Top ambient records of all time part II : # 31 to 50
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.