#not the best ambient albums of all time

September 30, 2016 Guides + Lists

As if he wasn’t busy enough playing/curating (more on that soon) festivals, manning sound boards, mastering countless albums, and making his own experimental music—including an upcoming Ba Da Bing! LP with Benoît PioulardRafael Anton Irisarri became our hero this week by filing a fantastic retort to Pitchfork’s recent 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time list. It’s a doozy—100 records that represent a full range of sounds that soothe and/or unsettle, from Earth to Eleh, GAS to Grouper, Biosphere to Brian Eno.

Here’s what Irisarri had to say about it all, along with a YouTube playlist covering just about every album….

FOREWORD

Over the course of a few hours, the Twitterverse had exploded on Monday. So many opinions, so much outrage, so much debate! No, I’m not talking about the debacle of our political system in the year of rage meets stupid.

It all started with a piece published by online “tastemaker” P4K. The online publication presented a list of 50 albums deemed the “best of all time” by their staff writers. It was a very good list, nonetheless controversial, plagued by unforgivable omissions and tedious repetition. This is my rebuttal….

Ambient music has never reached critical mass here in the US. I honestly think it’s something to celebrate.

As artists, curators, and listeners, we wouldn’t want to suddenly see music we love treated as a devalued, even disposable commodity, the same way certain electronic music and some of its more commercially applicable genres have become part of the American cultural(sic) landscape. That said, ambient music’s ability to slip this condition is probably due to our general lack of patience as a culture. Its sonic ecosystem 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. It’s a deceptively simple style of music, too; it seems as if anyone can do it at home, therefore it’s easy to dismiss as pedantic or amateurish. And that may be true to a certain extent—it’s not hard to do it 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 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, clubs, stadiums or elsewhere over the last couple decades.

Then again, it’s all in the eye (or ears, rather) of the beholder…

We’ve seen many innovations in ambient music over the last decade alone; if we just speak on a technical level, the huge array of tools at our disposal these days is unbelievable. These technological innovations have in turn created entire sub-genres in their own right. Take for instance Tim Hecker, considered by many to be a key figure in the experimental and fringe electronic music scenes; his entire sound relies on VST effects and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) that wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. It’s astounding to hear someone creating a unique sound out of a technology that is often quite literally meant to be precise and homogenous by design. As you may know, with digital technology the general objective is to produce results that are to be exacting, reproducible and stable, unlike all the glorious accidents that can be had with analog equipment.

Over the last six or so years, I’ve also noticed a more physical approach to composing and performing music in a live setting. While still ambient music, it’s emerging as something that requires of the listener to accommodate its experience on many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular. It must be as ignorable as it is engaging (to paraphrase Brian Eno’s own definition). To me, volume creates an immersive experience alongside the aural, where the physical qualities of sound become exposed.

THE LIST

For the purpose of this list:

1. No duplicates entires. Yes, there are MANY Eno albums to pick from—very influential indeed—but the idea is to narrow it down to what I think is the most essential.

2. No albums already on the P4K list. (What would the point?)

3. There is no ranking, so I went in alphabetical order. There isn’t such a thing as “best” anything when it comes to art, only varying degrees of notoriety. In the age of Trump, the American concept of “The Best in the World” has become completely meaningless; in fact, it’s arrogant to make such assumptions.

4. I’ve been listening to ambient music for almost 20 years and I still know nothing. I’m sure there are missing tons of amazing albums here, so please add to this list in the comments below. That’s the most interesting part of these kind of exercises, learning and/or re-discovering gems long forgotten.

