TOP AMBIENT RECORDS OF ALL TIME PART II : 11 TO 30
Part 2 of some of the most essential ambient records of all time. Part 1 can be found here. As I did the first part 5 years ago, my taste in ambient has evolved quite a bit since then. I became aware that some readers rightfully pointed that I forgot Lifeforms which is a total brain fart I ll admit. I have since became a fan of Loscil, Mick Chillage (and his Autumn of communion project with Lee Norris aka Norken) A lot of people wrote me to ask for a part two so here it is. I’ve put number 11 to 30 here and number 31 to 50 is in another post on the blog and can be found here. My list was inspired by my personal taste but also 2 surveys done by hyperreal.
11) FSOL : Lifeforms / 1994
What can be said about Lifeforms that hasn’t been said before ? It’s an epic ambient-techno album that has stood the test of time. Truly gorgeous samples such as Klaus Schulze AND Ozric Tentacles. The album is mixed and is meant to be listened from start to finish, so seamless. It has a couples of samples from b-movies like Millenium (You will awake now, remain calm) and Repo men (Miller explains the weirdness in the world). It’s probably one of the most well reviewed album of his genre and by countless of people all around the world. The peak of FSOL career.
But the greatness of Lifeforms lies in the fact that, much like great sampling artists like DJ Shadow or DJ Premier, FSOL were able to grasp just a few seconds of a Andrew Grossart lush track and make it into an even bigger, more brooding track. The atmospheres here are dark, sharp, crisp, and cunning. They were meticulously crafted with dexterity and ingenuity. Those samples here often only last 5 or 10 seconds. To take these quick snippets and make them into epic ambient-techno tracks takes some bloddy geniuses. The vision, the artwork, the seamless, floating tracks that makes this album flawless as a whole ; when combined (Much like Bytes by BDP), it’s sheer brilliance.
Other breaktaking samples :
Ill Flower : at 1min10 : samples The Venus Wearing the Space Uniform Shining in Florescent Light Color by Tomita
Omnipresence : at 0,01 samples Airlight by Klaus Schulze here.
Flak samples : at 0,06 Paul Williams and Andrew Grossart Shining Ice here.
Flak also samples : at 1,01 William Thomson and Trevor Nightingale Cloud Formations here.
12) Robert Rich : Somnium
Robert Rich, is an American composer that made music for the last 30 years and release a DVD release called : Somnium, a single continuous track separated into three parts, a 7-hour sleep concert recording. For the record: this is the longest piece of continuous music ever produced. Over 7 hours of Robert Rich’s best, beautiful ambient works. the music on this album was composed to influence the dreams and pre-REM hypnogogic visions of the listener. For this purpose it is suggested that the volume be kept down to the threshold of perceptibility, ideally with speakers surrounding the listener’s bed. Rich also recommends this album for conventional listening. For a brief period at the beginning of the album there is a slightly more active texture while the listener adjusts the volume and settles down to sleep. As the music progresses it slowly drifts through a variety of electronic drones as well as acoustic source material and nature recordings. The third and final track gradually fades into a morning atmosphere filled with bird songs.
Water effects drift in and out of heavenly chords. Birds sing and nature calls. This piece of music is wonderful, absorbing ambience. There is nothing decayed or dead here; everything is working in harmony. Changes in sound are so subtle that you find yourself in different landscapes without realising it. Part 1, a perfect countryside walk which lasts for days. You slowly venture into a mutating forest… Part 2: a visit to underground caverns filled with sparkling crystals and unknown wonders. Part 3, you are floating through space on an endless voyage to nowhere, occasionally being brought back down to Earth to enter calming forests with the alluring sound of birdcall brushing your conciousness. In order to allow for the album’s seven-hour length it was released on the DVD-video format instead of DVD-Audio. For insomniacs or just ambient heads alike…Essential.
Robert Rich : Somnium / Hypnos : 2001 : Part 3 (Divided here in IV parts it is the part IV) 144:45 minutes
13) Lustmord : The place where black stars hang
Dark as hell, “The Place Where the Black Stars Hang” was first released in 1994 on Side Effects, via Soleilmoon and while the earlier Lustmord album “Heresy” gave birth to the dark ambient genre, it is “The Place Where the Black Stars Hang” that defines it. It’s a work regularly cited by critics, audiences and musicians as being amongst the very best and most influential albums of its decade. The album has a more nuanced feeling of space and detail than ever before. Based on recognition established through recordings such as “Black Stars”, Brian Williams, the man who is Lustmord, went on to provide music and sound design for numerous major motion pictures, with credits on over 40, including The Crow, The Negotiator, Pitch Black, The Saint and Underworld. The track Metastatic resonance especially stands out as track that sounds like an endless void or a vortex taking us into another dimension.
