Best Ambient Music Of All Time ( Top 25 )


Best ambient music of all time lists are quite popular on the internet. While waiting for some mixes to render I came across this list by "Darktremor" over at "listology". Here he lists his "Top Ambient Music Of All Time." I found it closely resembles my own section of best ambient music in the minimal
ambient sounds sense. So, I thought I'd share with readers here and see what you think. Read on for some tasty ambient music recommendations and great ambient music artists from Mr Darktremor but bear in mind this list was created in 2005 !


1. Biosphere - Substrata (album) [1998]

Biosphere Substrata AmbientI almost unarguably call this the best ambient album of all time. It sounds at turns like floating through space, sitting on an iceberg traveling down a frozen river, wandering across an alien beach at night, walking around a tiny fog-enshrouded rocky lighthouse island, and traveling through the arctic on a dogsled.

It is truly a work of art that can be listened to (or rather, slept to) again and again: it almost never grows tiring, because it takes you to so many places. It manages to be dark without falling victim to Halloween cheesiness (Lustmord): its menace is hinted at, not told. There is no evil in Substrata: the worst you'll find is a beautiful emptiness. A true masterpiece and crowns the list of best ambient music.


2. The Orb - A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain that Rule From the Centre of the Ultraworld [1990]

The Orb BrainI've always felt like this sounded like a world created within a song. It doesn't "microvary" as much as traditional ambient - it creates little scenes within itself through faster shifts and bizarre samples. Really interesting, but like I said, don't get any version but the complete one, at 18 minutes. The shorter one is basically a bad ambient remix of an old 80's song (which was one small part of the full version, but in the full context, it's actually excellent). One of the best ambient music trips ever.




3. Tim Hecker - Radio Amor (album) [2002]

This is a pretty experimental work, but still fantastic. Its sound is difficult to describe, but it always conjures for me the image of a deserted island on an alien world, with a small sentient transmitting device trapped in the centre, calling out it's lonely song to any who will listen, wanting nothing more than an end to it's solitude. Yet, on your discovery of the box, you are taken away, hypnotically entranced into the device's mind.

tim heckler radioYou find yourself flying above the earth's atmosphere on a sound wave, through space, underwater, to unimaginable, beautiful, and warm tropical places, before finally finding yourself away from the island, sailing home on a ghost ship, called by the transmitter. At least, that's what it conjures up for me. But still, even if you don't listen to music like that (then why are you listening to ambient? Or electronic music, for that matter?), it's a beautiful album and deserves to be on every best ambient music list.



4. Aglaia - Three Organic Experiences (album) [2003]

You're going to have trouble tracking this one down. You'll need Soulseek, and even then it'll be difficult. But it's worth it. I might post one of the 3 tracks (think: Three Organic Experiences: Three tracks. AHA!).

Aglalia Organic ExperiencesReminds me of...I'm not going to go into explicit detail like I did with the previous one, but it's a very mystical atmosphere.
I think the best comparison, is all the beauty of the game "Myst", without the psychotically hard puzzles (which I actually didn't think were that bad, but all my friends complained, and I heard it gets insane by the time you play "Riven"). Exploring a lost ancient civilization and it's wondrous remains, yet...a mysterious emptiness.

Oddly though, this world changes with each listen. At first it was this Myst-like abandoned ancient civilization, now it looks like the Earth before humanity turned it into it's own personal toxic waste plant...with a touch of the ethereal and mystical. As for the sound itself, it's stuffed with real instruments: flutes, strings, unheard of wind instruments, synthesized but organic drones, ethereal choruses singing in forgotten tongues; all played underwater. At least, that's the first track.

The second features them played in the trees of a (yet unnamed) China over a bamboo-bride crossed waterfall: where those monkeys live in eccentric little treehouses, all connected by rickety, yet mostly indestructible bridges. The third features them played on a melting glacier.


5. Monolake - Hongkong

This is an excellent album: perfectly representative of the deep/ambient techno sound. I begin my journey in this musical world inside a huge biodome containing the last animal life remaining on the planet - no humans reside here, so it is overgrown with jungle to all corners.