100 ALBUMS YOU MUST LISTEN TO AT HOME
(AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME)

Akira Rabelais – Eisoptrophobia (Ritornell, 2001)
Alec Empire – Low On Ice (The Iceland Sessions) (Mille Plateaux, 1995)
Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto – Vrioon (Raster-Noton, 2002)
Andrew Chalk – Over the Edges (Streamline, 1999)
Barn Owl – The Conjurer (Root Strata, 2009)
Belong – October Language (Carpark, 2006)
Ben Frost – Steel Wound (Room40, 2004)
Benoît Pioulard – Sonnet (Kranky, 2014)
Biosphere – Dropsonde (Touch, 2005)
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Black Earth (Ipecac, 2002)
Bowery Electric – Beat (Kranky, 1996)
Brian Eno – Discreet Music (Obscure, 1975)
Burzum – Hliðskjálf (Misanthropy, 1999)
Bvdub – Yours Are Stories Of Sadness (self-released, 2016)
Celer – Discourses of the Withered (Infraction, 2008)
Chris Abrahams – Play Scar (Room40, 2010)
Christina Vantzou – No2 (Kranky, 2014)
Cluster – Sowiesoso (Sky Records, 1976)
Colleen – Everyone Alive Wants Answers (Leaf, 2003)
David Sylvian + Holger Czukay – Plight & Premonition (Virgin, 1988)
Deaf Center – Pale Ravine (Type, 2006)
DeepChord presents Echospace – The Coldest Season (Modern Love, 2007)
Donnacha Costello – Together is the New Alone (Mille Plateaux, 2001)
Earth – Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version (Sub Pop, 1992)
Eleh – Floating Frequencies / Intuitive Synthesis II (Important Records, 2007)
Eliane Radigue – Trilogie De La Mort (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, 1998?)
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego, 2010)
Félicia Atkinson – Visions/Voices (Umor Rex, 2013)
Fennesz – Venice (Touch, 2004)
GAS – Königsforst (Mille Plateaux, 1998)
Global Communication – 76:14 (Dedicated, 1994)
Goldmund – Malady of Elegance (Type, 2008)
Greg Haines – Slumber Tides (Miasmah, 2006)
Grouper – Cover the Windows and the Walls (Root Strata, 2007)
Harold Budd – Lovely Thunder (EG Editions, 1986)
Hildur Guðnadóttir – Without Sinking (Touch, 2009)
Jacaszek – Glimmer (Ghostly International, 2011)
James Blackshaw + Lubomyr Melnyk – The Watchers (Important Records, 2013)
Jóhann Jóhannsson – IBM 1401, A User’s Manual (4AD, 2006)
Julia Kent – Asperities (Leaf, 2015)
Ken Camden – Lethargy & Repercussions (Kranky, 2010)
Kyle Bobby Dunn – Way of Meaning (Desire Path Recordings, 2011)
Ladradford – Mi Media Naranja (Kranky, 1997)
Lawrence English – A Colour For Autumn (12k, 2008)
Leandro Fresco – El Reino Invisible (Kompakt, 2015)
Library Tapes – A Summer Beneath the Trees (Make Mine Music, 2008)
Loscil – Plume (Kranky, 2006)
Lustmord – Heresy (Soleilmoon Recordings, 1990)
Marcus Fischer – Monocoastal (12k, 2010)
Marina Rosenfeld – Plastic Materials (Room40, 2009)
Markus Guentner – 1981 (Kompakt, 2002)
Marsen Jules – Herbstlaub (City Centre Offices, 2005)
Matthew Robert Cooper – Miniatures (Gaarden Records, 2008)
Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks (130701, 2004)
Merrin Karras – Apex (A Strangely Isolated Place, 2016)
Mika Vainio – In the Land of the Blind One-Eyed Is King (Touch, 2003)
Mokira – Fft Pop (Cubicfabric, 2005)
Motion Sickness Of Time Travel – Seeping Through the Veil of the Unconscious (Digitalis, 2010)
Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey, 2009)
Mouse on Mars – Glam (Thrill Jockey, 1999)
Murcof – Remembranza (Leaf, 2005)
Nest – Retold (Serein, 2010)
Nicholas Szczepanik – Please Stop Loving Me (Streamline, 2011)
Norman Westberg – MRI (Room40, 2016)
Noveller – Glacial Glow (Fire Records, 2011)
Oren Ambarchi – Grapes From the State (Touch, 2004)
Panabrite – Blue Grotto (Love All Day, 2012)
Pete Namlook – Air I (Fax +49-69/450464, 1993)
Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook – Sleeps With the Fishes (4AD, 1987)
Pinkcourtesyphone – Foley Folly Folio (LINE, 2012)
Popol Vuh – In Den Gärten Pharaos (Pilz, 1971)
Rachel Grimes – Book of Leaves (Rumminance, 2009)
Robert A.A. Lowe – Fazo IV: La Kvalito De Speguloj (Rainbow Body Records, 2010)
Robert Rich + Steve Roach ?– Strata (Hearts Of Space, 1990)
Sanso-Xtro – Sentimentalist (Type, 2005)
Sawako – Hum (12k, 2005)
Scanner – Lauwarm Instrumentals (Beggar’s Banquet, 1999)
Seefeel – Quique (Too Pure, 1993)
Shuttle358 – Can You Prove I Was Born (12k, 2015)
Siavash Amini – Till Human Voices Wake Us (Umor Rex, 2014)
Simon Scott – Bunny (Miasmah, 2011)
Slowdive – Pygmalion (Creation, 1995)
Solo Andata – Solo Andata (12k, 2009)
Stars of The Lid – The Ballasted Orchestra (Kranky, 1997)
Steinbrüchel – Opaque (Room40, 2005)
Stephan Mathieu – A Static Place (12k, 2008)
Steve Peters + Steve Roden – Not a Leaf Remains As It Was (12K, 2010)
Susumu Yokota – Sakura (Leaf, 2000)
Suzanne Ciani – Seven Waves (Finnadar, 1982)
Sylvain Chauveau – Nuage (Type, 2008)
Taylor Deupree – Faint (12k, 2010)
Terre Thaemlitz – Means From an End (Mille Plateaux, 1998)
The Caretaker – Persistent Repetition of Phrases (Install, 2008)
Thomas Köner – Permafrost (Barooni, 1993)
Tim Hecker – Radio Amor (Mille Plateaux, 2003)
Tujiko Noriko – Blurred in My Mirror (Room40, 2005)
Twine – Twine (Ghostly International, 2003)
Úrsula – Hasta que la soledad nos separe (Foehn, 2010)
Vangelis – Blade Runner OST (Eastwest, 1994)
Vladislav Delay – Entain (Mille Plateaux, 2000)
Windy & Carl – Consciousness (Kranky, 2001)
Yagya – Rhythm of Snow (Force Inc., 2002)

