11 underrated ambient albums you should check out
Having written already about crate digging for drone music I wouldn't dare to exclude our favourite genre at That Special Record: Ambient Music. This is not a best of list like Pitchfork's list of the best 50 ambient albums of all time. Here's the truth. There's a lot of great ambient music out there. A lot you and I haven't heard yet, so I thought it would be fun to compile a small list of underrated ambient albums worth checking out.
Lisa & Kroffe – Norrfjället (Klangfigur Audio Artefacts)
Absolutely wonderful cosmic and ambient excursions from Stockholm-based duo Lisa & Kroffe. Norrfjället was recorded in May 2014 in the small village of Norrfjäll, which is located on Väddö island in the Roslagen archipelago in Sweden. If you follow DJs like Jane Fitz, you've probably already heard a few tracks from this album a few times.
Imaginary Softwoods – Imaginary Softwoods (Digitalis)
Disclaimer. I'm a huge John Elliot fan, and I love his Imaginary Softwoods project. I think he's one of the most brilliant producers out there making some of the most interesting, profound and beautiful electronic music around, but sadly barely gets noticed. His self-titled LP released in 2010 is a fine example of what profound, mellow and exquisite ambient music sounds like. A must-listen.
Panabrite – Sub-Aquatic Meditation (Aguirre Records)
Inspired by science fiction, new age music, nature/science documentaries and underwater-themed library and soundtrack albums, Norman Chambers created some absolutely wonderful sonic aquatic-themed, hazy, analog-synth-laden wonders. Fans of Dolphins Into The Future will love this LP.
Tape loop orchestra– In A Lonely Place (Facture)
Inspired by three lines of dialogue from the Humphrey Bogart 1950 classic, ‘In A Lonely Place’ is constituted by three long, hypnotic tracks. ‘I Was Born When She Kissed Me’ begins in a quite dramatic and unashamedly emotional mode, compared to the calmness from the rest of the album. ‘I Died When She Left’ is appropriately atmospheric, with strings at its core but with a sinister murky depth. The last track, ‘I Lived A Few Weeks When She Loved Me’ has echoes of Basinski-an noir soundscapes.
The Humble Bee– Henrietta (Other ideas)
There is a kind of beautiful, hopeful solitude vibes in this album. Recorded in Cornwall during November 2011, Henrietta's quiet, mellow, contemplative soundscapes will take you on a sonic journey to the autumnal atmosphere of England's most picturesque county: Cornwall.
Scissors And Sellotape - For the Tired And Ill At Ease (Facture)
Scissors and Sellotape is one of several monikers of John McCaffrey (also known as Part Timer, Upward Arrows and part of Clickits). For the Tired And Ill At Ease is a beautifully melancholic and thought-provoking album. Pianos are crystal clear, violins are crystal clear, right in your face. The mood is slightly dark, but hopeful, and will give you a more spiritual catharsis than any religious experience you've ever had.
Mirrorring - Foreign Body (Kranky)
Mirrorring is Jesy Fortino, better known as Tiny Vipers, and Liz Harris, better know as Grouper. The last paragraph of Jenn Pelly's review of Foreign Body is so brilliant I'll just quote her to describe this LP: "There is a tendency among music critics to create sub-stories with records and impose narratives. We might identify with a hardcore punk group this year because we are a restless generation, or with a work of hyperactive pop because the internet has made us incapable of concentrating, and so on. But sometimes we take a record for what it is: a resistant piece of art, existing as a singular entity. In a world that is newly full of "content" at every turn, it can be refreshing to find an uncompromising record that exists so honestly on its own."
Joanna Brouk – Hearing Music (Numero Group)
I love when I discover things online that lead me to discover other cool things. Thanks to Youtube I recently discovered a spanish electronic music artist called Ildefonso Aguilar. In 1985 he released an amazing proto-ambient, experimental synth music album called Erosión, which made me discover Mental Experience, a Spanish label that just reissued Erosión. Not only an electronic artist, Ildefonso is also a super talented painter and abstract photographer. If you're into abstract art check his work.
Check Out - Check Out (hornschaft)
Released by Hornschaft in a limited edition of 500 numbered copies, CHECK OUT, houses a ten-inch vinyl LP + a fifty-two-page hardcover fine-art photobook. Though both sides play without interruption, its five track titles align with the book's ‘chapter' titles, suggesting that the gorgeous and serene ambient soundscapes associated with each track relates to the image content within the corresponding book section. CHECK OUT revolves around three basic themes—excess, exposure, and death.
Eblen Macari, J.L. Almeida – Cartas De Navegación (Dakta)
Mexico is not only tacos, tequila and mariachi. They have a vibrant and interesting music community over there, and if you dig deep you'll find a bunch of weird and interesting ambient and new age projects. Cartas De Navegación is an absolute indispensable work from the Mexican ambient community, this was a collaboration by master guitarist Eblen Macari and electronics wizard JL Almeida. This collection ranges from mexican ambient pieces to ambientish, balearic soundscapes that kind of resemble a lost track by Joan Bibiloni.
Posted by: Miguel Ferreira
Founder & Selector at That Special Record. Miguel loves writing stories about outsider electronic music & vinyl culture.