Category Archives: Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Big Chill Recordings

The Big Chill didn’t invent the chillout compilation but it did create a unique musical scene of its own in the UK. And unlike the generic blends that were being churned out by the end of the 1990’s, most of the label’s compilations of songs and instrumentals are eclectic, often surprising and sometimes wonderfully obscure. […]

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Dr Atmo and Ramin

The tracks ‘Apadana’ and ‘Terasury’ which bookend the first album are high points, based around Third World-style vocal swells with a deep, aching beauty that will just wipe you out. The vocals are set against a backdrop of haunting yet warm analogue synth drones and anchored by slow, incredibly hypnotic percussion loops. artist: Dr Atmo […]

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The Atman Project

Although they never made another album together, on Love and Pain (1989) composers Skeckel and Russe made a significant contribution to Germany’s proud tradition of being the first to explore new music technology, Indeed, they pulled off something remarkable: the sound of machines crying. artist: The Atman Project country of origin: Germany style(s): Ambient, environmental, […]

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Michael Atherton

Atherton recorded some striking albums during the 1990’s that hold much appeal to ambient and downtempo fans. Classically trained but adept on a wide range of folk and ethnic instruments, his textural invention and sense of colour are in abundance on these releases. artist: Michael Atherton country of origin: Australia style(s): World music, contemporary classical, […]

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Asura

Opening with an orchestral, almost cinematic overture, Life Squared (2007) traverses most points of the ambient trance and ethno-ambient compass with emotion, invention and kind of tension-and-release dynamics that can make you feel giddy if you happen to be standing up. My advice: sit down and stay there. artist: Asura country of origin: France style(s): […]

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Ashra (Manuel Gottsching)

Alongside Tangerine Dream’s classics of the same period, the early albums Inventions For Electric Guitar (1975), New Age Of Earth (1976) and Blackouts (1977) are essential slices of mid-70’s German electronica. artist: Ashra country of origin: Germany style(s): Krautrock, Berlin-school ambient, ambient trance, psychedelia, prog rock decades active: 70’s – 10’s essential releases: Inventions For […]

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Artificial Intelligence (series)

This series remains ample proof that the re-emergence of ambient via the early electronic dance music scene of the 1990’s was – far from being the fad some accused it of – one of the most exciting and creative developments in late 20th century music. series: Artificial Intelligence (Warp Records) country of origin: UK style(s): […]

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The Art Of Chill (series)

The melodic and atmospheric roots of club trance and progressive house lie in the layered sounds of early psychedelic ambient ala Tangerine Dream. So it’s only fitting that iconic UK dance music label Platipus Records launched the first volume of this downtempo series by focusing on ambient material and remixes from its own artists. series: […]

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Aphex Twin

At its most accessible, Selected Ambient Works volume II has an engaging sense of harmony with billowing, delicate wafts of synthesisers, light percussion patterns and fragile melodies. At its most challenging, it wraps atonal techno bleeps and burps around muted percussion with such insistent repetition that you’ll find yourself either hypnotised or running screaming from […]

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Alpha Wave Movement

It is not hard to tell that American composer Gregory Kyryluk absorbed a lot of old-school German spacemusic in his formative years. We can be thankful he did because, along with fellow Americans artists Jonn Serrie and Spacecraft, he’s grown into one of the world’s most sensitive practitioners of ambient spacemusic. artist: Alpha Wave Movement […]

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Anyma

The album’s final track “Exordyum” is a spellbinding example of minimalist repetition and slow build, informed with that curiously Eastern sense of time where the music seems to grow out of the earth rather than simply start at one point and finish at another. artist: Anyma country of origin: Canada style(s): World music, ethno-ambient, gothic, […]

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Aleph Zero Records

The best psyambient remains apart from both the fickle commercialism of chilled house and the cold digital glitch aesthetics of much post-90’s ambient techno…Aleph Zero’s debut compilation Natural Born Chillers captures with utter perfection the richness of psychedelic downbeat music post-2000. label: Aleph Zero Records country of origin: Israel style(s): Psy-ambient, ethno ambient, exotic dub, […]

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Air

Air’s gently psychedelic brand of lounge music found commercial success worldwide between the late 1990’s and mid-2000’s and, though their time in the sun has now passed, at least two albums in their discography remain outstanding examples of ambient pop. artist: Air country of origin: France style(s): Ambient pop, retro lounge, synthpop, psychedelia decades active: […]

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Aeoliah

These four albums from very early in Aeoliah’s career – the early to mid 1980’s – offer some superb new age ambient music. They’re examples of just how good the early American new age music could be, before the bigger record labels caught the wave in the late 80’s and the sounds dissipated into bloodless […]

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William Ackerman

Although persistently tagged as new age, the appeal of Ackerman’s best recordings goes far beyond the music’s undeniable prettiness. Looking back now, his best albums exhibit intelligence, grace and an intriguing cosmic aura; they stand among the finest downtempo acoustic instrumental releases of the era. artist: William Ackerman country of origin: USA style(s): New acoustic, […]

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