  • darktrain

    try moss garden – in the silence of the subconscious…also the angling loser albums are really nice too

  • Sean

    I’ve been listening to a lot of Purl lately. Waking Music might be the most appropriate to put on a list like this. Although I love his most recent stuff like Stillpoint and Evighet (and he just released Form Is Emptiness this month).

    And then there is one of my all-time favorites: Krill.Minima’s Nautica from 2007.

  • Eli

    I have to admit I didn´t know Rafael Anton Irisarri but Empire Systems is already in my top 10 ambient songs.

    Personally, I love dark and industrial ambient, like Desiderii Marginis.

  • Larry Imgrund

    Irisarri is the man! Both Bowery Electric and Global Communication – both of which Pitchfork missed. <3

    • Andrew Gjefle

      Totally agree!

  • Adam Pacione

    I’m glad to see someone else branching out from the Pitchfork list and including a fellow Infraction artist like Celer.

    There’s been a strong Ambient scene here in Dallas for several years now stretching back to the early days of SOTL. Since that time, I’ve seen the appeal of the genre expand well beyond the indie hangouts. For the past few years it’s even grown into monthly DAMN (Dallas Ambient Music Nights) shows featuring local and state wide audio and visual artists.

  • egg

    Lots of good stuff in this list and I especially like what you said about society’s relationship to ambient music! Very true. I’d love to a list from you on ambient drone albums specifically someday!

    Side note: Not extremely influential as they didn’t get too popular but I’m a big fan of The Fun Years. Their drones are just so wonderful. One guy on baritone guitar, the other on turntable, samples and effects get thrown around. Magic happens <3 Check out "God Was Like, No" or "Baby It's Cold Inside" if you're interested!

    • Brown Owl

      I don’t know much of anything on any of these lists which is great because I have a ton of stuff to check out now but I was really happy to see The Fun Years included by you! I happen to know for a fact that they have new material coming out on vinyl in the near future. I only know this because I am friends with the label.

  • Gerardo Salazar II

    I guess you can’t name yourself right but I would add

    The Dead Texan – The Dead Texan (2004)
    Klaus Schulze ?– Picture Music (1975)
    Laraaji – Flow Goes the Universe
    Pulse Emitter – Meditative Music (2007)
    Rafael Anton Irisarri – The North Bend (2010)
    Steve Roach – Dreamtime Return (1988)

    Ambient music is very personal and like you said there is no best but more on the connection shared with the sound.