14) Shades of orion 2 / Fax +49-69/450464 / 1995
If Aliens listened to music this is what they would be bumping in their spacecrafts. I’ve been playing this endlessly i don’t know how many times by now since it landed on my collection. The whole album is mixed, seamless and the sound is hypnotic and puts you right to the edge. A spiritual album that takes the listeners on a dazzling journey. Clearly one of FAX best albums. A prime album with no beats, and a deep collaboration between Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue.
15) Electro harmonix : Electro harmonix / 1994
Probably my favorite FAX release especially for Morphing clouds, one epic ambient track of 47 minutes that morphs and uses a soft swirling synth and shifting atmospheres that come back and forth. A truly great collaboration between two great artists : Jonah Sharp aka Spacetime continuum and Tetsu Inoue. The album only has 3 tracks : Morphing clouds, Replay and Floating sync.
16) Higher intelligence agency & Biosphere : Polar sequences / 1995
This is a live recording from the 1995 Polar Music Festival, in Tromø Geir Jenssen’s hometown. Recorded on the top of a mountain above the town, the music uses only samples sourced locally – people speaking at the festival, the cable car which brought people to the performance, the melting snow and ice, et cetera.
The result is a stunningly accomplished and balanced piece, musically, technically, emotionally. It bridges uplifting, glacial sounds with a dark moodiness without ever becoming tired and clichéd, neither natural nor electronic, but somewhere out on its own. An absolute essential for all ambient heads and discerning listeners out there. This album is without any doubt one of the greatest electronic piece in music history. Pure electronic bass and drum with floating sounds that come from any side around you. A true masterpiece.
17) Autumn of communion : Autumn of communion
Sadly the last album on FAX, as Pete Namlook died soon after. I e-mailed Peter one month before it came out in 2012 and he send me a copy of this gem. We had agreed for an interview but in the mean time he passed away. A testament to the quality Mr. Namlook put out there on his label. It’s a beautiful journey from Mick & Lee, very reminiscent of 90’s ambient-techno such as James Bernard, Air Liquide, and Namlook’s output itself. You can see that a lot of endeavors went through this album, it’s very mature but yet so smooth in its execution. Analog synths and very warm soundscapes. I am posting a preview but if you’re an ambient buff, you owe it to yourself to buy this album.
18) Biosphere : Cirque
Each Biosphere album has its own atmosphere. Microgravity sounds more aquatic to, Cirque is more dubby, Autour De La Lune (which means Around the Moon) is composed with bits of silence from the space. Le “Grand Dome” sounds like being trapped in a deep, frozen fjord. Towards the end the listener will still be floating on the Arctic Ocean. This album was inspired by the true story of a young North American explorer (Chris Mac Candless) who lived a brutal dream of ascetism but fatally lost himself in the dense forests of Alaska. I would like to specify that words you can weakly listen to in the 2nd track are in french. The man is talking about northern lights and the return of the sun, seemingly during an exploration in the North Pole. Originally, to me Biosphere’s best release was Substrata & in every respect it still remains a classic but Cirque just has that something extra, a real journey into the glacial sound that Biosphere creates, a journey that one takes with the explorer to which it is inspired from.
19) Robert Rich & Lustmord : Stalker / 1995
I found about this nice collaboration between dark ambient and music film artist Lustmord and Robert Rich entitled Stalker, in 1995. One of the greatest dark ambient albums ever. The album is based liberally on Andre Tarkovsky’s 1979 film of the same name, and the mood of the film is captured admirably by Rich and Lustmord. But any resemblance to the arc of the film seems almost inconsequential, as the compositions stand well alone from any existing pretext.
