Popscene: Ambient Music

Social Share

Popscene - Ambient

Basic Pop celebrates Ambient music: the mood-enhancing sounds that soothe our fevered brows…

What’s it? 

Some would possibly say that ambient has little proper being in a pop journal. Pop, they’d argue, is all about components, guidelines and the shimmering great thing about a taut, three-minute nugget that’s destined to work both your ft or your coronary heart. Ambient, then again, is about spaciousness and environment greater than melodies and rhythm, music that’s meant to evoke a temper, music you could daydream or meditate to.

But a few of pop’s most completed tunesmiths have sidelined into ambient. Who’d have thought that one of many males behind Virginia Plain – we’re speaking Brian Eno right here – would, simply six years later in Ambient 1: Music For Airports, create an album so minimalist, so slight, that it baffled most critics. Rolling Stone journal wrote, presumably with a quizzical look on its face: ​​“There’s a great deal of excessive craftsmanship right here, however to search out it, you’ve received to thwart the music’s intent by concentrating.”

Popscene - Ambient
David Sylvian – Gone To Earth

Sound of Sylvian…

Equally, Japan’s David Sylvian would go away pop behind within the mid-80s as he embraced extra austere, avant-garde soundscapes. His third solo album, 1986’s Gone To Earth, would characteristic one disc of experimental vocal-led rock and the opposite consisting solely of ambient instrumentals. By 2014’s There’s A Mild That Enters Homes With No Different Home In Sight, Sylvian’s work appeared one million miles from the chart-friendly pop of I Second That Emotion.

We’ve Eno to thank for the time period ‘ambient’, which he outlined as being “as ignorable as it’s attention-grabbing.” In the present day, these ethereal noises reside on within the work of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Cat System Corp. and Max Richter, whereas artists equivalent to Aphex Twin and The Orb have married the misty textures of ambient with beats as a part of the ambient techno motion.

Brian Eno – Lightness: Music For The Marble Palace

Important Artists

Brian Eno

We make no apologies for invoking Brian Eno’s identify right here, as with out him there’s no ambient. Positive, he was constructing on what others had accomplished (Erik Satie had invented what he termed ‘furnishings music’ within the 1910s, whereas originative items equivalent to John Cage’s solely silent 4’33 – the place the sounds come out of the setting that the listeners hear whereas it’s carried out – might be described as ‘ambient’), however the electronically-formed sounds of what we consider as modern ambient come from Eno.

Other than Ambient 1: Music For Airports, he’s put out experimental albums together with Ambient 4: On Land (launched because the follow-up to Ambient 1, there aren’t any second and third volumes), Thursday Afternoon (one 60-minute composition) and Lightness: Music For The Marble Palace – The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, made for an set up that happened in 1997 on the historic venue.

C418 – Minecraft: Quantity Alpha


The enigmatically named C418 (aka Daniel Rosenfeld ) is likely one of the twenty first century’s most revered names in ambient. Simply 34, he received his massive break composing the music for the online game Minecraft. His 2011 album Minecraft: Quantity Alpha is a minimalist delight, each eerie and exquisite. His work isn’t all the time within the ambient style (2011’s 72 Minutes Of Fame and 2012’s One are extra IDM, whereas 2015’s 148 had him taking part in in dance-pop waters), however his work
within the ambient area is up there with Eno’s finest. His newest album, tied to the incremental sport Cookie Clicker, is one other chilled-out marvel.

Biosphere – Patashnik


Born in Tromsø, Norway, in 1962, Geir Aule Jenssen launched his first album in 1990 as Bleep. Nonetheless, The North Pole By Submarine was extra acid techno than ambient, and it wasn’t till Jenssen adopted the brand new moniker of Biosphere that he embraced extra ambient textures. 1991’s Microgravity was fabulously sinister and haunting, whereas 1994’s Patashnik was an formidable idea piece a few misplaced cosmonaut drifting aimlessly in outer area. Different discography highlights of Jenssen’s embrace his work with German ambient composer Pete Namlook as The Fires Of Ork and his disquieting soundtrack to 1997’s Norwegian thriller Insomnia.

 Important LPs

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports

Brian Eno
Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)

“Ambient music is meant,” Brian Eno wrote within the liner notes to his sixth solo album, “to induce calm and an area to suppose. It should have the ability to accommodate many ranges of listening consideration with out imposing one particularly.”

Eno’s curiosity in what he would later time period ‘ambient’ began within the mid-70s when he discovered himself laid up in hospital after a automotive accident. A visiting pal, artist Judy Nylon, gave him an album of 18th century harp music to hearken to. In accordance with the liner notes of his fourth LP Discreet Music, Eno performed the harp album virtually inaudibly, which “offered what was for me a brand new manner of listening to music – as a part of the atmosphere of the setting.”

Although 1975’s Discreet Music can be his opening foray into ambient, Music For Airports is taken into account his first nice work within the style, devised as music that may, as he informed Glenn O’Brien in 1978, “work in an airport”.

The KLF – Chill Out

Chill Out (1990)

Ever the contrarians, The KLF adopted up their raucous Who Killed The JAMs? long-player with this ambient idea album depicting a legendary journey all through the Gulf Coast of America, starting in Texas and ending in Louisiana. Compiled utilizing area recordings and with snippets of songs from artists equivalent to Elvis, Acker Bilk and Fleetwood Mac, it’s an impressionistic highway journey that the band declare was recorded in a 44-minute reside take.

In an interview for Report Collector, Jimmy Cauty acknowledged that: “There’s no edits on it. Fairly just a few instances we’d get close to the top and make a mistake so we’d must go all the best way again to the start and set all of it up once more.” Predictably, it perplexed critics on the time, which presumably is strictly what Invoice Drummond and Jimmy Cauty wished, with Sounds complaining that it was “too arbitrary and formless.”

Aphex Twin – Chosen Ambient Works Quantity II

Aphex Twin
Chosen Ambient Works Quantity II (1994)

Richard James’ second  LP after 1992’s Chosen Ambient Works 85-92. Whereas James’ first document was made up of ambient-techno doodles from the DJ’s teenage years, this second quantity is a way more conventional – i.e. beatless – ambient effort, impressed, its composer defined, by lucid dreaming, after which he would try to recreate the sounds in his residence studio.

James described the album as being “like standing in an influence station on acid,” telling The Face: “Should you simply stand in the midst of a extremely large one, you get a extremely bizarre presence and also you’ve received that hum. You simply really feel electrical energy round you. That’s completely dreamlike for me.” Consisting of 24 titleless tracks, Chosen Ambient Works Quantity II is extra avant-garde sound set up than a standard album.

The official soundtrack to the generative movie Eno by Gary Hustwit – a definitive documentary about visionary musician and artist, Brian Eno – might be ordered right here

Learn Extra – Synth-pop: The rise of the machines


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top