Free Radicals is Noisey's column dedicated to experimental music. We take a look at the trends emerging from the fringes and why they're meaningful. The world is louder by the day. How can you focus? How can you prioritize what problems to solve? How can you enjoy a pop song when you can't even hear yourself think? For those moments, there exists a slower kind of music, a music that allows you the space for your thoughts to wander, for your mind to open, to regenerate some of what was lost. This stuff can be harder to find and to keep up with—but it's really rewarding if you turn yourself over to it.
‘Discreet Music’ (1975)
Amorphous, open-ended, unstructured time, with undercurrents of foreboding, pockets of boredom and fleeting interludes of peace or reassessment. He does have other skills. He has intermittently made song albums in the decades since. Yet the bulk of his own recordings, and all of those selected here, are instrumentals that, old or new, are particularly suited to orchestrate this uneasy historical moment. Eno was not the first to make music designed to maintain a subliminal, atmospheric presence while evading the foreground. By his account, medical circumstance led him to thinking about music as just one element in a larger environment. Yet Eno himself has continued to rework what ambient music might mean with continual flexibility, shifting his approaches and adapting constantly to new technology and circumstances. There are clearly sounds he is drawn to repeatedly: glimmering reverberant timbres, uncannily sustained chords and clusters, melodic phrases that shy away from turning into melodies. But his catalog holds ample exceptions to any generalization about his music.
10 Essential Ambient Albums
It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the s, when others made ambient music that felt allegorically about life and death, the two locked in some eternal competition. Rather than co-mingle the two, Fripp and Eno split them like some kind of fork in the road. Release Year: Where his earlier work favored the crackle of garbled transmissions and clanging metallic wires, Harmony in Ultraviolet leans toward heavy, layered drone, drifting by like a massive airship that appears far too heavy to remain aloft, a Star Wars -scale object that blots out the sky and shoots off sparks. His palette includes pipe organs, gnarly guitar feedback, static, and woozy strings, all of which come together for music of awe, the feeling of contemplating an erupting volcano or a massive tornado from a safe distance. It makes you feel small, one speck on a pale blue dot. Harmony is the rare ambient album that begs to be played loud. So, in , she descended 14 feet beneath the earth, into a cistern located in Washington where sounds reverberated up to 45 seconds in the dampness. Deep Listening , the recording born of these sessions, feels cosmic, like listening to the echoes of the Big Bang.
As a longtime nerd of electronic music in all of its forms, compiling a list of the ten best ambient albums is true torture. Please know that I feel appropriately ashamed for leaving out all the classics I inevitably must skip here. However, if this list helps those uninitiated down the path of chilled-out enlightenment, then my job has served its purpose. These found sounds only go so far before the human element needs to take charge and converge the atmosphere with samples, synths, and classical origins. These works acted as a catalyst to any type of modern beat-less, instrumental music existing. Eno proved that instrumental electronic music can be just as emotional as the most complicated Mozart symphony, or more importantly in the face of tired rock aesthetics , the longest screeching guitar solo. The young techno crowd stepped in and showed off their aptitude in studio science while incorporating the latest and greatest in musical technology. Some of the finest moments in ambient music shimmered from this time period and those precious ideas only continue to gather steam. An organic approach to ambient music is key — it invites the listener to be just as engaged and proactive as is necessary.