Andrew's 2018 in Review: Favourite Ambient Albums

My favourite ambient albums of the year!

2 years ago

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It's my birthday today and what better thing to do then talk about one of my favourite genres - ambient! These days I struggle with finding meaning in things, maybe because I'm growing older. Music has always been a thing to bring me joy in my darkest hour, and this is my happy birthday to me. I'd also like to thank every wonderful musician in this world who has graced us with their talents. I mean without them, this blog wouldn't exist!

Ambient music is always a hard term to describe. It is mainly composed instrumentally, evokes a certain atmosphere/emotion, and should be able to listen to it in the background as well as the music having incredible detail. There's beatless and beat driven ambient, which essentially means if the song has a driving bass (for example) or drone ambient (beatless ambient). Ambient is also highly present in a lot of music, mainly in the form of interludes or building on atmosphere of certain songs. It's also hard to pick out good ambient music from the bad. This is probably one of the most subjective genres as I find most ambient music beautiful. What separates the good from the great for myself is if a piece of music can bring me a certain emotion. Generally I look for a sense of existentialism in my music (which is why I stated that above) but that feeling could be different for everyone.

2018 continues the bringing ambient music on the rise. Ambient music broke out in the late 70's, of course then most ambient music became New Age, and then mostly disappeared until a couple years ago. Now that's a rough crash course on the history and mostly understated, but that's the idea. I believe ambient started making a comeback with a lot of electronic musicians taking direct influence in their music, and starting to look at these old ambient records. Labels started reissuing tons of lost ambient albums, and the label Cryo Chamber is taking off in popularity as well. I hope to see the scene continue to grow, and it definitely is a growing scene among musicians.

As always, these posts are just to show you my favourites of the year. I can list everything so stuff will get left out. I will post only album artworks with a short description and later I will come out with my full list with more in depth discussion.

Witxes - Orients

A heavily synth based ambient album. Witxes takes you onto a dreamy soundscape of discovering ones true self and realizing the disconnect we have from the world itself.

Nanook of the North - S/T

Based off the film of the same name, this album stays true to the icy nature of the film. Even without seeing the film, you can sense emotions of isolation. Recorded in Iceland and mixed in Greenland for the dark/cold reference.

Jon Hassell - Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One)

A beat driven, experimental ambient album that incorporates sound of a trumpet. Each track tries to paint a picture for you in a unique experience, and Jon Hassell has always tried to make his music sound "4th World".

Tim Hecker - Konoyo

One of ambient's most beloved musicians, and fellow Canadian. Konoyo takes Tim Hecker's love for classical music and molds it to dystopic soundscapes. This time around taking inspiration from the Japanese traditional gagaku style.

Randall Dunn - Beloved

Big time producer tries his hand in making an album this time around. Creates a wonderful environment that sounds organic in a way of getting in touch with ones true emotions.

Hawthonn - Red Goddess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing)

An ambient album trying to emotionally connect with nature on how mankind can abandon landmarks, leaving nature to overtake what was once taken from it. Drone ambient with heavy organs and piano work throughout.

Mount Shrine - Winter Restlessness

Incorporating field recordings, this album using slow drones to bring a sense of  abandonment and loneliness. Best to be listened to on a cold, rainy/snowy night.

Various Artists - In Death's Dream Kingdom

Definitely one of the best compilation  albums this year. Ambient music tends to make a lot of these with Mono no Aware being one of the best ambient albums last year. This album takes TS Eliot's phrase "in Death's dream Kingdom" or the poem as whole The Hollow Men, and these musicians all try to create a sound after it.

Ryuichi Sakamoto & alva noto - Glass

Technically just one long track, I still needed to include one of my favourite musicians ever. Collaborating again with alva noto, this improvisational piece using drone background with coming and going melodies. Both representing the frailty and sturdiness of glass.

protou - The Edge of Architecture

Cryo Chamber releases like to present themselves in a cinematic manner. Blending field recordings with ethereal synth layers, the album focuses on themes of civilization in the future.

Further Listening

Suss - Ghost Box

William Basinski & Lawrence English - Selva Oscura

Dedekind Cut - Tahoe

Giulio Aldinucci - Disappearing in a Mirror

Felicia Atkinson - Coyotes

Rafael Anton Irisarri - Midnight Colours/Sirimiri/El Ferrocarril Desvaneciente

Pariah - Here From Where We Are

Penelope Trappes - Penelope Two

Andrew Kalichak

Published 2 years ago