Category Archives: Reviews

General Fuzz

If more producers composing ambient breakbeats lived in sun-kissed California and jammed regularly with live musos, they might sound like this. But they don’t, which means James Kirsch aka General Fuzz seems to have this sound all to himself. artist: General Fuzz country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient rock, ambient breakbeat, progressive house, lounge, Balearic […]

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Djivan Gasparyan

Stephen Hill, host of the U.S. public radio program Music From The Hearts Of Space, was so impressed with I Will Not Be Sad In This World (1989) that he declared Gasparyan’s playing to be ‘as sensitive and emotionally effecting as can be achieved by humans’. artist: Djivan Gasparyan country of origin: Armenia style(s): Armenian […]

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Gas (Mat Jarvis)

Gas (1995) is a remarkable work of ambient techno by Brit composer Mat Jarvis, originally released on the legendary and now-defunct Emit Records. When re-released by Jarvis on his own label ten tears later the album sounded no less strange or beautiful; it has truly earned its classic status in the electronic underground. artist: Gas […]

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Galaxy (Boris Blenn)

Science of Ecstasy (2004) is well named. It’s a rapturous, richly-textured melodic excursion where classic ambient landscapes are enriched with the sounds of trance, techno and electro. Think of it a kind a slow-mo space pop for armchair traveling. artist: Galaxy country of origin: Germany style(s): Ambient trance/techno, chillout, spacemusic, psychedelia, lounge decades active: 00’s […]

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Peter Gabriel

Despite hundreds of imitations since, age has not wearied Peter Gabriel’s Passion (1989) and it remains one of the most potent and beautiful albums of ethno-ambient/world fusion music ever made. artist: Peter Gabriel country of origin: UK style(s): Progressive rock, ambient rock, world music, ethno ambient decades active: 70’s – 10’s essential releases: Passion (1989, […]

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Future Sound Of London

Despite plenty of moments in the FSOL oeuvre which you might call spacey, they play down any cosmic inferences. Says Gary Cobain: “I’m not interested in that. I think *this* is a weird place. What our music, I think, represents is a weird perspective of this space now. It’s like a re-evaluation of yourself in […]

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Edgar Froese

Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese (1944-2015) is one of the key figures in the history of ambient electronic music and was the only member of the iconic Krautrock band to stay on board the full distance, a journey that ended with his death in 2015. He was also their most prolific solo artist in the […]

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Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp is one of Britain’s most respected guitar stylists and has been involved in experimental music since the late 1960’s. His approach to composing is cerebral and academic, and while at times it lacks emotional warmth his contributions to expanding the language of guitar playing are undoubted. artist: Robert Fripp country of origin: UK […]

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Freezone (series)

These truly wondrous 90’s compilations from Belgian label Crammed Discs found the multi-faceted genre called “electronic dance music” making an unassailable case for the right to a place in ambient zone. They are creative, scene-setting releases which helped pave the way for much dance-related downtempo that has since bloomed across the globe. series: Freezone country […]

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Christopher Franke

Most of The London Concert (1992) plays like a long, exotic, multi-episode epic and Franke’s bubbling, polyrhythmic sequencer work binds it all together. By turns urgent and serene, euphoric and sad, straight and surreal, this is an essential work for fans of Tangerine Dream and the Berlin-school sound. artist: Christopher Franke country of origin: Germany […]

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Tristan Feldbauer

Tristan Feldbauer recorded music in the 1990’s as half of the duo Zeus Faber, but his superb album Recordings (2007) marks his creative peak in a more recent style that was developed over several albums in the 2000’s: distinctive, impressionist ambient-pop with a unique European sensibility. artist: Tristan Feldbauer country of origin: Switzerland style(s): Ambient […]

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Fax Records

The story of the new-school ambient label Fax Records is probably better told through the solo and collaborative albums of its late founder Pete Namlook (1960-2012) rather than through label compilation albums. Nonetheless, some Fax compilations are magnificent on their own terms and highly recommended. label: Fax Records country of origin: Germany style(s): Ambient, chillout, […]

