Ambient as a musical genre is difficult to classify and delve into, and even more difficult to critique. What is not difficult, however, is deriving enjoyment out of it. Ambient, in all its avant-garde, and ethereal glory, can bring one to a state of relaxation or intense discomfort, depending on what exactly you’re listening to. The genre is stacked with records in this day and age, and it can be a little difficult hopping in, but if you’re interested, here are the three records you should check out first.
Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports
British musician (and genius) Brian Eno is attributed with coining the genre “ambient” as we know it today. After a series of art rock albums throughout the ’70s, Eno composed Ambient 1: Music for Airports in 1978, kicking off a series of ambient records that are still legendary to this day. It was difficult having to choose from just one of them (Apollo should be one you check out as well), but, as this one was first, I think it deserves recognition. The piano and vocalization mixes on this record are stunning, and I think would make a good starting point for anyone wanting to try ambient. There are tons more from Eno as well, the most recent being Reflection released this January.
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops
This is where things get a little strange (that didn’t take long, did it?) William Basinski is probably the second most prolific ambient composer behind Eno, and The Disintegration Loops is his defining work, though he has more famous ones (92982 is worth a listen as well). A set of four records made from deteriorated music from old magnetic tapes, The disintegration Loops also include sounds recorded from Basinski’s rooftop the day of 9/11. Stills from that recording are featured on the covers. The story and creation behind this project simply isn’t matched. It’s a haunting work.
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
Released in 1998, the debut record from Scottish duo Boards of Canada was light-years ahead of its time. It’s not exclusively ambient, music of this album can be considered electronic dance, but upbeat it is not. Music Has the Right to Children is a deeply unsettling and atmospheric experience even to this day, let alone 20 years ago. If you’d rather be unnerved than soothed, and want to experience what set the course for experimental music in the upcoming century, this is a must-listen.