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"The cusp between melody and texture." —Brian Eno

Ambient music is usually minimalistic, attempting to stir up a certain atmosphere or imagery to the listener. The instruments used are mostly of an electronic nature such as synthesizers, samplers and drum machines. However more traditional instrumentation is also prevelant among artists.

Its understated nature and tendency to evoke positive feelings in a listener make it very popular during relaxation and as feel good inspiration. Its darker side is also useful in creating tension and underlying emotion in TV and film. Subtle unsettling scores can make all the difference in keeping your audience on edge whilst not overpowering the scene.

The origins of the music can be seen as beginning just before and after the first World War along side art movements such as futurism which emphasized less traditional experimentation in music. According to That Other Wiki, Brian Eno actually coined the term "Ambient Music" during the 70's. He once described the music as capable of being:

"Actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener".

A statement that nicely sums up why it can be engaging for some and simply background music for others.

It may be worth noting that Eno credits Miles Davis' "He Loved Him Madly", off 1974's Get Up With It, with inspiring several of his ambient albums.

Certain subgenres of Alternative Rock draw influences from ambient music, such as Dream Pop and Slowcore/Sadcore.

Sub-genres include:

  • Ambient House
  • Ambient Industrial
  • Black Ambient
  • Dark Ambient
  • Drone Ambient
  • Isolationalism
  • Lowercase

Examples of Ambient Artists/Works:

  • Blowupnihilist
    • "Impermanence", "Dukkha", and "Masada", from Deconstructionism: The Most Sincere Form of Self Criticism
    • "Quarantine", "Evidence of a Psychotic Break", "Dirge, Respite", and "A Rope Over an Abyss", from The Ghastly Paraphernalia of Our Beneficial Trade
    • Objective Nothingness
  • Brian Eno
    • Another Green World
    • Discreet Music
    • Ambient 1: Music for Airports
    • Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics (with Jon Hassell)
    • Ambient 4: On Land
    • Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
    • Thursday Afternoon
    • The Shutov Assembly
    • Neroli
  • Enigma
    • MCMXC A.D.
    • A Posteriori
  • Aphex Twin
    • Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (some of the tracks)
    • Selected Ambient Works Volume II
  • Autechre
    • "Paralel Suns", "Notwo", and "Outh9x" on Quaristice
    • "Perlence Suns", "9013-2", and "Perlence Subrange 6-36" on Quaristice Quadrange
  • Covenant
  • Nine Inch Nails
    • Ghosts I-IV
    • Quake soundtrack
  • György Ligeti
    • "Atmosphères", "Lux Aeterna"
  • Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame) has delved into this with his Bass Communion project, which is composed of both Ambient and minimalist electronic soundscapes.
  • Tangerine Dream
    • Alpha Centauri
    • Zeit
    • Phaedra
    • Rubycon
    • Ricochet
    • Stratosfear
    • The Seven Letters from Tibet
  • The Future Sound Of London
    • Lifeforms
  • Moby
  • Lustmord - Trope Maker of dark ambient.
  • Mortiis was dark ambient for his first seven albums, before undergoing a Genre Shift.
  • Kraftwerk's first three albums could be considered to be ambient (though sometimes also called Kraut Rock), particularly Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian. This was just Early-Installment Weirdness though, from before they arguably became the Trope Maker for electronic music.
  • Solar Fields, except for Earthshine, which is trance.
  • Most albums by Klaus Schulze, former drummer of Tangerine Dream and frontman of Ash Ra Temple.
  • Juno Reactor
    • Luciana(a single 61-minute dark ambient track)
  • Both of Dilate's albums.
  • Nothing but Noise, a side project of Front 242 founding members Daniel B. and Dirk Bergen, along with Erwin Jadot:
    • Not Bleeding Red
  • Vladislav Delay
    • Anima
  • C 418
    • Bushes and Marshmallows
    • Minecraft - Volume Alpha
    • one
  • Robert Fripp:
    • Let the Power Fall
    • Gates of Paradise
    • A Temple in the Clouds (with Jeff Fayman)
  • BT:
    • This Binary Universe
    • If The Stars are Eternal, So Are You and I
    • Morceau Subrosa (released simultaneously with the above album)
  • Negative Entropy:
    • City Open to the Nomad
  • Mark Morgan:
    • Vault Archives (Fallout 1 and 2 remastered soundtrack)
  • The One A.D. and Two A.D. compilations range from dancey to spacey.
  • The KLF
    • Chill Out

Alternative DanceElectronic MusicDoctor Who
Electronic MusicMusic TropesElectro Swing

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