    Cool Read. One lovep

  • Stuart Brightwell

    Woob – 1194

  • mastakaspa

    Only a few I know and love – and a lot to listen in future, so nice task to do!But don’t

    forget about albums you willlisten more than once:
    – Laraaji – Unicorns in Paradise
    – Hatchback – Zeus & Apollo
    – Another Fine Day – Life Before Land
    – Koss – Ancient Rain
    – Pan•American – 360 Business / 360 Bypass
    – Aphex Twin SAW II
    – The Necks – Sex
    – The Orb – Orbus Terrarum
    – The Higher Intelligence Agency – Colourform
    – Eno/Fripp – (No Pussyfooting)
    – Sebastian Mullaert & Eitan Reiter – Reflections of Nothingness
    – Max Loderbauer & Jacek Sienkiewicz – Ridges
    – Echospace Plays Michael Mantra – Sea Shell City

    – The Future Sound of London – Lifeforms
    – Minilogue – Blomma (second disc)
    – ISAN – Lucky Cat
    – Banco de Gaia – Last Train to Lhasa
    – The KLF – Chill Out
    – Yosi Horikawa – Vapor
    – Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians

  • Notnotyouseriouslyinbed?

    I always like https://www.discogs.com/Various-France-Transe-Ambient/release/436846 because it was my first cd´s I bought…. Damn, I feel nostalgic everytime I listen it…..

    Pete Namlooks early works
    Everything by Radio Massacra International or Redshift, I really like that Berlin School retro

  • Alex

    Might I suggest Louis Bullock’s Realisations?

    http://louisbullock.bandcamp.com/album/realisations

    Lovely ambient music for quiet nights, reminds me of Basinski or Hecker

  • Brett Marion

    and more (not mentioned on Pitchfork or The Stranger’s rebuttal (or above), in no particular order:

    Taylor Deupree + Marcus Fischer – In A Place Of Such Graceful Shapes (12k, 2011)
    Stephan Mathieu – Remain (Line, 2011)
    Stephan Mathieu – Radioland (Die Schachtel, 2008)
    Rafael Toral – Sound Mind Sound Body (Moikai, 1999)
    Federico Durand – El Estanque Esmerelda (Spekk, 2014)
    Janek Schaefer – Unfolding Luxury Beyond the City Of Dreams (Dekorder, 2014)
    Klimek – Music To Fall Asleep (Kompakt, 2006)
    Pausal – Lapses (Barge Recordings, 2010)
    Akira Rabelais/ Harold Budd – As Long As I Can Hold My Breath (Samadhisound, 2004)
    Hermann Nitsch – Harmoniumwerk Volumes 1-12 (Cortical Foundation, 2000)
    Gavin Bryars, Alter Ego, Philip Jeck – The Sinking of the Titanic (1969- ) (Touch, 2007)
    Stephan Micus – The Music of Stones (ECM, 1989)
    Richard Skelton – The Complete Landings/ Rift Music Part One (Type, 2009/ Sustain-Release, 2012)
    Waterwheel – Panchroma (Alley Sweeper, 1997)
    Piano Magic – Son de Mar (4AD, 2001)
    Duane Pitre – Bayou Electric (Important, 2015)
    Gas – Zauberberg (Mille Plateaux, 1997)
    Reinhard Voigt – Premiere World (Profan, 2000)
    Kyle Bobby Dunn – Kyle Bobby Dunn & the Infinite Sadness (Students of Decay, 2014)

    Also, do yourself a favor and be sure to scope Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon (14 Video Paintings 1981-1984). You can find it on youtube. It’s an extended version of Thursday Afternoon perfectly set to the most sensual, subtly trippy images you may ever encounter.

    And of course, many other releases on the 12k (Sogar, Shuttle358, Taylor Deupree, Fourcolor, Minamo, Seaworthy, Marsen Jules, Simon Scott), Root Strata (Grasslung, RV Paintings, Danny Paul Grody, Scott Wells, Maggi Payne, Sean McCann), Kranky (Growing, Labradford, Pan American, Brent Gutzeit, Chris Herbert, Ken Camden, Brian McBride), Room40 (Lawrence English, Rafael Anton Irisarri) and Students of Decay (En, Ryonkt, Concern, Caboladies, Alex Cobb, Asuna, Opitope, Billy Gomberg) labels are worthy contemporary qualifiers. Others still: Mokira, Porter Ricks, Seefeel, Giuseppe Ielasi, Jan Jelinek, Dettinger, Oren Ambarchi, Rosy Parlane, Main, Makoto Kawabata, Joe Jones, Henry Flynt, and (selections from) Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series…

    More: Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Songs Of Forgiveness (Baro, 2014), Terre Thaemlitz – Lovebomb (Mille Plateaux, 2003), Nobukazu Takemura – Milano: For Issey Miyake Men by Naoki Takizawa (WEA Japan, 1999), Vladislav Delay – Anima (Mille Plateaux, 2001), Hakan Lidbo – 06.10.60 (Mitek, 2002), Boxhead Ensemble – Two Brothers (Atavistic, 2001)

    • Jesse Trunoske

      Hey, Look who it is….