Monolake Hong KongOnly the occasional gardening machine makes its way past to keep the ecosystem in check. On finding my way out (hiding with a group of robots who make their way into an airlock), I wander into a barren field populated only by strange technology, robots, and the remains of human manufacturing plants. As I wander through this world, I find myself on a gray shore, looking out to an island across a small passage.


On it is a robotic factory of some sort, automated past any need for humanity. Crickets chirp around me, but on closer inspection, I find they are tiny robots, subsisting in an ecosystem made up of only of technology. As I continue my wander through this deserted world, I find a radio tower still standing, starkly silhouetted against a barren backdrop.

On entering, I discover it still transmits - the room is filled with screens broadcasting all kinds of historical recordings. I find a door to a basement of some sort, which appears to be an abandoned subway station. This is confirmed when I hear the sound of an approaching train. I board when it arrives. As it travels through the darkness and out of the tunnel onto a bridge high above the barren world, I realize I'm not really alone here. I'm being taken back to humanity.


6. Tetsu Inoue - Ambiant Otaku

This is a beautiful album. To me, it sounds like walking through the clouds during a thunderstorm. I feel completely safe there, as I'm carrying a massive Chinese umbrella that protects me from the lightning as I hop from thunderhead to thunderhead. I'm surrounded by a faint red glow. Electrical rays shoot into the star, nebula, and galaxy-filled night sky above. Classic in the genre and is often found on best ambient music lists such as this one.


7. Future Sound of London - Lifeforms (album)

Truly beautiful, incredibly organic. It's really evocative, and all of the images it brings are very alive, very primordial. There isn't a machine to be found anywhere in the world of Lifeforms: nothing but life, evolving rapidly from humble cellular beginnings. It's an alien world, passing through the stages of it's evolution stylized and sped up for our viewing.

Entirely different organisms from those on earth develop, now no longer for our viewing, but simply because time is perceived at a different rate in this universe: our laws of physics don't apply. Then, when the end of this process comes, the lifeforms you see standing before you...are yourself. Thousands of versions of you, crowding around you. Your presence created these beings.

But...they aren't you. But they don't want you alive: they attack and destroy you, believing death to be the greatest gift any being can be given. Maybe it is (we don't know).


8. Global Communication - 76:14

If you look at any best ambient music list one CD that is always to be found is 76:14 by Global Communication. Check it out , its fabulous.

9. Mille Platueau - Clicks & Cuts 2 (collection) [2001]

This isn't ambient per se either - it's IDM/glitch/REALLY microhouse/minimal techno. However, coincidentally, combining those genres together winds up creating the exact sound of ambient, and therefore deserves a place on the list. This is also a collection of tracks (unavailable elsewhere), not an album, with pretty much the entire Mille Plateau glitch backcatalogue from that period. For those who know Mille Plateau, that's a good thing. A VERY good thing.

Same label that put out Tim Hecker, in fact (as well as classics by Oval that would probably make the list if I managed to get a hold of them anywhere, and I can't - not even Soulseek has hints of their existence, despite their fame as being all time classics). Anyway, this collection is full of glitchy textures, and scratchy, nostalgic sounds, along with tiny, pretty melodies, all ever-changing as only ambient can be.

Each track has it's own (very fascinating) imagery, but they all work together to paint a sparse, tiny, and futuristic, yet beautiful world. It can be best compared to a science-fiction short stories collection, all wrapped around a single (brilliant) theme. Being trapped inside tiny machines, Nanobots travelling through the bloodstream of an alien creature, a human mind stored in a tiny clock, an insect-like nanodevice in a life-destroying rain, unable to contact it's creators in a now-annihilated world...well, that's my take on it, anyway. Point being: it's worth getting. (It has 60 tracks too! Although CD 1 and the first few tracks of the 2nd are the real gems here).


10. The Orb - Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld

The album containing "Huge Evergrowing pulsating..."
Lush ambient soundscapes, an ether of music, out of which surreal noise and samples float, bubble and intertwine. Absurdly humorous: nothing here makes real sense, but somehow you are relaxed in the nonsense anyway. Perhaps it's better described as the "Monty Python" of ambient music. Evokes all sorts of images, some blatantly obvious (Little Fluffy Clouds...da da...), others more introverted...personal.

