THE INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS OF AMBIENT MUSIC

Ambient music is a genre defined by slow layered tones and atmospheric harmonies converging to create an enveloping auditory environment.

 

This list incorporates both works that are outside and within the conventional bounds of the genre, a sampling of music to be listened to in various states of alert relaxation. Where traditional music can be compared to the construction of an object in space, ambient musicians interact with space itself. Ambient music camouflages itself into the pre-existing noise of modern life. You might find yourself wondering whether the source of a certain sonic element originates from your speaker or your refrigerator.

 

Music For Airports [Album] 1978

This track recorded by one of ambient music’s pioneers is Brian Eno. The album, Music For Airports was created to address the boring, yet stressful atmosphere endemic to modern public spaces. A lingering piano piece that promotes inward reflection. It was briefly aired at LaGuardia Airport In the 1980s but travellers complained that it was too depressing…

 

The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond this World [Album] 2011

A slightly more comical take on the genre: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World by The Caretaker. The album, dubbed “existential jazz” is full of muffled, static-laden 1930’s Ballroom Pop instrumentation. He uses nostalgia, bordering on cliché to create a culturally charged narrative space, transporting the listener to cavernous, nostalgic “rooms.” Skip to Libet’s Delay at 10:35 for a sort of waltzy trumpet melody accompanied by delayed piano riffs, while the next song “I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing” has a short, ethereal voice with lush, blissful chords.

 

Sven Grünberg’s Hingus [Album] 1981

Sven Grünberg’s Hingus is the sound of early 1980’s Estonian outer space. This album is not especially calming, but it is futuristic.

 

F.G. Experimental Laboratory – Journey Into a Dream [Album] 1975

If Hingus is what outer space sounds like, then F.G. Experimental Laboratory’s Journey Into A Dream is the sound of a parallel universe.

 

Aphex Twin – Rhubarb 1994

Aphex Twin is the Cornish polymath, Richard D. James. He is irreverent, supernaturally prolific, and disarmingly elusive. Rhubarb composed by Aphex Twin makes use of analog synthesizers to create richly textured landscapes. The track’s intimacy, hypnotic melody, and sensitive arrangement make it one of ambient’s true icons.

 

Monolake – Cinemascope [Album] 2001

Monolake is an electronic duo from Germany. In addition to their musical projects, they are responsible for conceiving the innovative music production software Ableton. The album Cinemascope is an effective mix of droning electronics and the rhythmic qualities of dub. Indigo, released in 2001 should also make the cut.

 

Boards of Canada – Music Is Math 2002

Boards of Canada, another electronic duo are privately Scottish and extremely discreet in their public image. Music Is Math features squishy yet crunchy basement beats accompanied by warm, anthemic synths. They never fail to deliver nostalgic sentiments without being too melancholic, always looking forward with a hint of optimism. Sounds from the past and the future combined, also check out Amo Bishop Roden, and 1998.

 

Ravi Shankar Live in Birmingham 1997

Ravi Shankar was an incredibly talented raga composer. Raga, a genre in itself, is specific to the time of day a piece is meant to be listened to. There are performances intended for early morning, afternoon, evening and midnight. All of which have a different pace and aura.

 

Gas – Pop [Album] 2000

Gas Is a musical project by German electronic musician Wolfgang Voigt. It is purportedly inspired by his LSD experiences in a forest near his hometown. Every track is highly compressed with each sound blending into one another, which creates a heady, atmospheric inflection.

 

Susumu Yokota – Acid Mt. Fuji [Album] 1994

Susumu Yokota was a highly prolific Japanese electronic musician producing over thirty albums between 1993 and 2012, probing the worlds of acid techno, trance, ambient and dub techno. The album Sakura is a deeply calming work. Each song travels into its own separate narrative. Although not specifically ambient, Acid Mt. Fuji is an astonishing chronicle of an otherworldly voyage, a trip that deserves an enthusiastic mention.

 

Check out more music reviews in our Featured section like Rolling Loud 2018, Sounds Of Japan, and 90’s Golden Era Hip Hop.

