My goal in this article has been to focus on a variety of countries and use them to demonstrate the history and development of the genre of ambient while also introducing readers to the wide range of sub styles and the musicians who have and are creating them. This way it would serve as both a journey to illustrate to others just what this music is about, why I love it, and to give lots of examples to listen to as much or as little as they like. In this section I won’t be introducing any new styles so much as giving further examples of what we’ve already seen from countries outside of those listed above.
Having said that we start with a duo that is actually made up of two Americans, including one who’s also talked about above. I may seem a bit daft right now, but I listed them here because they formed after meeting in Brussels, and both of their albums have been recorded in studios in Italy, Belgium, and Iceland. Who are they? They are A Winged Victory for the Sullen and are composed of classical pianist and composer Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie (see Stars of the Lid). Another huge influence on their sound is the brilliant Italian audio engineer Francesco Donadello who produces and masters all of their albums. Their sound is very close to Stars of the Lid, a classical music and ambient fusion. However, Winged Victory’s is a bit softer and less electronic and more classical, possibly due to O’Halloran’s composing and the inclusion of his piano playing. Either of their two albums are good; the first is self titled and is more classical and the second, Atomos, is a bit more electronic, but both are great to just relax to.
Next is another duo, Russians Roman Alexeev and Vladimir Seedov, that create nice, upbeat, and worldly ambient. They create music under the name of Koan, and their ambient uses a very wide range of sounds and instruments to try to capture the feelings of a certain geographic region, generally a different one on each album. A few confusing things to clear up about them is that Roman Alexeev lives in England currently and frequently uses the stage name Daniel Roeth and that the English duo KOAN Sound is not in any way related to Koan. KOAN Sound is a glitch-hop/dubsteb/neurofunk group that are known for their driving music and their famously sick drops. Don’t confuse the two. Koan’s ambient is probably some of the most upbeat on the list, it moves fast and has lots of drum like beats in it. For recommended albums I think the Native American inspired The Way of One or the Greek inspired Argonautica are both great places to start.
Connect.Ohm is yet another duo, this time formed by Japanese composer Hidetoshi Koizumi and French composer Alexandre Scheffer. Their sound is reminiscent of Solar Fields, but has a unique vibe to it. It’s hard to place, somewhere between Solar Fields and Biosphere, but using more beats and a very broad range of electronic sounds. They only have one album so far and it is wonderfully varied. The music in the first song is very layered with quicker beats underlying long, sweeping notes all interspersed with other electronic sounds and the occasional recording of speaking. Later songs swing more toward traditional ambient while others rocket into the realm of space ambient. The point is this album has a bit of everything and is really good. It’s called 9980 and you should definitely listen to it.
Now we come to it, the last artist on the list. The old adage claims you save the best for last. I can’t say that holds true in this case, but he is certainly great and many consider his first album one of the best. This place of honor is reserved for Japanese composer, Tetsu Inoue. If his music had to be boiled down to one word, it would be minimalist. Inoue is a master of creating complex and enchanting soundscapes with very few instruments and synths. His first album, Ambiant Otaku, which uses the French spelling “Ambiant”, is a true masterpiece of the genre and still held by many to be the best example of minimalist ambient. Using a few simple electronic sounds and synths, white noise, some droning notes, and no drums he created an album that perfectly captures Eno’s original goal of being “as ignorable as it is interesting.” This album can provide background sound while you focus the majority of your attention elsewhere or it can pull you in and take you on amazing auditory journey if you allow it to. This is an album every fan of ambient should own, and one someone exploring the style should definitely give a listen to.