the oceans of ambient sound to be found on Bandcamp right now.

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Music for Relaxation: A Meditation Journey

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Nicole Ginelli

This was supposed to be one of those eight-hour nights of sleep. You were in bed by 10pm, but now, as you reach for your phone for the third time, the device stoically informs you that it’s 12:46am. Maybe you flick open a popular meditation app (it rhymes with deadspace) and wait for the man with the ever-so-slightly British (or is it Australian?) accent to talk to you off the ledge. But this time, he’s not helping; neither is your brain, which continuously presents you with items to add to your daily to-do list, offering worst-case scenarios for the stressful day that’s now just a few hours away.

Sound familiar? In this era of non-stop connectivity, the constant barrage of information is nearly impossible to tune out. Your phone, which is likely the culprit of your anxiety, is, in a cruel twist of fate, also your alarm clock. We have become a well-connected society of masochists who are unable to relax.

There’s no choice, then, but to turn to the experts: The composers and musicians in the business of making music specifically designed to help you disconnect, unplug and, eventually, calm down. These are the people who have found enough peace that they can share it with others. They make spoken-word guided meditations, 30-minute ambient tracks, songs with Tibetan singing bowls, meditation for aligning energy, sleep aids—the list goes on. After spending a few weeks rooting around in the meditation tags on Bandcamp, I’ve discovered that there truly is a path to peace for everyone.

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Robert “ÆOLUS” Myers and The Forgotten Beginnings of Hawaiian New Age

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Since 2010, Aloha Got Soul has made waves by mining Hawaii’s undiscovered musical past. On its first two LP releases, the Honolulu-based rare-soul label, run by Roger Bong, has reissued forgotten gems like Mike Lundy’s 1980 funk-soul album, The Rhythm of Life and Aura’s self-titled disco debut.

For its third full-length release, Bong, 29, decided to broaden his original vision for Aloha Got Soul, moving beyond 1970s and 1980s funk, soul, and disco from the Islands to include electronic music.  One night back in 2014, Bong was browsing the ambient blog and record label Sounds of the Dawn when he came across ÆOLUS’ ethereal second album, Rays. Digging further, he realized that Global Pacific, the New Age label that originally released the record, was once based in Hawaii.

“I jumped around the room for a few minutes, freaked out about finding ÆOLUS’ music and the notion of a New Age or experimental scene in Hawaii,” he recalls. “Until then, I’d only been familiar with ‘70s and ‘80s jazz and soul.”

Bong got the phone number for Robert Myers—the man behind ÆOLUS—from Sounds of the Dawn and, over the next two years, the Bong and Myers collaborated on a comprehensive retrospective of Myers’ four solo works, including 1982’s Aeolian Melodies, 1985’s Rays, 1989’s The Magician and 1993’s High Priestess. The result is a 13-track magnum-opus: ÆOLUS: A Retrospective.

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Talking Time and Space With Steve Roach

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Steve Roach, 1982

Space music: the term implies an evocation of the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos, the slow synchronized movement of stars in the night sky, the incredible shapes and colors of nebulae. But look in the opposite direction, and space music becomes an exploration of the equally infinite and vastly more mysterious and complex world of the inner self. That is the space that electronic musician Steve Roach has been exploring since the late 1970s. Through seemingly disparate styles, like the tectonic pulse and crystalline shapes of the classic Structures from Silence, the ambient soundscapes of Quiet Music, and the sequenced bleeps and bloops of Skeleton Keys, Roach has been using music as a way to hold time at bay, and to weave a connection between the individual and the universal.

Working entirely outside of changing fashions in electronic music, Roach has made dozens of studio and live albums, including three released to Bandcamp just this past New Year’s Eve: Fade to Gray, Painting in the Dark, and Spiral Revelation.

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Kid Koala On His New Space Concept Album with Emilíana Torrini

Kid Koala

Photo by fPat Murray

Kid Koala—aka Eric San—is renowned for his woozy, oddball productions and raucous party sets (enhanced by the koala suit, bombastic beats and chicken samples). But what you might not know is that the Montreal-based musician successfully balances his extroverted side with quiet, ethereal compositions—like the adaptation of his graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall live and the Space Cadet soundtrack. With his new album (space opera?) Music To Draw To: Satellitewhich features Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini and tells the story of two lovers separated by a one-way mission to Mars—we get to see San explore his softer side further on 18 tracks of haunting melodies and deeply emotive soundscapes. It’s a poignant dream through space. San spoke with us about his inspiration for the record, working with Torrini and his uniquely immersive live shows.

It’s been four years since 12 Bit Blues—when did you start working on Music To Draw To: Satellite and why?

It was about three years ago. I only worked on it in the winter, and that was kind of important to me. The second the snow melted and I saw people in bathing suits outside throwing Frisbees around, I wanted to pull out the 808 machine and start scratching again you know? It’s funny, just really feeding off the energy in the city—it’s really like that in the winter here, everything is muted because there’s six feet of snow on everything and you can’t hear the traffic as much. Even walking on the sidewalk it’s a bit muffled—it was really about trying to capture that vibe on a recording.  Continue reading