Much to my surprise and endless pleasure my recent album “Famous Monsters” has met with some very, very strong praise. It’s a reception I’m surprised by because hey, I just thought I was putting out just another damn ambient album. But people really dig it. Who knew?
I guess it surprises me so much because I never really considered myself much of a fan of ambient music. I’m familiar with it certainly from it’s origins in the works of Eno and others but never paid it too much attention. I like some of the releases form the early 90’s resurgence of ambient when techno musicians tried their hand at it. And if asked I might causally answer that I don’t listen to much ambient or have much of an interest in it. But upon thinking I realized that “ca-ca.” Because actually I do know and like a lot of ambient music and I’d be a liar liar pants a-frigging-fire if I said none of it influenced me during the making of Famous Monsters.
So here in no particular order of importance are some of the artists who made an impression upon me with their ambient works.
Michael Brook - Hybrid: Homepiece Jay turned me on to this. Really incredible stuff. No surprise Eno is on this along with Daniel Lanois. Brook creates such a mesmerizing, creepy and wonderful environment in a relatively short span of time.
Richard Skelton - Noon Hill Wood: Richard Skelton is one of those eccentric, dark English musicians who makes music that just tears it out of you. I was playing a song of his and my daughter said, “Please turn that off it’s making me anxious.” And it does that. But it’s beautiful, to. There’s something inhuman about it, ask fi the music weren’t made so much as caught by chance in a field recording. There’s an interview with him in The Wire where he talks about methods and creations that’s pretty good if a little depressing.
David Kristian - Dog Dreams of Running: Kristian is a prolific mad scientist Canadian kind of like Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares without the weird drugs, ReNoise and general insanity. “Room Tone” is a collection of ambient works recorded on a lot of old analog gear including some modulars well before the recent modular boom. Good stuff.
Robert Logan - Horn: I sometimes feel a little embarrassed about how much I love Robert Logan’s music but damn the kid is good. He took his album Flesh and made Flesh Decomposed out of it, essentially reworking the tracks as ambient ones. He has an ear for making tracks sound alien while at the same time drawing upon some ancient tones. Good and creepy.
Eno - I’m not gonna link anything because it’s Eno for God’s sake. If you don’t know anything by Eno by now go and get Eagles Greatest Hits and leave me alone.
Michael Bross - Subway Meditation: Bross does a lot of music for video games but don’t let that sway you. His solo work is amazing. The entire Subway Meditations album is sublime. Really. Someday I will actually ride the subway while listening to it. But it works on a country drive at night, too.
Anduin - the black line (forever waiting): Anduin is criminally unknown and underrated. I found his music via BoingBoing and it’s been on regular rotation ever since. He’s a big user of repetition and loops which is not exactly uncommon in ambient music but not often used to the degree he does. He reminds me of Tom Wait for some reason in that his music seems to capture a different age, some kind of lost spender with a hint of sadness. And doom. And darkness. Also he’s a nice guy to email and fanboy over. Dig in.
Global Communication - 5:23: 5:23 is a cover of “Love On A Real Train” by Tangerine Dream, most famously used in the movie Risky Business. It’s a damn good one, too. But GC deserves props because the rest of this album is the tits. Listen up.
Tangerine Dream - Love on a Real Train: Ok I had to include this one. Because I realize this was one of the first songs that made me want to get a synthesizer. That repetition, arpeggiation and those pads oh my god. Bonus points for Rebecca De Mornay. Meow!
Vangelis - L’Enfant: This song. This. Another one I heard when I saw the film “The Year of Living Dangerously” and I was mesmerized by it. The track and the film. The full song is great but this clip is gorgeous, too. Great pairing of film and music.
Lustmord - Black Star: Lustmord (Brian to his mommy) is one of the good old baddies of dark ambient music, right up there with Rapoon and Zoviet France. His music is absolutely entrancing and terrifying. Love it. He does sound design for Graham Revell of SPK out in Hollywood now but he hasn’t lost his touch.
Rapoon - Groundswell: Rapoon is another one of the ancients, doing ambient music since before it really had a name. He was one half of Zoviet France who were a major influence on Autechre. There’s a bit more of a tribal, ritual feel to his music. It’s not just dark but ancient and arcane, as if reviving long dead gods and long forgotten practices.
Zoviet France - Something This Beautiful: Hard to call this ambient but it’s definitely something preceding it. Dark, heavy stuff. Really crazy. Autechre was influenced by them in a big way. Try listening to this with the lights off. I dare you.
833-45 - Gates of Antioch: Caressing (or abrading it maybe?) the border of ambient music, noise and techno is this criminally unknown album from 833-45. The album is like a long broadcast from the end of the world with snippets of table drums and number stations. I used to listen to this quite a lot while writing. Mesmerizing.