20) Brian Eno : Apollo : Soundtracks & atmosphere / 1983
Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks is an album by the British ambient musician Brian Eno, released in 1983. It was written, produced, and performed by Brian Eno, his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois. Music from the album appeared in the films 28 Days Later, Traffic, and Trainspotting, whose soundtrack sold approximately four million copies. This music was originally recorded in 1983 for a feature length documentary movie called “Apollo” later retitled For All Mankind, directed by Al Reinert . Eno said of the album : …. Well, I love that music anyway…. What I find impressive about that music is that it’s very concerned with space in a funny way. Its sound is the sound of a mythical space, the mythical American frontier space that doesn’t really exist anymore. That’s why on Apollo I thought it very appropriate, because it’s very much like “space music“
23) Steve Hillage : Rainbow dome musik / 1979
Released after ‘green’ in 1979, this album of what was then considered experimental electronic music, now called ambient. It is a seminal document in the field. More joyous and uplifting, and more engaging principally than others experimenting in the field at the same time, these two performances contain beautiful and melodic synth textures over which Hillage provides some liquid guitar work. It would take 12 years before Hillage would pursue this direction again in System 7 and climb the electronic heights. This is a whole album of mostly sweet, gentle, soothing and high toned new-age music. Recorded for the London Festival of Mind Body and Spirit which played in April of 1979, it is a very trippy, yet consistent recording – Hillage often on glissando guitar as well as that distinctive Gong (and Pink Floyd) delayed echo-rhythm, as well as keyboards, accompanied by Miquette Giraudy on keys, synth and Tibetan bells. In fact, the first composition, “Garden of Paradise” is very soothing and meditative. For me this is perfect background accompaniment for doing things around the house – like cooking and cleaning or artistic activities, but its a bit too intense to read to or concentrate on something else with. A spaced out ambient classic.
24) Loscil : Endless falls / 2010
A rainy concept album but my fellow Canadian Scott Morgan from Vancouver. Subtle and powerful, persistent with being imposing Loscil’s “Endless Falls” is another beautifully crafted sonic experience. Waves of soft sounds come and go, while subtle details create a sense of rythm and texture. My highlights are “Lake Orchard”, a kind of slow motion trance, and the deeply emotional “The Making of Grief Point”. Stylistically speaking this album resembles previous Loscil works, but at the same time it is a new and unique experience which I highly recommend. Meditative, focused and highly therapeutic. Quite simply stunning in his results but his musings are so simple.
25) Pete Namlook & Richie Hawtin : From within 1-3
A wicked collaboration between the spacy synths of Namlook and the 303 acid lines of Richie Hawtin. The album has long, delving soundscapes and build ups. Incredible dense layers from volume 1 to 3. I originally bought the 3 cd’s in 2000, but to think they were released a few years just tell about how forward thinking they were – and still are, to this day. The beauty of this collaboration is they have completely different styles that really complement each other. Plastikman was quite keen on using the Roland TB-303. But here we have Namlook adding more sonic depth. Alone it may not work out, but together their gestalt does vault to the “awesome” level. The outstanding voyage that is ”A million miles to Earth” reminds me of my endless nights of solitude, whilst studying at the university. All 3 CD’s were lined up in my stereo, focusing on boring matter but often daydreaming of the landscapes I could see while I delve into the music…
26) Brian Eno : Ambient 4: On Land / 1982
Ambient 4: On Land is a 1982 album by British ambient musician Brian Eno. It was the final edition in Eno’s ambient series, which began in 1978 with Music for Airports. On Land is a mixture of synthesizer-based notes, nature/animal recordings, and a complex array of other sounds, most of which were unused, collected recordings from previous albums and the sessions that created them. Despite the music’s dark leanings, it is in a sense still highly ambient in that the tracks tend to blend into each other and thus fulfill all of Eno’s original expectations of what the term means. Eno also had something to say about how music—this album in particular—should be listened to. In the liner notes, he suggested (even going so far as to draw a diagram) “a three-way speaker system that is both simple to install and inexpensive, and which seems to work very well on any music with a broad stereo image”.
27) John Foxx : Cathedral oceans / 1997
Cathedral Oceans (after 2003 also referred to as Cathedral Oceans I) is an album of ambient music by John Foxx, ex-leader of new wave band Ultravox and synth pioneer. Released in 1997, it marked Foxx’s return to the music scene after an absence of seven years. It was also his first solo album since 1985’s In Mysterious Ways. The album’s artwork consists of collages by Foxx himself, overlaying various pictures and textures with the faces of statues. Cathedral Oceans is a long ongoing project by Foxx, the first recordings that appear on this album were made as early 1983. In 1987 Cathedral Oceans material was played live by Foxx in various buildings, gardens and cathedrals in England and Rome. As a result of the long genesis of the album it does sound somewhat fragmented in places, but the overall effect is soothing, almost pastoral ambience created by extensive usage of reverb and echo coupled with gregorian chanting.
