I've already done a "Favorite Ambient Albums" mix and a "Favorite Ambient Artists" mix so it makes sense that there would eventually be a "Favorite Ambient Tracks" mix. And here it is.
Ambient music is definitely not a song based genre. I like to remember works as a whole or an artist's work as a whole. There are artists that I absolutely love but can't name more than a handful of specific tunes. So it sort of goes against form to make a list of fav ambient tracks. That being said, when I sat down to make a list there were a few cuts that I immediately knew I wanted in the mix, like Structures From Silence.
This is a looong mix, clocking in at 2 hours and 9 minutes. I wanted to let some of the longer tracks breathe, even if I couldn't play the entire 28 minutes of Structures.
Here's a few thoughts on the tunes that made the cut...
The first track in the mix is a beautiful watery tune, Submarine Poetry, from krill.minima. I used this one as the first cut in my first "sea" mix and every time I play that mix I marvel at how perfect this tune is.
Next up is Lantern Marsh by Brian Eno. I could have filled this entire mix with Eno favorites but I had to try and limit myself somehow. I love On Land and this cut pretty much sums up that wonderful album for me.
Track number three is Lear by Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis and Pauline Oliveros. I'm curious as to how widely known the album Deep Listening is. This is not classic Eno or Roach ambient. The recording took place inside a huge cistern which is responsible for its tremendous reverb. The unusual instruments of accordion, trombone, didgeridoo and voice use the acoustics of the cistern to create long sustained drones. The effect is hypnotic & beautiful.
The fourth cut is the previously mentioned Steve Roach track, Structures From Silence. A lot of ambient music doesn't really have a recognizable melody but this song is about as close as you'll get. I've been listening to this one for a loooooong time and never seem to tire of it.
Another Eno tune drops next and its Drift from the Apollo album. There several cuts on this album that could make a lot of great ambient lists but I just like this song because it reminds me of the scenes it was used with in the film For All Mankind. If you haven't seen the film do so asap!
The next cut has been a sleep time favorite for years. It's A Smooth Surface by A Produce. I love all the space between notes. It doesn't really change much over the course of a long track, but that's what I love about it.
I have a special place in my ambient heart for the eighth track, Silence Speaks In Shadows, because it was recorded not far from where I live here in Wisconsin. Paul Vnuk Jr. recorded environmental sounds near his studio in Cudahy. Those sounds included thunderstorms, street noise, trains and even a police siren wailing in the night. Combine those field recordings with some droney synths & you've got a great night time atmospheric piece.
The Most Beautiful Blue by Eluder is the next cut. This is a track that I didn't realize how much I liked it until I realized that it kept showing up in mixes & playlists. Similar to Submarine Poetry, it has that great ocean/sea feel to it that I love.
This next cut, Diamond Cove, is from a favorite artist of mine, Kyle Bobby Dunn. It's from his album Bring Me The Head Of Kyle Bobby Dunn. Just like Eno I could pick a bunch of KBD songs to put in this kind of mix but I settled on this one because I like its simplicity.
The KBD song segues nicely into the Olancha Farewell by Harold Budd. I didn't know how much I loved this track until I recently heard for the first time in years. Normally when I think of Harold Budd I think of piano but this track is just too beautiful to keep out of this mix. It's similar in feel to the KBD song that precedes it and to Rhubarb by Aphex Twin. Olancha Farewell is from the album Lovely Thunder.
The Marsen Jules song, Oeillet Sauvage, is similar in feel to the A Produce track from earlier in the mix. It has lots of space in between notes, which I love.
The third Eno song in the mix shows up next. It's 1/1 from Music for Airports. I remember buying this on vinyl the day it was released back in 1978. I had come to Eno through David Bowie so I knew of some of his quieter stuff on Low and Before and After Science. But I was unprepared for the deliberate repetition and slowness of Music for Airports. It blew me away. This album has remained a favorite to this day.
After Eno we move on to Mark Rownd - Painting Twilight. I hesitated to put this track in because the album as a whole treads very close to new age territory. But I sort of fell for this album back when it was released in 1998 and it has stayed with me. Especially the title track, Painting Twilight. Its got that ebb and flow, breathing quality that I go for.
One of my favorite ambient albums of the last ten years is Butterfly by Disturbed Earth. First released on Atmoworks in 2012, it was originally recorded in 1977 using a Fripp-style two reel to reel set up. I love ambient guitar in general and this one just hits the sweet spot of ambient guitar, ebb and flow, and classic sound and fell.
I'm not sure how many folks would put this next track on their best of all time lists. If I were hearing this cut, The Path Not Taken by Thom Brennan, for the first time today I'm sure if I would like it as much as I do. I know that part of my love for this track is wrapped in the time I discovered it back in the mid 90s when tribal ambient was a big deal. I've pretty much stepped away from the tribal stuff now, but this track still gets me every time.
We reach the end of this epic mix with Fripp & Eno - Evening Star, the title track from Evening Star. I know, more Eno. But I couldn't resist this one. Beautiful cut, perfect end for a favorite mix.
Wow! That's easily the most I've ever written for a mix post. Hope that didn't bore you to death. I wasn't planning on a track by track essay but I started talking about a few and it just took off. Anyway I hope you enjoy this mix I much as I did.
T R A C K L I S T :
- 00:00 krill.minima - Submarine Poetry
- 07:25 Brian Eno - Lantern Marsh
- 11:50 Stuart Dempster & Panaiotis & Pauline Oliveros - Lear
- 20:15 Steve Roach - Structures from Silence
- 28:40 Peter Gabriel - The Nest That Sailed The Sky
- 33:00 Brian Eno - Drift
- 35:25 A Produce - A Smooth Surface(deep meditation version)
- 46:15 Paul Vnuk - Silence Speaks in Shadows
- 53:30 Eluder - The Most Beautiful Blue
- 58:15 Kyle Bobby Dunn - Diamond Cove
- 01:01:20 Harold Budd - Olancha Farewell
- 03:20 Marsen Jules - Oeillet Sauvage
- 09:00 Brian Eno - Music for Airports 1/1
- 19:00 Mark Rownd - Painting Twilight
- 24:30 Aphex Twin - Rhubarb
- 31:00 Budd & Eno - An Echo of Night
- 33:05 Disturbed Earth - Butterfly
- 45:30 Thom Brennan - The Path Not Taken
- 02:01:30 Fripp & Eno - Evening Star
- 02:08:54 end