Fast, yet slow at all at once: one moment you float through space, the next in a tropical rain-forest but never once are you jarred: Ultraworld lulls you through the universe at a relaxing yet breakneck pace. The final track is a separate but complimentary entity that can't be fairly compared to the rest: it's the crown jewel of a true classic - it stands head and shoulders above what is already a masterpiece. As as psychedelic chillout goes this is one of the best ambient music journeys you can partake of. Prepare for liftoff.


11. Helios - Eingya (album) [2006]

A musical definition of the experience of relaxation, through sweeping, orchestral soundscapes. Eingya cradles you in its warmth and sublime beauty, without succumbing to new age yoga mat pandering. I've always believed that the best ambient contains a hint of darkness, but this sonic journey is challenging that perception.


12. Echospace - The Coldest Season (album) [2007]

Traversing the ocean floor in an impenetrable submarine.


13. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (album) [1993]

Just fantastic, that's all there is to it. I'm not going to go off into another long pseudo-poetic rant about imagery, I'll just tell you that this album has it. In celebration of Easter (which is today), it'll be like a little treasure hunt (only instead of finding chocolate eggs, you have to find ambient imagery).


14. Steve Roach - Dreamtime Return [album]

Steve Roach is one of the most respected and admired of all producers. At it's release, Dreamtime represented the best of Steve's work and is loved by ambient music fans worldwide, appearing on a plethora of best ambient music lists for the year.

15. Boards of Canada - Music has the Right to Children (album) [1998]

It sounds like a memory of distant childhood, but not as we're meant to remember it, the way it really is. When we remember childhood, for most of us, it often feels like remembering another life: like the memories are barely ours. And what we remember is a confusing, and often dark place, not the wonderful, carefree existence we're meant to have had.

Music has the Right to Children captures this feeling of disquieting nostalgia perfectly.


16. Chicane - Offshore (original ambient mix) [1996]

(track - make sure you get the 1996 ambient version with no lyrics and no simplification - AKA don't get the almost unrelated radio edit)

The shortest ambient track I'm posting. At only six minutes, this isn't a journey, so much as a snapshot.

However, it's image is so tranquil, so beautiful, that I still keep coming back to it, after knowing it for so many years. Nothing captures the sound of a Mediterranean Sunset on a deserted island like "Offshore." This was one of ambient musics few radio hits.


17. Sasha & Digweed - Northern Exposure volume 1, CD 1 (DJ mix) [1995]

This is, in fact, an ambient trance mix. However, that's entirely alright, when the mix is this perfect. I'm not going to bother describing it - I've done that too much already. It's just good.


18. Brian Eno - 1-1 (From "Ambient Music for Airports") (track) [1978]

This is a real classic. One of the first tracks ever to fully gain the title "ambient," (only predated by Eno's earlier "Discreet music" compilation), and for good reason. A zen garden of sound, a meditative journey to nowhere at all. The others on the album were a little disappointing, I thought - lonely without being. However, this track still remains one of my all time favorites. It still doesn't sound dated, even though it was created in the 1978. This is by far the oldest album on the list.


19. Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht


20. Biosphere - Shenzou [2002]

Another from Biosphere? Well, it's no coincidence that Biosphere is considered by many (including me) to be one of the greatest ambient artists (not technical wizard - Brian Eno wins that one) of all time. This has more of a primordial feel to it, like earth before life came into existence, or maybe as life began to form.

Biosphere's home probably has something to do with his talent - northernmost Scandinavia is a very peaceful location, atmosphere wise. Rather than trying to escape their ever-accelerating world, like most other ambient artists, Biosphere bottles the tranquility around him into a musical form, as a sort of gift to those forced to live in our maddeningly paced society. Point being: It's awesome.


21. Autechre - Amber [1994] (album)

I'll add a description later, but for now, we'll just say it's good. Very futuristic ambient. Almost IDM, but not quite.