28) Vangelis : Blade runner / 1982
Blade runner is by far my favorite movie of all time. And its soundtrack is also my favorite of any film ever released. It is mostly a dark, melodic combination of classical composition and synthesizers which mirrors the futuristic film noir envisioned by Scott. The original soundtrack release was delayed for over a decade, until 1994, despite the music being well-received by fans and critically acclaimed—nominated in 1983 for a BAFTA and Golden Globe as best original score.
Arriving 12 years after the release of the film, in 1994, the soundtrack to the 1982 futuristic noir detective thriller Blade Runner was as bleak and electronically chilling as the film itself. By subtly interspersing clips of dialogue and sounds from the film, Vangelis creates haunting soundscapes with whispered subtexts and sweeping revelations, drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern textures and evoking neo-classical structures. Often cold and forlorn, the listener can almost hear the indifferent winds blowing through the neon and metal cityscapes of Los Angeles in 2019. The sultry, saxophone-driven “Love Theme” has since gone on as one of the composer’s most recognized pieces and stands alone as one of the few warm refuges on an otherwise darkly cold but beautiful score.
Fans of Ridley Scott‘s groundbreaking film (as well as those interested in the evolution of electronic music) will warmly take this recording into their plastic-carbide-alloy hearts.
Vangelis wrote this music to perfection, capturing all the emotions and feelings you need to feel when you are looking at a beautifully atmospheric electronic landscape capable of highlighting the weirdness and the beauty. The music also captures well the epic proportions of the special effects. No other soundtrack that I remember have managed to capture quite as perfectly the rich imaginary of science fiction and the sense of otherworldly metaphysical angst. Aphex Twin, Global Communications, FSOL and DJ Krush are just a few of the names that owe something to this historical album. The overall impression is of a dark and troublesome future with brief glimpses of hope and great beauty. As a musical score this truly captures the moods and feelings inspired by reading the novels of Philip K Dick, far more than any other adaption of his material to date. An album that showcased how important the right music & sound effects are to make a memorable film.
29) Tangerine dream : Phaedra / 1974
This 1974 masterpiece from Christopher Franke, Edgar Froese, and Peter Baumann ebbs and flows with richly dark soundscapes of electronic sounds and synth. Phaedra was a progenitor for much ambient–and some dance–music, influencing such artists as Steve Roach. After listening to Phaedra it’s easy to understand why. The signature pulsing of thick, beautiful Tangerine Dream synth falls across the ambient treasures here, pulling along the orchestral dreamscape before oozing aside for thick washes of expansive sound. The now-classic title cut is both soothing and ghostly, throbbing with subtle sequences and twisted metallic calls before diving into a swamp of nightmarish whistles and hoots. “Mysterious Semblance” soars and swoops like a lovely electronic eagle, bringing tripped-out light and cosmic dignity to the collection. This and the follow-up Rubycon are juicy pieces to the Tangerine Dream pie. This is the first Tangerine Dream album to feature their now classic sequencer-driven sound, which launched the Berlin School genre. It also earned the group a gold disc in seven countries, and yet in their native Germany it sold barely 6,000 units. Writing in his 2000 Ambient Century, Mark J. Prendergast describes the title track: “At over 17 minutes it conveyed feelings of the cosmos, of giant suns exploding, of huge ocean movements, of mythological lands, of eddies and drifts. Layer upon layer of futuristic sounds piled one on top of the other until the whole thing climaxes in some interstellar void.”
30) Manuel Göttsching : E2 E4 / 1984
E2-E4, was recorded in 1981 but released in 1984, and was not the first solo recording album by Manuel Göttsching but his 5th after Inventions for electric guitar, followed by New age of earth, Blackouts and then Dream and desire. The album itself consists of a minimalistic hour-long progressive electronic track that is subdivided into single tracks according to the stage of the song. The second half of the record is notable for Göttsching’s guitar playing. The album is named after the most popular opening chess move, 1. e4. Maybe its legendary status is due to the fact that as the story is sometimes told, Göttsching stopped in the studio, while touring with Klaus Schulze, and invented techno. In a concert mood, in december of 1981, he entered his studio armed with only a korg synth and a guitar, his favorite asset. And then, he started playing. He improvised. But thanks for us, he decided to record the whole thing on the spur of the moment. And an hour of music was born. But he did not even intended to release it. After many reflections, doubts and afterthoughts, and only after the counsel of usual pal Schulze and especially three years later, he decides to publish the session. E2 E4, covered with a chessboard on cold and brown, sees the light and its light changes the course of history. E2 E4 is the most compelling argument that techno came from Germany. And even more so than any Kraftwerk album. Over a heavenly two-chord synth vamp and simple sequenced drum and bass, Göttsching’s played his guitar like a percussion instrument, creating music that defines the word hypnotic over the sixty minutes of the single track. Nonetheless, even though E2-E4 is very famous within young people (Say Carl Craig and Derrick May) and most notably of the DJ generation and those who like minimalistic music, it is not as much known by those who love Krautrock.
