Category Archives: Reviews – B

Essential albums: David Byrne & Brian Eno

The album is remarkably prescient…listen closely and you’ll hear some of the foundations being laid for hip hop, digital sampling and the mad eclecticism that would distinguish a good deal of electronically produced music to come. artist: David Byrne & Brian Eno country of origin: USA/UK style(s): World beat, entho-ambient, art rock essential releases: My […]

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Essential albums: Harold Budd

The distinctively dreamy, often extraordinary and occasionally ominous music of Californian pianist Harold Budd is affecting and rich in images, and has been widely imitated by ambient composers over the years. Imitated, but never bettered. artist: Harold Budd country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient, impressionist, neo-classical, electronic, environmental decades active: 70’s – 10’s essential releases: […]

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Essential albums: Gavin Bryars

These two orchestral pieces based on simple tape loops have struck a resounding chord with non-classical audiences – particularly ambient fans – and stand among the most unique pieces of late-20th century music in any genre. artist: Gavin Bryars country of origin: UK style(s): Minimalism, contemporary classical decades active: 70’s – 00’s essential releases: Jesus […]

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Essential albums: Michael Brook

The Canadian-born Brook is not an especially prolific solo artist but when you make albums as good as these, who cares? These two ethno-ambient works from early in his career are his best albums and remain high watermarks in the fusion of world music with ambient electronics. artist: Michael Brook country of origin: Canada style(s): […]

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Essential albums: Kevin Braheny

Braheny is one of the pioneers of American ambient spacemusic…as the first artist to appear on iconic Californian ambient label Hearts Of Space Records, his cosmic impressionism was a defining influence on what many of the label’s 80’s releases would generally sound like. artist: Kevin Braheny country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient spacemusic, ethno-ambient decades […]

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Essential albums: Bonobo

British DJ/composer/producer Simon Green aka Bonobo creates a unique, tuneful and intimate brand of instrumental hip hop…oh alright then, trip hop. At once stimulating and soothing, it perfectly encapsulates breakbeat label Ninja Tune’s more downtempo side. artist: Bonobo country of origin: UK style(s): Trip hop, breakbeat, cinematic, exotic lounge, world beat decades active: 00’s – […]

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Essential albums: Richard Bone

As an exercise in atmosphere The Spectral Ships (1998) is exceptional…the nine tracks are all named after ghost ships of nautical folklore which would appear on the horizon at dusk or dawn. It’s a work of eerie, lovely abstraction with non-rhythmic pieces that don’t begin so much as evolve. artist: Richard Bone country of origin: […]

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Essential albums: Boards Of Canada

While some ambient electronica takes you to exotic, alien or idealised worlds with polished lushness and smooth textures, Boards Of Canada’s techno-influenced instrumentals are intentionally imperfect. The duo’s unique take on psychedelia is to create a tantalising distance between you and the destination by passing one or more elements through lo-fidelity filters and generally degrading […]

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Essential albums: Bluetech

On his brilliant early releases – Prima Materia (2003) and Elementary Particles (2004) – American composer Bluetech debuts a striking and original take on the downtempo-electronica-with-psychedelic-undertones school of instrumental chill…these releases establish what many fans still regard as the classic Bluetech sound. artist: Bluetech country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient pop, ambient dub, psyambient, lounge, […]

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Essential albums: Blu Mar Ten

Coming from a UK dance production duo who were previously known for their drum ‘n’ bass tunes, Blu Mar Ten’s eclectic chillout masterpiece The Six Million Names Of God (2003) is an unexpected and deeply trippy shot out of the, well, blue. Describing an album as being like a movie in your head is hardly […]

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Essential albums: Bliss

It could be argued that Quiet Letters’ exceptionally polished blend of pop phrasing, ethereal electronics, Eastern flavours and neoclassical strings was bound to get noticed thanks to its surface attractions alone. Yet such fine craft is matched by composing and songwriting of genuine humanity and tenderness. artist: Bliss country of origin: Denmark style(s): Ambient pop, […]

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Essential albums: Biosphere

What makes Geir Jenssen’s brand of spacemusic, techno and environmental ambience special is that beneath the brilliant sound design and chilly surfaces is a humanity that’s intimate and sometimes deeply touching in its melancholy. artist: Biosphere country of origin: Norway style(s): Ambient techno, environmental decades active: 90’s – 10’s essential releases: Microgravity (1991, Apollo) The […]

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Essential albums: Hildegard Von Bingen

Composer and Christian mystic Hildegard Von Bingen lived around the 12th Century (1098-1179), but her sublime music is as subtle, spacious and transcendent as any modern ambient. artist: Hildegard Von Bingen country of origin: Germany style(s): Sacred choral essential releases: A Feather On The Breath Of God (1988, Hyperion) Canticles Of Ecstasy / Sequentia (1994, […]

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Essential albums: Big Bud

Drum ‘n’ bass from space…this album from UK producer Big Bud is a blinding best-of collection, part of a series of retrospective albums from genre heavyweight Good Looking Records that profiles key artists of this surprisingly diverse scene. artist: Big Bud country of origin: UK style(s): Ambient drum’n’bass, lounge, dub years active: 90’s – 00’s […]

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Essential albums: Between

The band Between was one of the first generation of “world music” ensembles and to this day remains one of the greatest. In its 1970’s heyday this wonderful German-based group fashioned a mystical kind of fusion music, drawing on elements of minimalism, jazz, ethnic and classical. artist: Between country of origin: Germany style(s): World music, […]

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Essential albums: Bersarin Quartett

I love Bersarin Quartett partly for the same reason I love Max Richter’s albums. It’s music for imaginary movies that’s far better than most soundtrack albums from actual films. Instead of cues that make little sense off screen, we hear perfect realisations of how a moody soundtrack album should sound; wordless storytelling that exists in […]

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Essential albums: Bent

Programmed To Love (2001) by the aptly named Bent appeared at a time when acts under the ‘chillout’ banner were attracting a lot of mainstream attention in the UK, and the years have been much kinder to it than some of the other popular chillout releases from that period. artist: Bent country of origin: UK […]

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Essential albums: Beatsystem

In the classical avant-garde they would probably call this album musique concrete; certainly Pierce is a big enough fan of John Cage to include the late composer’s manipulated voice on several tracks. But this is contemporary ambient and more listenable than most of Cage’s tape experiments. artist: Beatsystem country of origin: UK style(s): Experimental ambient, […]

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Essential albums: Peter Baumann

Exactly who did what in the pioneering electronic band Tangerine Dream during its various 70’s and 80’s incarnations has always been something of a mystery, except perhaps to other electronic musicians. Given that member Peter Baumann’s first solo album Romance ’76 (1976) is one of the classic albums of Berlin-school ambient, his contribution to TD […]

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Essential albums: Dan Barrio

“The music of This Physical World (2005) is intimate, beatless and mostly tonal. Barrio has realised his ideas with absolute clarity; even when he plays with soft airy tones like on “Warmth And Pause” we never get lost in a sonic fog.” artist: Dan Barrio country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient, experimental, environmental essential releases: […]

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Essential albums: Banco De Gaia

Not only skilled with the recording studio and synthesisers, Toby Marks is also a versatile live musician. One senses a rock and roll heart beating in the middle of it all, and that puts a certain distance between Banco De Gaia and the synthetic panoramas of comparable electronic acts. artist: Banco De Gaia country of […]

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