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John Fahey

The much imitated John Fahey (1939-2001) was one of the undisputed fathers of the modern acoustic guitar. If you love the acoustic ambient sounds of classic Windham Hill and artists like William Ackerman, Fahey’s music laid much of the groundwork for that generation of Amercian guitar instrumentalists. artist: John Fahey country of origin: USA style(s): […]

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Chilled Euphoria (series)

More than any other chill compilations that appeared around the turn of the third millennium – and there were millions of them – these ones define the ecstasy-fuelled bliss of post-clubbing chillout to perfection. series: Chilled Euphoria country of origin: UK style(s): Ambient trance/house/pop/breaks/techno decades active: 2000’s essential releases: Chilled Euphoria mixed by Red Jerry […]

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Entheogenic

Entheogenic is a psychedelic downtempo act with an impressive ear for melody, harmonies and dynamics. If exotic ambient trance with dubby grooves is your sound, you’ll find yourself returning to these albums again and again. artist: Entheogenic country of origin: UK/Austria style(s): Psychedelic chill, dub, ethno-ambient, ambient trance, world beat decades active: 00’s – 10’s […]

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Brian Eno

The English synthesist who first coined the term “ambient” is widely revered as one of the most innovative and influential recording artists in contemporary music. Brian Eno’s hand has touched many genres: rock, techno, electropop, world music and, of course, ambient. artist: Brian Eno country of origin: UK style(s): Ambient, art rock, minimalism, experimental decades […]

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J. D. Emmanuel

Texan musician J.D. Emmanuel’s career story is, in a way, a story about how the passion of fans can make a difference; about a gifted e-musician whose music may have been lost to the ages had it not been for the efforts of a new generation of vintage electronic and new age music enthusiasts and […]

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Emit Records

Emit’s reputation in the dance and electronic underground for quality and innovation remains undiminished to this day. The label’s artists provided us with some of the most thrilling, audacious chill-out music of the 90’s and beyond. Ignore it at your peril. label: Emit Records country of origin: UK style(s): Ambient techno/dub/trance/breaks, cinematic, environmental, psyambient decades […]

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Emerald Web

The Florida-based duo of Kat Epple and the late Bob Stohl were, in a way, new age music superstars. During Emerald Web’s 12 year existence their records sold well, their live tours were popular and they forged an extensive career in the 1980’s composing soundtrack music for film, TV and planetarium shows. artist: Emerald Web […]

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Electrypnose

Better known in psychedelic trance circles for his darkly original dancefloor albums, Swiss artist Electrypnose has – on two occasions so far – briefly interrupted the BPM onslaught to record stunning downtempo albums. The first of these is Subliminal Melancholies (2006) – a dark, glistening and beautiful album that sounds quite unlike anything else in […]

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Easily Embarrassed

There’s a narrative quality that elevates much Easily Embarrassed material well above psychedelic slowbeats by-the-numbers. More so than many of their contemporaries, the trio have also mastered the art of the album, as opposed to just collections of single tracks. artist: Easily Embarrassed country of origin: Netherlands style(s): Psy chill, psy ambient, progressive rock, dub, […]

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Do’ah

This is inspired, vibrant cross-cultural acoustic instrumental music by a late 70’s/early 80’s outfit from the San Francisco Bay area who seemed intent on playing just about every musical instrument ever invented; a bit like The Incredible String Band without the drugs. artist: Do’ah country of origin: USA style(s): New acoustic, world music, jazz, new […]

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Diatonis

Fans of Brian Eno’s more melodic ambient works should find this outstanding album a delight from start to finish. Two years in the making, Ambient Life (2003) is the clear winner among the small number of Diatonis albums released to date. artist: Diatonis country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient, environmental decades active: 2000’s essential releases: […]

