Ambient music has been called wallpaper music, and that’s what makes it great.
Few other genres allow the listener to slip so deeply into a specific state of mind. While it may not be the first thing you rush to when your friend hands you the AUX cord, it is still some of the most beautiful music out there, with complex textures and crooning drones. It’s perfect to help you study or fall asleep.
Here are some albums to get you acquainted with the genre.
1) Brian Eno – Music for Airports (1978)
While not the first ambient album ever, Music for Airports was the first album to be called ambient music. Legendary producer Brian Eno felt compelled to compose the record after becoming annoyed with the soundscapes of several airports. The music is made up of several tape loops, each beautifully fading in and out to create barely noticeable patterns. Eno himself put it best when he said that it is music that is “as ignorable as it is interesting.”
Key Track: 1/1
2) Tim Hecker – Harmony in Ultraviolet (2006)
Often considered to be the greatest ambient artist working today, Canadian maestro Tim Hecker has spent his career utilizing everything he can to craft amazing soundscapes, from church organs to ancient Japanese instruments. Harmony in Ultraviolet is a fantastic example of his hybridization of live instrumentation with synthesized computer sounds. Check out his other masterpieces Ravedeath, 1972, Virgins, and the newly released Konoyo.
Key Track: Chimeras
3) Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
While usually known as a pioneering IDM artist, Englishman Aphex Twin has also successfully dabbled in the ambient world. On this record, he mostly holds back from his insane breakbeats and mind-bending time signatures in favor of slow, repetitive textures. Even with his vast catalog of IDM masterpieces, this record stands out. Also, enjoy this awkward video of Aphex Twin winning a Grammy.
Key Track: #3
4) Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline (2006)
American ambient duo Stars of the Lid are all about drones, but they are unique in the instrumentations that they chose to let breathe. On And Their Refinement of the Decline, the duo utilizes slow guitar swells, soft piano hits, and even horns to create a sprawling world that feels never-ending.
Key Track: Dungtitled (in A major)
5) Gas – Pop (2000)
German DJ Wolfgang Voigt recorded Pop under the pseudonym Gas in an unconventional way. Most of the music released under the Gas moniker include nature recordings that blend in perfectly with pulsating beats or just pretty sounds. A sequel, Narkpop, was released just last year, taking the themes of Pop in a darker direction.
Key track: Untitled #4