22. Mute - The Sea Horse Limbo [2006] (album)


23. Steve Roach & Kevin Braheny & Michael Stearns - Desert Solitaire [1989]

The title explains it all. It sounds like a desert. I could go on and on about imagery, etc., but just discover it yourself. It's good and is has a deserved position here in the best ambient music list


24.Vir Unis & Saul Stokes - Thermal Transfer (album) [2002]

Another primordial journey...only this time, it's through the vast, deadly jungles of a last hidden pocket of the dinosaur age. I would go on with all the images and stories (including the footprint-shaped volcano as the centrepiece of this surreal world, slowly erupting in the end, wiping out all traces of a once beautiful land), but there are quite a few, and I've skipped a large number on all of them anyway.

Moving on, Thermal Transfer employs the Vir Unis trademark: what he calls the "fractal beat" - a truly tribal sound, more so than any other tribal beat - it's very "unsynthetic," highly organic. This is likely the primary influence on the mental world described above, it's a truly fantastic sound...


25. Nathan Fake - Peary Land (track) [2004]

What a great little tune: it's so beautiful. And oddly enough, it evokes images exactly like it's title suggests. The track conjures a view of an endless gray landscape completely covered in oddly-shaped (gray) pears as far as the eye can see: a canopy over the unseen ground (which all signs suggests is a giant gray pear).

The sky is gray, at least in the beginning, but as the track progresses, the sky opens up into a beautiful blue vista, and color comes into the gray world, envelops everything, and you drift peacefully in a sea of colors and oddly-shaped pears. It sounds nothing like any of Nathan Fake's other work: this is pure ambient here, and it's great. It's also entirely ignored. Except by you. Who will now download it. So ha!


Well lets make it one more for good measure ... a top 26 !!

26. Gas - Pop [1999]

It's hard to describe, but there is one thing I can say with absolute certainly: this is not pop music. Not that that needed to be said...

Anyways, it's a tranquil piece (it's an ambient piece...), evoking images of floating high above lush landscapes (or soundscapes, perhaps), wandering through places of ancient ruin before they were ancient ruin, wandering among darkly majestic rolling hills. There's an overwhelming feeling of peace, and perhaps mysticism; with something sinister lurking just below the surface...

So there we have it, a great little best ambient music list. Follow up these artists , all are sure to please. If you like minimal ambient music check out the ambient music download mixes at the archive page for a couple of free ambient music downloads.

> You might also like this ambient mix


Posted on 9.2.11 by PsyAmb TAG : | 31 Comments ( ADD NEW COMMENT )

31 comments :

Martin LeBlanc said... @ 10 February, 2011

Oh please, do a mix of the best tracks from these albums!

Anonymous said... @ 11 February, 2011

great list

Anonymous said... @ 21 March, 2011

Good list! But Where is Shpongle???

Anonymous said... @ 23 March, 2011

ehm...sorry but i think that Shpongle is everything BUT ambient music! isn't it?

Anonymous said... @ 11 April, 2011

so much music so little time :) Thank you for the list, will check them out

mario said... @ 12 April, 2011

Thanks for the tips. I definitely check it out:)

Anonymous said... @ 12 May, 2011

Autechre Incunabula?

Anonymous said... @ 03 August, 2011

muchachos gracias

Frank Edens said... @ 31 October, 2011

This is just an amazing list, and i thnk my top25 trance songs of all time will fit perfectly in this

andreasm23 said... @ 02 November, 2011

You are forgetting Max Corbacho, similar to Steve Roach, but with his distinctive personal touch. In this pol, Max Corbacho's "Ars Lucis" is at the top of favorits. Take a look on www.maxcorbacho.com and http://www.youtube.com/artist/Max_Corbacho

pitaoj said... @ 26 January, 2012

Aglaia is on Spotify, so it's not difficult to find. So are the rest. Thank's for a really good list!

Anonymous said... @ 19 February, 2012

Hi found your website by accident,(WD;) thought you may like this, love peace and retrospect..........http://soundcloud.com/masterfil/stardust1st-draft

(0_0)
_i_
M F

222 said... @ 18 March, 2012

Ditto all the above. Am currently adding more music to my inventory. Thanks for these titles.