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Deuter

Light…is what Deuter’s music has in glorious abundance. Even more remarkable is that on his best albums this glowing optimism doesn’t become sentimental. Thanks to the music’s cosmic undercurrent and his tremendous command of melody he has always been popular in new age circles, but during his peak years he rarely settled into new age […]

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The Detroit Escalator Co

You wouldn’t call his own music Detroit techno in the classic sense, if you take that to mean the banging dance productions of May, Underground Resistance and others. But like the quieter moments of fellow resident Carl Craig, Ollivierra’s sound is still informed by the same minimal, futuristic aesthetic even if it’s a long way […]

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Delerium

Starting out gothic, filmic and tribal, Delerium’s dark sound at one point morphed into spacey laid-back acid trance before moving on again to become the highly polished, ethereal ethno-pop for which Delerium is best known. What’s consistent between all their albums is the music’s generally slow tempo and the duo’s exploration of ambient space. artist: […]

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Deep Space Network

Great ideas never date, and Deep Space Network’s electronica is full of great, well-realised ideas. This German duo’s time in the sun was the early to mid 1990’s – ambient techno/trance’s first “golden age” – when electronic dance music was spreading around the globe and ambient and downtempo offshoots flowered in abundance. artist: Deep Space […]

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Deep Forest

A close (and superior) musical cousin of equally popular 90’s ambient dance act Enigma, Deep Forest pairs French dance producers Michel Sanchez and Eric Mouquet. While Enigma never did manage to make a consistently great album in its 90’s heyday, Deep Forest managed the feat twice. artist: Deep Forest country of origin: France style(s): Ambient […]

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Dead Can Dance

Drawing on primitive world folk music, modern song and a Western musical heritage stretching back to medieval Europe, the duo’s music is mysterious, powerful and bewitching. Dead Can Dance do the world music-ambient-classical mashup thing with a depth that defies easy description. artist: Dead Can Dance country of origin: Australia style(s): World beat, folk, medieval, […]

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Mychael Danna

Without resorting to bombast or sugary sentiment, Danna works his lush, highly melodic and orchestrated cinematic style on Sirens to remarkable effect…drenched in synthesisers, piano and graced with some silky smooth electric guitar, Sirens is sensual, haunting and frequently compelling. artist: Mychael Danna country of origin: Canada style(s): Ambient orchestral, spacemusic, neoclassical decades active: 80’s […]

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Burkhard Von Dallwitz

Dallwitz has gained international recognition as a film composer since the late 1990’s, starting with his contributions to the soundtrack of Peter Weir’s The Truman Show…but a more complete and cohesive statement than any of his soundtracks is his outstanding lone solo album Worlds Apart (1994), recorded and released before his film scoring career took […]

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Maxence Cyrin

The test, perhaps, of a club track’s ultimate musical worth is to take it off the dancefloor and try performing it in other arrangements. In the case of Frenchman and electronica aficionado Maxence Cyrin’s Modern Rhapsodies album we get electronic dance tracks reinterpreted on piano. It’s a wild idea, brilliantly executed. artist: Maxence Cyrin country […]

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Coyote Oldman

Music centering around the Native American flute – both authentic and adapted music – has proliferated under the new age and world music umbrella to such an extent that finding the really great stuff can be difficult. If you love meditative flute sounds and you aren’t a purist, these albums by American duo Coyote Oldman […]

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Cosmicleaf (label)

Cosmicleaf’s wonderful early compilations map out the territory for almost everything that has subsequently appeared on the label…there is both darkness and light, familiar genre sounds and strange new sounds, a mindset open to genuine variety which understands that ‘beautiful’ can mean something profound rather than just cheesy or bland. label: Cosmicleaf country of origin: […]

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Coolangubra

The now-disbanded world fusion trio of Australians Cleis Pearce (violin), Stephen Berry (acoustic guitars) and Greg Sheehan (percussion) left a legacy of three exciting, moody, dynamic albums that draw on elements of folk, jazz and ambient soundscaping. artist: Coolangubra country of origin: Australia style(s): New acoustic, environmental, folk, word beat decades active: 80’s – 90’s […]

