Vinyl Junkie: Skell’s Music Recs – Ambient (week 1)

Since Berry is late posting the Monday Meme (I know, I know; it’s still early in the US, but it’s getting on for my bedtime here in the UK – 4am alarm call and all that – so I won’t have time to do the meme today) I decided to post the first in a series that I’ve been pondering for a few weeks: Vinyl Junkie, AKA Skell’s Music Recs.

If you’ve learned anything about me in the few months that I’ve been writing this blog, it’s that music permeates my life. My very first job was in a secondhand record store (yep; I lived that High Fidelity  novel) and my (then-vinyl, later-cassette, then-CD and now mp3) music collection is, to put it mildly, farking mahoosive. My tastes span all genres, as I’ve always said: “I’ll listen to anything, once. I may never listen to it again, but I’ll give it a go.” I stop short at the likes of death metal, and I’m pretty selective about urban/grime/rap stuff (it’s so ubiquitous in the UK that it takes something special, or someone special to pique my interest) but I hope, in these posts, to introduce you to some interesting new music.

Now, you probably know me as the trance-loving, Sylvianesque Little Monster (Christ, what a combination, huh?), but it’s a little-known fact that my main love is ambient music. Surprised? Don’t be. My love for ambient goes way back to that record store job, wherein I slowly fell into the ambient scene, lured by restful compilations from the Windham Hill label and moving into a deep and abiding love for Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Steve Roach, et al.

I’m going to introduce you to four ambient artists and one streaming radio station this week, but there will be more to follow. I’ll vary the genres that I post recs for, so expect to see others here before I return to ambient, but here’s your first lot. I recommend headphones for all of these, as – especially with ambient – a lot of the music’s nuances will be lost if you just listen through speakers.

Steve Roach

I’ve loved Roach’s music since I picked up a copy of his Empetus  album on CD (yep, in that record store I worked at) and was blown away at my first headphones-listen to the track Empowerment. And that’s the first Steve Roach track I’m giving you. It’s bold, it’s uplifting, and it’s not really true  ambient (it’s a bit too loud and unrelaxing for that; more space music than ambient) but, if you’ve never listened to ambient before, it’s a good one to ease you into the genre.

A much better track is one that I listen to a lot whenever I’m busy building in SL or doing something that requires focus, but I also want some kind of non-distracting music in the background. The Dream Circle  is one hour and 14 minutes of cavernous, soothing soundscapes, perfect for putting on repeat when you want a nap or just some sounds in the background. Here’s an 11-minute excerpt from Bandcamp:

Robert Rich

A key point of much ambient music is its length, because its primary use is as a soundscape: something to fill the air around you (or your ears directly) rather than something to be listened to intently (although, with some pieces, intent listening can be very rewarding). This piece by Robert Rich – Somnium – is seven hours long. And yes, the entire thing is on YouTube.

Stars of the Lid

I discovered SotL through eMusic, a pay-monthly music download site that I’ve been a member of for years. They have a massive ambient and instrumental section, and I’ve downloaded a crapload of stuff from there in my time as a member. Here’s the entire …and Their Refinement of the Decline  album for your enjoyment:

Altus

Altus was a chance find for me, and I was thrilled to find every single recording offered as a series of free downloads on their website. Hundreds of hours of free music; what’s not to love?! Here’s the entire Sleep Theory  album on YouTube:

You can find the Altus website at http://altusmusic.ca/ – just click either the year or genre discography buttons at the top and start exploring music. High-quality full previews of all tracks are available to stream, so you can decide which ones you like, then the download links are on the lower-right of each page. Every single album is completely free.

Sleepbot

Not an artist, but a streaming radio station. 24/7 ambient with no ads and no interruptions. Absolute bliss. Find it here: http://www.sleepbot.com/ambience/broadcast/

And that’s the end of the first set of ambient recs. Hope you find something you like!