Top ambient records of all time part II : # 31 to 50
31) Klaus Schulze : Irrlicht / Cyborg
Cyborg is the second album by Klaus Schulze. It was originally released in 1973. Originally released in 1972, Irrlicht was his first solo album. The album’s complete title is: Irrlicht: Quadrophonische Symphonie für Orchester und E-Maschinen. Its atmospheric drone music tone is similar to Tangerine Dream’s album Zeit (released the same month) as it stemmed from a common idea that Schulze and Froese couldn’t agree on and parted ways over. Schulze mainly used a broken and modified electric organ, a recording of a classical orchestra rehearsal played backward, and a damaged amplifier to filter and alter sounds that he mixed on tape into a three-movement symphony.Irrlicht, despite its highly unconventional nature, was originally released on the prestigious krautrock label Ohr.
32) The Orb : U.F.O.R.B.
U.F.Orb is the second studio album by ambient house/techno group The Orb. It was released in July 1992 and reached #1 on the UK Album Chart. It featured an edited version of The Orb’s single “Blue Room”. Noted graphic design group The Designers Republic designed the cover art. U.F.Orb expresses The Orb’s fascination with alien life with its bizarre sound samples and in the album’s title itself. The album’s single, “Blue Room”, is itself a reference to the supposed Blue Room of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which was heavily investigated as a possible UFO evidence holding room.”Blue Room”, a near 17-minute piece, features bass playing by Jah Wobble and guitar by coproducer Steve Hillage. The full version of the song is 40 minutes and was released as a single. Some tracks like Majestic and Close encounters have not really aged well, they sound dated. But Blue room, with its sample of Mad professor, Fast forward into dub, and Towards of dub have managed to stay relevant. Nonetheless a classic album.
33) Mick Chillage : FAXology / 2010
A stellar Fax release that is the most true to the 90’s origins of Fax. The titles perhaps hint at the influence. Much of Faxology hearkens back to Inoue/PK collabs such as Shades of Orion. Approaching Antares is the best example. I could *swear* that 1994-era Inoue is collaborating on it. Absolutely one one of the best beatless tracks on Fax in a long time. Approaching Antares is probably my favorite ambient track post 2000. Control Room rings like a trippy voyage in the cosmos Same with Gamma Radiation, with perhaps some Zenith and a few Namlook twinkles and pan effects thrown in. Returning Home reminds me of the upbeat positivity of Zenith: you can’t help but be lifted up by this track. A superb finish.
34) Klaus Schulze & Pete Namlook : Dark side of the moog
The ever ever excellent DSOTM series are collaboration between Pete Namlook and Klaus Schulze, the German Kosmische pioneer. Highly recommended for Namlook aficionados, and well worth your time and money. Lush and expansive, with a thoroughly cosmic feel. The nods to Pink Floyd are very much in evidence here. Not a bad moment through the entire series.
35) Tetsu Inoue : Organic Cloud
This album called Organic cloud slightly edges out the others for me, but only because for the longest time (back in those pre-internet days, when getting good music actually required hard work!) the only song I could get my hands on was Chill in/Chill out, a brilliant track that was included on the second FAX compilation released by instinct records. This is a straight isolationist drone work. If you have not been lucky enough to start scooping some of these early releases, this is your time. keep in mind that after the album “World receiver” (1996) Inoue explored a phase of glitch/music concrete/elctro-accoustic albums, which are all great, but not the sound that I refer to with such reverence here, although his last two albums for FAX (Inland and 2350 Broadway 4) returned to his more pure ambient sound. This album is a good way to start an ambient collection.
36) Pete Namlook & Dr. Atmo – Silence
Silence is the one that started it all, Fax’s first album release and one which caught the ear of both seasoned electronic boffins and dance fans looking for a chilled-out tonic after a night among the thumping beats of clubland.
