Best Albums of 2020: Exosphere label

The Outer Plateau (Exosphere)
Hypnos EP (Bandcamp)
Celestial (Exosphere)

While American ambient tech-trance duo Ascendant has been taking a break in the past few years, members Don Taylor and Chris Bryant both released notable ambient electronica in 2020.

Don Tyler has been busy with his Remote Vision alias and the “dark cinematic space” of his new label Exosphere. The Outer Plateau album and Hypnos EP are his strongest solo works to date and ideal gateways to the Exosphere sound. While not actually that dark, compared to Ascendant’s music they have one foot in the more subdued realms environmental and drone music. One look at the fantastical cover art for The Outer Plateau tells you we’re in a landscape not of this Earth, and the music is suggestive of this alien space in ways too intricate and understated to convey in simple words. Not on Exosphere but just as strong is the self-released Hypnos EP which similarly revels in original, melodious textures and truly other-worldly atmospheres.

Meanwhile, under his new Starterra alias, Ascendant’s other member Chris Bryant goes full space tech on Celestial, a masterful exercise in beautiful bleep and epic synth panoramas. Think vintage Berlin-school psychedelic synth music and 90’s ambient techno ala Pete Namlook’s Fax Records. Familiar sounds to be sure, but this is a huge creation full of complex textures and great harmonic layering, and given a glittering 21st century makeover with bang up-to-date production.

Best Albums of 2020 Reviews Index

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