Unlike its intangible name, music huddled under the ambient umbrella has come to mean a select number things. Droning synths, experimental production techniques, vast soundscapes and a distinct lack drums are musical touchstones to critics, fans and haters alike.
But, to be honest, you can describe a genre encompassing music that works both for the background an airport and searing intellectual confrontation, however the fuck you want. “As ignorable as it is interesting” Brian Eno wrote on his liner notes for ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’. And he’s considered the creator ambient music after tweaking the minimal, long-form philosophies composers like Steve Reich and Phil Glass.
What we do know is ambient music has mostly been pushed forward by it’s experientalism. In a world acoustic instruments in the 70s, synthesizers were favoured because they fered an outerworldly sound. When computers began to be used more in music production it once again changed the game.
This playlist covers the pioneers, the auteurs, the innovators. Of course Eno is in there but he’s alongside Aphex Twin, a man who never chained himself to a musical fence. Radiohead’s exquisite results with C++ are also in there with ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’ (plus Glastonbury reminded us just how good that tune is). Stars Of The Lid, GAS, Suzanne Ciani, Oneohtrix Point Never and newcomer Yves Tumor also feature.
So, turn f your mind, relax and float downstream.
Louis Anderson-Rich is Mixmag’s Digital Intern. Find him in the New Age section at WHSmith and on