37) Higher Intelligence Agency* & Pete Namlook – S.H.A.D.O
This collaboration between HIA and Pete is one of the more organic of his releases with a noted artist: you can hear the touches of both, yet are pulling in the same direction. I love Namlook since 1992 but this one I must have gotten from a friend in 2010, who had nearly 50 fax albums, I didn’t own it so he gave me a copy. At his house listening to some random tracks from all the various albums and suddenly track one from this album came on and I was instantly blown away. Pitched up vocals make the talking sound alien like and anything from fax sounds like it was recorded on another planet anyway. Just love everything about this album. Another classic timeless album that will keep me coming back again and again. Check it out Recommended.Full of kitsch 70’s style bleeps/blips, and 90’s drones.. gotcha. Based as a concept on the utterly fab U.F.O. series from the early 70’s, which kept us wee wan ‘uns glued to the telly on sunday afternoons, while mum was bending your ear to go out and get some fresh air. HIA has a reputation rooted in the ambient dub scene of the early 90’s, whilst Namlook is, well, Namlook. Expensive to buy, but an investment; both musically and collector-ly. Secret location is one of my favorite night time track. Absolutely gorgeous.
38) Fires Of Ork, The – The Fires Of Ork 2
This is one of the best Biosphere release. I have everything Geir Jenssen has done. A fabulous sequel to the first one, Pete Namlook and Biosphere is like Miles Davis teaming up with John Coltrone. One of the most atmospheric and haunting things he’s been involved with. To be honest I’m not a big fan of his more experimental later works but this one strikes a nice balance between deep dark ambient and a more accessible ethereal melodic sound, all with that icy tonality that defines Biosphere. There’s a few other nice Jenssen touches scattered over this such as movie / voice samples and environmental noises (sounds like it could be early usage of the Tibet recordings). These blend perfectly with everything else and Jenssen has a knack for using such things to superbly enhance the music where with a lot of artists it could sound gimmicky.
39) Fires Of Ork, The – The Fires Of Ork
Although slightly dated in parts, The Fires of Ork is still a wonderful listen, and sought after for a reason. The CD is worth owning for the tracks Gebirge and The Facts Of Life alone. Gebirge is a long, beatless, spacey ambient trip that sounds really alienesque, pure space cruising stuff that has no equal. The Facts Of Life on the other hand is much more melodious and contains a lot of rhythms is not beatless while the title track, the fires of Ork contains samples from Roy Batty in Blade runner. This album goes into darker ambient domain with Gebirge most notably. A classic release on FAX, and a must for fans of Biosphere and Namlook.
40) Masters Of Psychedelic Ambiance – Mu
Released on Rather interesting (A FAX sub label) in 1995, Mu is an absolutely brilliant, a collaboration between Uwe Schmidt and Tetsu Inoue. Some tracks Flowerhead in my opinion, the beautiful synthetic sounds just shimmer like dragonflies on acid. Or maybe, more aptly put, you, on acid, watching said insects. Incidentally the track listing isn’t all that much help here, since most of the tracks indictated are just semi-random demarcations in the gloriously spaced out sprawl of this record. So while at first glance it might seem like a bunch of short tracks, if you aren’t watching your magic display they all just flow together. Not that it’s the slightest bit of a problem, mind you.
The Japanese word ‘MU’ stands for ’emptyness’ but more in a spiritual sense. The music on ‘MU’ stands for innovative ambience’ that is far away from all kinds of cliches we know so far. ‘MU’ contains 27 titles that reach from chilling monochrome tones to weird layered dub grooves de-synchronizing your perception, drifting and spaced out. Some people say ‘MU’ refers to ‘trip’ experiences but ‘Rather Interesting’ of course denies the connection to any kind of drugs. One of those few records that are rare mostly because no one can bear to part with their copy. Until a reissue I suppose you’ll have to make do with an mp3 download, I do feel sorry for you, believe me, and no, you can’t have mine.
41) Biosphere : Shenzou / 2002
Born in Tromsø, a city in the Arctic Circle of Norway, Jenssen evoked the sense of isolation and arctic calm, more prominent in his earlier albums like Substrata (All Saints Records, 1997) and above mentioned Polar Sequences. But in Shenzhou the ice melts away into the ocean of sound. And with it we drift… and we drift… For a sensory deprived in-vacuum experience, pick up Biosphere’s Autour de la Lune (Touch, 2004) [headphones with deep bass response recommended], as well as his latest, Dropsonde (Touch 2006). In 2007, Norwegian Beatservice Records, re-released the first three of Biosphere’s albums – Microgravity, Patashnik, and Insomnia. Highly recommended for the likes of Gas, PanAmerican, Steve Roach, Robert Henke, Deaf Center and Murcof.