RA O'Daniels said... @ 25 April, 2012

i am looking for a disc that a friend had on a cassette around 1995, all I remember is Whitehead Tripping in Space, but when I search for this I come up with nothing. As I recall it had lot's of very chill ambient that would fade in and out with snippets of conversation as if you walked into someones conversation and then walked out of it...it was truly a journey as if you were floating around a city. Any ideas?

RA O'Daniels said... @ 25 April, 2012

I am looking for an ambient disc that I heard around 1995. My friend had this on cassette, as I recall the cassette said, Tripping in Space Whitehead. When I search I never can find it. It had lots of nice ambient music and then conversations would fade in and out, like people sitting an and having tea, sounds of traveling sometimes like you were on a train...the whole thing was like a journey around a city.. the most chill tape I ever heard. Great for falling asleep to. Any ideas what this may be?

Shivansh said... @ 11 May, 2012

Hey...great list....i went through the hard work of making a youtube mix of as many i could find...found a total of 165 songs so its quite a lot....

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL497600305858D4AD&feature=mh_lolz

Cheers

Anonymous said... @ 15 May, 2012

It seems that No. 16 Chicane's Offshore is a direct (although sub-conscious) lift from Tangerine Dream's Risky Business, maybe?

Anonymous said... @ 07 August, 2012

HEy!

Definetly WOOB is missing hier!
Check him out!

Anonymous said... @ 23 October, 2012

Great list! I'm looking all the stuff I haven't heard before. The Shenzhou album by Biosphere is blowing my mind right now. Think you might like this mix...

http://soundcloud.com/leesuf/sleep-mix

dj monolith said... @ 20 November, 2012

It's a good list! I find that many people who come up with a "best of ambient list" tend to want to pay homage to people who, although were probably very influential 30+ years ago, never made true ambient albums. I agree with many of your listings and it is so refreshing to see this page... thank you!

Mendo Vasilevski said... @ 06 May, 2013

you're a very nice person for trying to help many people relax...YOU ROCK!

good to find nice people on the internet :)

Anonymous said... @ 11 May, 2013

Ok, Ok, but were is:
-Younger Brother
-Sounds from the ground
-Shpongle

grtz E
(cool site!)

Anonymous said... @ 31 May, 2013

Great list. Consider adding Gas 0095, and possibly even Robert Rich's Stalker. Also, could you add some Pete Namlook? He was a real genius.

Mantra said... @ 11 June, 2013

Quite agree with what you write about Music for Airports. The first track is splendid, the others are disappointing. I have my theory : the first track is a collaboration with Robert Wyatt. I think the purity, the serene, gorgeous innocence of the track is all Robert.

Daniel Bollweg said... @ 19 June, 2013

dntel had an unreleased album titled "2003" on his soundcloud. it's the best ambient album i've ever heard...

also Loscil?

Kamen said... @ 11 July, 2013

Pete Namlook's music should be here, too, IMHO. I love Silence V. Air series are more than beautiful. Dreamfish is excellent. His work "Russian Spring" together with New Composers is unlike anything else.
Pete Namlook was one of the first names that introduced me to ambient music and will always be among my favorites. The man is gone, but his world remains. R.I.P.!

Paulo M said... @ 09 January, 2014

Solar Quest - "Orgisms" should be here too. Also something from Terre Thaemlitz, and Bria Eno ;) ... Another that comes to mind is "Anima" from Vladislav Delay - incredible ambient album :)

Anonymous said... @ 16 February, 2014

Check out my album "Optate: Deliberation"
Its a fractal journey through our internal reality.
Do Enjoy.
A.J.

Anonymous said... @ 20 February, 2014

Where's Young American Primitive??

SciK said... @ 11 May, 2014

“It still doesn't sound dated, even though it was created in the 1978. This is by far the oldest album on the list.

19. Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht”

… Seriously?

“One of the first tracks ever to fully gain the title "ambient," (only predated by Eno's earlier "Discreet music" compilation), and for good reason.”

Do you mean Zeit by Tangerine Dream isn’t fully ambient?

Anonymous said... @ 23 May, 2014

Best Ambient trance album = Chill Out, KLF?

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