THIS JUST IN: STONER STEREOTYPES, STILL TERRIBLE

Marijuana enthusiasts the world over have been fighting lazy, misinformed stoner stereotypes since, well, the world realized we were smoking it. From the 1930’s cult classic Reefer Madness portraying marijuana smokers as violent rapists who eventually succumb to insanity (a tad unreasonable), to more recently, this fucking guy, stoner portrayal in popular media always has the same wildly predictable stereotype…

For decades, anybody who smoked weed in movies, TV shows or any outlet of popular culture has been a nauseating blend of stupid, lazy and/or hungry. Despite the overwhelming volume of people we know smoke weed in the 21st century, the depiction of people who consume cannabis products in media has remained a goofy combination of Cheech and Chong, Seth Rogan and the creepy loner from the turn of the century teen movies. It’s a tired trope, but a trope we have all become accustomed to.

Until legalization, of course.

As of me writing this featured post, recreational use of marijuana is now legal in the beautiful northern landscapes of Canada, the states of California, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Portugal, Uruguay, and largely decriminalized or tolerated in a host of other countries across the globe.

Along with legalization has come an almost unprecedented boon in commerce. Spending in North America alone has reached $9.7 billion in 2017, with projections having total market spending at $47.3 billion just 10 years from now. For God sake, Coca-Cola has been eyeing a beverage deal in order to join the gold rush, and none of this is even accounting for the inevitable rise of the global marketplace.

Most importantly, we got Elon Musk – Elon fucking Musk – the father of Tesla and billionaire CEO of a space exploration company, SMOKING A BAT on live video, and that dude is taking over Mars, Matt Damon style.

So you would think, in 2018, with billions of dollars of commerce, widespread legalization and a general acknowledgment that marijuana is no longer a “gateway drug” destined for the outer reaches of societal acceptance, that we’d be done with the lazy stoner stereotype. Apparently not!

Enter the Alberta Motor Association, taking us all the way back with their new impaired driving campaign. You would almost think it’s a joke until you realize it’s not. 

For starters, that looks pretty fucking chill; I’m not going to lie. If you’re going to post up on a library table and dive right into a nap, I’m not going to hate on that either. That’s a boss move. We get it.

But look past the impressively laid-back gentlemen in the photo and you find a hilariously stupid stereotype. Who does that?? Not even when you’re high – who does that, period? It’s 2018, I can’t even listen to one song all the way through. I’ve got like a million songs on my phone, and I refuse to listen to ANY of them to the end. No one has the attention span for that shit.

NEXT…

Look, do I love my dog? Yes. Do I talk to my dog? 100%. But assuming that everyone who smokes a joint, experiences some sort of Dr. Dolittle-like hallucination is ridiculous.

Secretly, I wish that were the case! I would smoke even more weed if it meant I got to kick back with a carafe of Merlot and derive a transcendental proof for human consciousness with my pup, but sadly that’s just not how marijuana works.

One can only wish.

The paranoid stoner stereotype, along with that tin foil hat, needs to end up in a goddamn time machine. ASAP. Again, it’s 2018. We voluntarily share our most personal information on half the web pages on the Internet, I don’t know how concerned we should still be about mind-controlling radio waves.

Okay, this dude seems like he’s having a good time. Are we trying to bring the perception of marijuana into the 21st century? Yes. But I’m not the fucking fun police. Go get it, buddy.

As you can see, I saved the most heinous transgression for last.

“Classic hungry stoner stereotype,” you say. “What’s so bad about that?” you ask. It’s the implication, my friend. It’s the implication that I won’t walk into your pancake restaurant right now – dead-ass sober – and eat that entire stack of pancakes. I will not only test the limits of all-you-can-eat but the physical limits of human consumption. Sober. I will go full Keyzer Soze on every pancake house in the beautiful province of Alberta, just to prove a point. I’m the whole fucking reason IHOP switched to burgers.

Oh, and the whole hungry-stoner-will-eat-anything trope is lazy. Tired, overplayed, and lazy.

In all seriousness, awareness campaigns like this shouldn’t exist anymore. The Alberta Motor Association also did a series of videos and other promotional materials that were fine, but the fact that this can get approved in 2018 is crazy to me. Luckily, there are organizations out there investing time and capital in order to change these lazy stereotypes that have been around for decades. Just recently, MedMen invested over $2 million in a campaign to help ditch the exact stoner clichés we’ve discussed throughout this article. The sooner people realize that doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, their neighbor and a large portion of the community they live in enjoy the many benefits of marijuana, the sooner we’ll be able to leave these irrelevant clichés in the past. Because you know who smokes weed? People. Regular fucking people.

Here’s to hoping everyone else comes to the same realization.
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