  • Scott Allison

    Check out Alan Lambs mid-90’s recordings on Dorobo, those recordings have yet to fell dated or tired to my ears.

  • Liam Singer

    I didn’t think the p4k list was too bad, but I’m really glad to see Alva Noto, Susumu Yokota, Bvdub and Jacaszek represented here (in general, I’m always shocked at how little attention gets paid to Bvdub, his work is amazing). It’s not a very well known album, but also wanted to mention Scott Solter’s “One River” – one of my favorite ambient records for many years.

  • Chromex

    I’ve seen 3 of these things now. I AM skimming the “rules” but did “Classical” get exc;uded? I saw Riley on one so I assume not. The big ones I wold Add are
    Michael Hoening Departure From the Northern Wasteland. Steve Roach and Dirk Serries ( Vidna Obmana) Low Volume Music.James Johnson and Vir Unis The Sandovar Sessions, Philip Glass Music In 12 Parts. Steve Reich Music for Mallet Instruments , winds and Percussion/ Music for 18 Musicians, and last but hardly least Karlheinz Stockhausen Stimmung ( or, Sternklang- Starsounds. Like Discreet Music, you can return to these classics and find fresh depths to plumb. Stimmung, one of the most glaring omissions, introduced overtone singing to the west fer cryin out loud. The Rilety, Glass < Reich, Stockhausen music is known and loved by many lesser ambient musicians and some of the pop sources mentioned. Eberhard Schoener seems compltetly forgotten today as well but try Sky Music / MOuntain Music- they are still catching up with that. If for nothing else than a Sprinkling of Clouds we must recognize Gong; my choice for a whole lp would be Daevid Allen 7 Drones.

  • Andrew Gjefle

    I’m continually surprised and dismayed that none of these lists (that I’ve seen) have Alio Die in them. The dude has an amazing ear for texture, he’s prolific, his sonic palette is impressively wide, and he’s collaborated with the likes of Robert Rich, Steve Roach, and Mathias Grassow. My favorite albums of his are Tempus Rei and Suspended Feathers.

    That being said, this is an excellent list. Good to see Thomas Koner, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, and Loscil on there. Also props for including Radio Amor; that’s my personal favorite Tim Hecker record.

    My list to add (with the disclaimer that I sometimes have a pretty liberal definition of “ambient”):
    Alio Die – Tempus Rei
    Biosphere/Higher Intelligence Agency – Polar Sequences
    Jan Jelinek – Loop Finding Jazz Records
    The Knife in collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock – Tomorrow, in a Year
    Loscil – Submers
    Porter Ricks – Biokinetics
    The Residents – Eskimo
    Stars of the Lid – Avec Laudenum
    Tim Hecker – Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do it Again

  • Terry Owen

    I enjoy:

    ISAN – Lucky Cat
    Boards of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children
    el fog – Rebuilding Vibes
    Murcof – Remembranza
    Lexaunculpt – The Blurring of Trees
    Jim O’Rourke – I’m Singing, And I’m Happy, And A 1, 2, 3, 4
    The Caretaker – Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom

  • Bodycage

    It’s a good list, but without Inade, Herbst9 or various Aural Hypnox artists, it’s rendered moot for me.

  • I’m not sure how you can have a “definitive” list of ambient works and omit Erik Satie.

    I mean, it all starts with his Musique d’ameublement “furniture music” doesn’t it? Or I guess you could opt for Gnossienes or Gymnopedies at a pinch.

    But I have found good stuff I’ve never listened t before with these discussions so a++ for that.