This is where melody and atmosphere have come together seamlessly. I don’t know if the loops featured in most of the songs are taken from classical symphony of some sort? Where Substrata had nothing substantial to hold onto and very mediocre semblances of ‘musical’ elements, Shenzhou proves to be a more pleasant listen in comparison. Meticulous, relaxing, voluminous, engrossing, it will make you train your ear on every sound and be drawn deeper into it. -This- is a 10/10 album as far as ambient goes. Ancient Campfire & gravity assist are 2 ambient masterpiece.
42) Sun electric : 30.7.94 Live / 1995
Sun Electric is the name of an electronic music group from Berlin. Their first release was the single “O’Locco” on the Wau! Mr. Modo label in 1990, and they have considerable body of work released via the R&S / Apollo labels throughout the following decade. Sun Electric have been active and influential within techno, trance, ambient and IDM genres. Alongside fellow prescient acts like Björk, Orbital and Future Sound of London, they are known as one of the pioneers of IDM in Europe, having pushed the frontiers of their unique brand of electronica in the early 1990s, before the genre was even officially fathered later in the decade.
30.7.94 LIVE is a stunning ambient album. Right from the start, “Castor & Pollux” twinkles like a night sky full of stars, and “An Atom of All Suns” sets one adrift, as if blown about by solar winds. Short bursts of electric guitar punctuate the tracks, and those bursts keep the music from drifting off into nothingness. Understated rhythms, too, come and go, driving the tracks forward. “Northern Lights #5” percolates nicely, though, really, the track titles are just a convenience, as they segue into each other seamlessly. Sit back, relax, and let your mind wander. A seriously mesmerizing combination of ambient techno, warm basslines, and classic spacemusic sequencer work. One of the finest ambient albums ever released.
43) Steve Roach : Immersion : Dreamtime / 1988
Born in 1955, Roach was inspired by the music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Vangelis and taught himself to play synthesizer at the age of 20; debuting in 1982 with the album Now. As Roach’s approach to ambient music matured, he has typically been beatless, although his rhythmic and trance-based groove and tribal-ambient releases are nearly as numerous as his more atmospheric releases. Some recordings are strictly synthesizer based, whereas some recordings include ambient guitar experiments, and other releases cross over with more ethnic influences. s a double album, based on Australian Aboriginal culture and the concept of the Dreamtime, by the American ambient musician Steve Roach. Roach had already begun composing this album when by chance he received a letter from writer/photographer David Stahl. Stahl had heard Steve Roach’s third album, Structures from Silence, on the radio while driving through the desert towards Mexico. He informed Steve Roach of his current documentary film project Art of the Dreamtime. Several months later Roach and Stahl traveled to Northern Australia to visit that region’s ancient Aboriginal sites. Roach has a huge catalog, much like Robert Rich. Soul tones and one are two other albums I thoroughly enjoyed.
44) Sultan : Sultan [Peter Kuhlmann & Burhan Öçal] / 1996
Yet another collaboration by Namlook, this time with Turkish percussionist Burhan Ocal as Sultan. Gel Gör Beni Ask N’eyledi is a real masterpiece, which has a spoken word, very low key over a meditative analog synth. They did 3 collaborations with each other but this is by far the strongest and the one that has stood the test of time.
45) Tangerine dream : Alpha centauri
Recorded at the Dierks Studio in Stommeln, the album featured a lineup of Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Steve Schroyder with guests Udo Dennebourg (flute) and Roland Pualyck (synthesizer). Released in Germany on the OHR label, the influence of the album was immense, with the band creating imaginative soundscapes previously unheard on record. This edition includes three bonus tracks including both sides of the classic ‘Ultima Thule’ single issued in Germany in 1971. Alpha Centauri, is the closest star system to the Solar System at 4.37 ly. The music on this album is quite different from Tangerine Dream’s first album Electronic Meditation, partly because of a heavier reliance on keyboards and electronic technology, although they still mostly remain in the background. The other difference is that this album focuses on dark, spacey soundscapes as opposed to jam sessions. The shift in instrumentation resulted in an atmosphere dubbed by Edgar Froese himself as Kosmische musik. This album sold 20,000 copies in their native Germany, nearly four times as many as their later classic Phaedra.