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Cocteau Twins

The music of Scottish duo Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser – later expanding a trio by Simon Raymonde – virtually defines the term ambient pop. Regarded as the house band during their lengthy residency at the eclectic British label 4AD in the 80’s and 90’s, The Cocteau Twins’ blissful, enigmatic mood music remains utterly distinctive […]

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Cluster

Like many of their Krautrock peers from Tangerine Dream to Kraftwerk to Popol Vuh, Cluster’s influence on the rise ambient, electronic and avant-garde rock music since the early 70’s has been significant and broad; perhaps even broader than most, given that the duo never chose just one direction or style to refine and hone. artist: […]

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The Cinematic Orchestra

For jazz fans who don’t like electronica, and electronica fans who can’t stand jazz, the Cinematic Orchestra offers a reconciliation that approaches miraculous…Motion (1999) establishes a new kind of mood music. It has the repetitive minimalist patterns of electronic beat music combined with the looseness and free improvisations so fundamental to live jazz. artist: The […]

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Chillosophy (series)

Chillout was a commercial fad for a time, but ambient has many lives and in the early 2000’s the Chillosophy series showed a way forward at a time when major record labels were persisting with soulless recycling exercises like Sony Music’s sterile Open Space franchise. series: Chillosophy country of origin: Sweden style(s): Lounge, ambient trance/techno/dub […]

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Chill Out Or Die (series)

Tags like house, trance, techno and breakbeat weren’t too important in the early days of the UK dance scene…the joy of discovery, the sense of wonder, the weirdness of trying new things with new technological tools: it’s all there in abundance on the Chill Out Or Die series. And most of the albums have aged […]

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Cell (Alex Scheffer)

Alex Scheffer aka Cell is a master of deep, melodic electronica, one of the most gifted composers working in new-school ambient and downtempo. He is also a sound designer of great finesse and subtlety. When his two sides – the instinctive artist and the technical craftsman – are in perfect alignment, the result is some […]

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Derek Carr

‘Soulful’ is a word that gets used a lot by listeners describing Carr’s brand of techno and I think that equates pretty closely with ‘tuneful’. He has an impressive knack of being able layer melodies, including the bass notes, to create a lush effect without actually thickening the sound. A sense of precision and clean […]

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Carbon Based Lifeforms

Hedberg and Segerstad construct their tracks with great care, expertly blending elements of ambient trance, beatless ambient, electro-dub and breaks with patches of static, garbled radio transmissions and disembodied voice bytes. The collision of genre patterns often works brilliantly. artist: Carbon Based Lifeforms country of origin: Sweden style(s): Ambient trance, acid trance, psy-ambient, breakbeat, spacemusic […]

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John Cage

John Cage (1912-1993) is one of the fathers of 20th Century eclectic and experimental music. He changed in many ways how music was perceived and performed…his work in the 1950’s using collages of taped sounds as a method of composing makes him a pivotal figure in the development of electronic music and sampling. artist: John […]

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Cafe Mambo (series)

Any notion that Cafe Mambo lingers in Cafe Del Mar’s shadow when it comes to quality chillout music should be put to rest after hearing these outstanding early compilations by longtime resident DJ Pete Gooding…his exceptional taste and unerring ear for great and sometimes obscure downtempo tunes ensures that his compilations set a standard, rather […]

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Cafe Del Mar (series)

The best Cafe Del Mar albums date mostly from DJ Jose Padilla’s time as curator of the series (1994-1999) and they remain essential snapshots of warm, tech-savvy, post-dance chillout music…an oasis of old-school ambient, warm Arabian strings, liquid dub, Latin melodies, nu jazz and lounge. Each is spread over a wide, blissed-out canvas that’s as […]

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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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