    • Danny Shaddick

      Many nods to Erik Satie on the first album on the list: Akira Rabelais

  • Deegers7

    That took a while longer than I anticipated and not sure that I captured everything or anything really. Years ago I had a no words, no beats rule but that one got throw out the window after a period of time….anyway, tonight matthew my #notthebestambientalbumsofalltime would be;

    A Winged Victory for the Sullen Atomos
    Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto Insen
    Amiina Kurr
    Amorphous Androgynous Tales of Ephidrina
    Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks
    Aphex Twin selected ambient Vol. 1
    Atom TM Winterreise
    Ben Lukas Boysen Gravity
    Bill Nelson Chance Encounters In The Garden Of Lights
    Billow Observatory Billow Observatory
    Biosphere Microgravity
    Boxhead Ensemble Quartets
    Brian Eno Another Day On Earth
    Brian McBride The Effective Disconnect
    Celer Without Retrospect, the Morning
    Chris Watson El Tren Fantasma
    christ. Blue Shift Emissions
    Clint Mansell Moon
    Craig Armstrong Piano Works
    Craig Leon Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos / Visiting
    Dakota Suite & Emanuele Errante The North Green Down
    David Holmes 71
    David Sylvian Wandermüde
    DJ Shadow What Does Your Soul Look Like
    Dreamfish Dreamfish
    Dustin O’Halloran Piano Solos
    Earth Earth 2
    Eliane Radigue Mila’s Journey Inspired By A Dream
    Eluvium Talk Amongst the Trees
    English Bore /// D. McKenna Fauk
    Ennio Morricone Once Upon A Time In America (Complete Score)
    Experimental Audio Research Mesmerized
    Fenn O’berg In Hell
    Flying Saucer Attack Further
    Follakzoid III
    Four Tet Morning/Evening
    Function & Vatican Shadow Games Have Rules
    Gas Nah und Fern
    Goldmund Corduroy Road
    Greg Haines Digressions
    Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir Pan Tone
    helios eingya
    Henryk Górecki Symphony No. 3
    James vs. The Sabres Of Paradise Jam J
    Jóhann Jóhannsson Orphée
    John Foxx London Overgrown
    Jonas Munk Searching For Bill (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Jónsi & Alex Riceboy Sleeps
    Kevin Drumm Tannenbaum
    Kid 606 Recollected Ambient Works, Vol. 1.5: Discreet Music
    King Creosote & Jon Hopkins Diamond Mine
    Kraftwerk Ralf and Florian
    Kyle Bobby Dunn Bring Me The Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn
    Labradford fixed::context
    Lloyd Cole & Hans-Joachim Roedelius Selected Studies Vol. 1
    loscil Endless Falls
    Lucky Pierre Hypnogogia
    Machinefabriek Bijeen
    Main Motion Pool
    Martin Buntrock Reise zur Trauminsel
    Max Richter Recomposed
    memotone I Sleep. At Waking.
    MLO Io
    Mohn Mohn
    Mokira Album
    Monolake Silence
    Moths Moths
    Mountains Sewn
    Ø Oleva
    On (Reworked by Fennesz) Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not
    Oren Ambarchi In The Pendulums Embrace
    Paddy McAloon I Trawl the Megahertz
    Pan-American 360 Business/ 360 Bypass
    Pansonic Vakio
    Pete Namlook & David Moufang Koolfang
    Peter Broderick Float
    Philip Glass Glass: Low Symphony
    Piano Magic Son de Mar
    PlastikMan EX (Performed live at the Guggenheim, NYC)
    Pole 1
    Popol Vuh In den Gärten Pharaos
    Psychick Warriors ov Gaia Ov Biospheres And Sacred Grooves: A Document Ov New Edge Folk Classics
    Rafael Anton Irisarri Daydreaming
    Rain Tree Crow Rain Tree Crow
    Reich Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint
    Reporter Guggenheim
    Roedelius Roedelius – Works (1968-2005)
    Ryuichi Sakamoto | Illuha | Taylor Deupree Perpetual
    scanner scanner 1
    Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun
    Sohrab A Hidden Place
    Space Space
    Spiritualized Pure Phase Tones For D.J.’s
    Subsurfing Frozen Ants
    Susumu Yokota Symbol
    Suzuki K1 Satellite Serenade
    Talk Talk Spirit of Eden
    Tangerine Dream Phaedra
    Telefon Tel Aviv Map Of What Is Effortless
    The Apls III
    The Conet Project The Conet Project
    The Irresistible Force Flying High
    Valgeir Sigurðsson Architecture of Loss
    Various Artists Silk
    Various Artists Megasoft Office 1997
    Various Artists Music for the Film: Sounds and Silence
    Various Artists The ambient Cookbook
    Various Artists Ocean of Sound
    Various Artists SMM:opiate
    Various Artists Tone Tales From Tomorrow
    Various Artists On Isolation
    William Basinski Variations For Piano & Tape
    Woob Woob
    Xela For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights

    Note: may be more than 100 as well….

