Guest poster Gary Hunter from online journal Low End Theorists shares five recent albums to get you acquainted with ambient in Australia right now.
Australia’s local ambient music scene is thriving. Thanks to a number of record labels like Analogue Attic and Ken Oath, Oz ambient has established its own distinctive style over the past few years, one defined by its ties to Australian landscapes. For those outside of the country, here are five primers you should acquaint yourself with (if you haven’t already) as an introduction to the Australian ambient music scene.
All the labels behind the releases below have a Bandcamp page for streaming and purchase.
Healesville (2019, Apollo)
Albrecht La’Brooy’s latest release Healesville was named after a small village where they recorded the album, outside of Melbourne. Even without knowing the particulars of the album’s origins, the individual tracks evoke a clear image of the Victorian countryside – the sounds of local wildlife interspersed with Sean La’Brooy and Alex Albrecht’s long-form improvisations. Like the sleepy suburb it was conceived in and inspired by, Healesville is unhurried, meditative and beautiful.
Scenes (2018, Ken Oath)
Sydney band Angophora are named after a species of eucalyptus tree endemic to Australia. Their album Scenes is inspired by the sounds and colours of Australia’s wilderness, from the ochres of the Australian outback to the country’s sprawling coastlines. Shaped by the unique ecology of Australia, Scenes is a modern exploration of life in the Australian bush with “gentle percussion, warm synth work and tasteful guitar licks .”
Midday Moon (2018, Bedroom Suck Records)
Although it was only released in 2018, Midday Moon consists of ambient music made during the 80’s and 90’s. The compilation was put together by Sanpo Disco mix blog founder Rowan Mason, the songs selected for their ability to “unearth and present music from the mid-80s that engages with notions of place in an intriguing way.” It’s a great introduction to early ambient music in Australia. The Sanpo Disco radio show on NTS is another fantastic place for anyone interested in the connection between place, travel and music.
Surface (2019, Into the Light)
Fusing organic textures with electronics, Sydney multi-instrumentalist Max Santilli reflects a deep appreciation for the sights and sounds of the Australian landscape. You don’t need to live in Australia to appreciate Surface – Santilli’s gauzy guitar melodies and rich atmospherics will transport you there. Sample Bandcamp review: “Deep and sprawling jazz in an ECM vein.”
THOMAS GRAY & LIAM EBBS
3 Days, 2 Nights (2019, Analogue Attic)
All the artists on the Analogue Attic label can be described as making music with a kind of Australiana vibe. The tracks on 3 Days, 2 Nights were inspired by a journey to Barrington Tops, a national park in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. Consisting of field recordings and infused with warm and humid textures, the album captures the feeling of a specific place in time. The sounds of local wildlife are interwoven with gently pulsing bass lines, perfectly capturing the simultaneous sense of happiness and melancholy you feel when thinking of childhood summer trips.
Gary Hunter is the founder of Sydney-based music publication Low End Theorists and co-host of Theory Therapy, an Aussie mix series focussed on exploring, expanding and redefining the sounds of Australian music.