46) Spacetime continuum with Terence Mc kenna : Alien Dreamtime / 1993
Spacetime Continuum teamed up with psychedelic guru Terence McKenna for Alien Dreamtime, and at first, it seems like a amalgamation of early-90s ambient: didgeridoo, slow acid lines, a meandering and nasal spoken word, subdued beats. It’s important to remember, though, that this was a live event, and McKenna uses it as a lecture to advocate his ideas around DMT, psychedelics and shamanism, the music of Jonah Sharp is simply put stunning. On tracks such as “Transient Generator,” he lets his own psychedelic experience come to the fore. “Aerobatic,” similarly, has the Detroitian warmth and sparkle that Sharp would develop further on his later albums.
Timewave Zero starts with an intense diatribe and then, the music comes to a halt in the middle, but it ends like a novel. McKenna’s gives us a speech about his Timewave zero theory: McKenna saw the universe, in relation to Novelty theory, as having a teleological attractor at the end of time. Population growth, peak oil, and pollution statistics were some of the factors that pointed him to an early twenty-first century end date and when looking for an extremely novel event in human history as a signal that the final phase had begun McKenna picked the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This worked out to the graph reaching zero in mid-November 2012. When he later discovered that the end of the 13th baktun in the Mayan Calendar had been correlated by Western Maya scholars as December 21, 2012, he adopted their end date instead.
47) FFWD : FFWD / 1994
First time I’ve heard about FFWD was with Lucky Saddle which was playlisted on the “Trance Europe Express – Volume 2” compilation, I’ve got this since a very long time, but I’ve never paid attention to it, when around 1999, I discovered this fabulous track. The atmosphere is really hypnotic and mesmerizing it’s like time was suspended, This is essential in your record collection. One of the best pristine ambience from the Orb with Robert Fripp, FFWD’s is a beatless soundtrack which is more likely to please fans of the Orb’s trippy ambience than fans of Fripp, whose presence is hardly detectable save for a tinkly guitar loop. Iridescent soundscaping, clicks and expert dubology make this one of the most under-rated ambient albums of the mid-nineties. You can stream here.
Probably one of the best thing The Orb did and one of the most underrated too.
48) Juno reactor : Luciana / 1994
Luciana came out in July 1994 and was the first release from the Inter-Modo label run by The Orb’s Alex Paterson (who is also credited as a “collaborator” on this album). However don’t come to this release expecting the energetic dancefloor psy-trance of High Energy Protons from the same era. Luciana started out as a special project originally composed as the soundtrack to an art installation by Norma Fletcher. It consists of a single hour-long track of what I’d describe as moody, minimal, industrial ambience with occasional alien noises, weird sounds and haunting human voices washing in and out. Back in 1994 one reviewer for a UK record shop admitted in their mail-order catalogue that he gave up on the CD after 34 minutes because he “couldn’t take any more and had to stop it! This extra-dimensional album is not for everybody. Those who have listened to a fair amount of ambient music will actually find this quite accessible but if you haven’t then you might not make it through the first 10 minutes of it.
My first impressions from listening to it instantly brought to mind the minimalism of a Kubrick film. Imagine a sole survivor locked in the engine room of a derelict space hulk who is starting to hallucinate or is being haunted by the departed souls of the crew members; all while their grip on reality very slowly unravels. Think 2001 meets the Shining and you’ve got Luciana. This 61 minute long track has nothing which can be called as a melody, and there is not a single kick or not even a miserable dubby bass effect. Luciana is an immensely sinister and evil piece of music which I admit it’s quite an effort to listen it to the end. Everything is so alien here and totally spooky.
49) Higher intelligence agency : Freefloater
Addictive and mind-altering. Considering this album was released in 1995, it still sounds remarkable. The whole album contains Intricate rhythms and evolving melodies throughout. There is a sonic quality that has stood the test of time well. I can think of many records from this era that have such lush melodies. Usual top notch production from Bobby Bird. And also quite overlooked.
50) Monolake : Gobi the desert
Gobi, is a large desert that runs through China and Mongolia. One of my very favorite albums of all time. I realized the other day (a hot day) that this would be the music I’d hear if I was stuck in a desert with few water. A slow repetitive melody for loneliness, a perfect music to slightly slip into madness. Imagine yourself lose conscience into the sand, dying, with a chance in a million that someone finds you. Imagine that you fall into a long quiet dream that involves an omnipresent sun and a mute old man. From http://www.monolake.de : Gobi is based on extremly slowed down and granularised material from the much later released Polaroid track. The original recording of the session is more then two hours. The most difficult decission when finishing this piece was finding the right duration and mix of excerpts from that session. Gobi became the most successful monolake record ever.