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  • Dick McDuffin

    I started buying up dozens of ambient albums about a year ago. I already had a few in my collection from many years ago, and if there was one thing that was clear, I’d never grown tired of those titles. Three titles I still play from the mid-2000s.
    The first Mountains album
    Fennesz – Venice (on the list above)
    Marsen Jules – Herbstlaub (on the list above)

    I’ve bought so much stuff I haven’t had time to play many of them more than once, but here’s some titles that stick out when I browse them as being ons I particularly love. NB. Generally, my tastes veer towards melody, decay and that dusty/staticky aesthetic. I avoid anything with a beat or vocals. I really love ambient interspersed with field recordings and dig The KLF’s Chill Out, but I find it hard to find good stuff like this. Two others that spring to mind are the Ernest Ford – Neighborhood (already on the P4K list) and one I bought earlier this year called Zauberberg by Kassel Jaegar, Stephan Mathieu and Akira Rabelais. Anybody know any more good ambient titles that mix music/tones with field recording really nicely, let me know.

    Leandro Fresco – El Reino Invisible (on the list above, beautiful album)
    Markus Guentner – In Moll
    Otto A. Totland – Pino
    Jasmine Guffond – Yellow Bell
    Midori Harano – Minor Planet
    Marble Sky – Marble Sky
    Saaad – Deep Float
    Alessandro Cortini – Risveglio
    Ancient Ocean – Blood Moon
    James Place – Living on Superstition
    Dino Spiluttini, Nils Quak – Modular Anxiety
    Jonas Reinhardt – Ganymede
    Erik Skodvin – Flare/Flame
    Evan Camaniti Night Dust
    Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – Stare
    Tor Lundvall – The Shipyard
    M. Sage – A Singular Continent
    All Fennesz titles
    All Caretaker/Leyland Kirby titles

  • resetplz

    As it applies to the spirit of “ambient music” some of these are arguably borderline, but in this vein I think there are two glaring omissions:

    Klaus Schulze’s ‘Timewind’: a wall-of-sound experience like none other. Completely transporting and truly magisterial in its musical potency.

    Jean-Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’: few other works of analog electronic music so beautifully capture and evoke an organic, ever-evolving sound texture environment. (There are sublime micro-arias in this gem if you listen closely.)

  • How about Mirror? “Under the Sun” and “Places of Light” (both from 2004) are possibly the highlights of their catalog. For me they represent a unique balance of subtle darkness and totally beatific, tranquil tones…it’s a hard cocktail to master. “Der Spiegelmanufaktur” (with guest Jim O’Rourke) is also a highlight for me.

    Speaking of O’Rourke, his gently roiling “Long Night” should also make the cut. It’s in a similar, though more ascetic, vein as Keith Fullerton Whitman’s sublime “Playthroughs,” another worthy addition (though maybe Pitchfork included it, I can’t remember).

    One of Mirror’s two foundational members, Andrew Chalk, also has a prolific and incredibly potent catalog of more unabashedly beautiful (though no less compelling) albums, including “Violin by Night” and “The Cable House,” both of which are among the most beautiful ambient albums I’ve ever heard. His early work, mentioned in the list, is darker, but I think his later works are even richer.

    K. Leimer’s “Music for Land and Water” is a beauty, too.

    DJ Olive’s trio of albums for Room40, “Buoy,” “Sleep,” and “Triage,” also warrants a mention.

    Also Sun Electric’s incredible “30.7.94,” a gorgeous live album that’s been among my favorites since it was first released. As much as I love vinyl, the LP omits some of the most beautiful passages. The CD, which presents the entire performance, gets it right.

    It’s great to see Spiritualized on here, but what about Spacemen 3’s incomparable “Dreamweapon,” the definition of a gently floating piece for multiple modulated guitars? It’s the clear predecessor to Spiritualized’s recurring “Pure Phase,” and very beautiful to boot, in my opinion.

    Everyone has a favorite Celer release: mine is “Compositions for Cassette.”

    Windy & Carl’s “Depths” has some beautiful moments.

    I would also mention Lawrence English’s “The Peregrine,” a beautiful sonic interpretation of an exquisite piece of nature writing.

    A great list, and some great additions in the comments. As an ambient enthusiast for over 20 years, I’m happy to see so many of my personal favorites mentioned.