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I first met Kim Stanley Robinson in Hobart, 1995, when he was on his way to the South Pole. Author of the Mars trilogy and Antarctica, he suggested I look to the Australian Antarctic Division as a possible means of fulfilling my dream of visiting the great southern land. Over twenty years later, and thanks […]

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ambience for the old year

posted on 2 Jan 2012 at 10:45 pm

I’m in the process of downloading my first ambient album for 2012 (this one) and it occurred to me that I hadn’t posted my favourites from 2011. I listen to ambient electronic music constantly, so the search is always on for new sounds to get the words moving. There isn’t a clearly defined sound that works for me; some of these albums are droney, others pulse and prickle like chilled-out cactii, some are hardly there at all. But they all work for me, and maybe they’ll work for you, too.

So, my most played ambient albums of 2011 (new to me, maybe not new to the rest of the world) are:

(1) The Road Eternal by Steve Roach and Erik Wøllo – I wasn’t a huge fan of their first collaboration, but this was a hit right from the first play. A late entry for the year (November) it quickly rocketed to first place, partly on the strength of the second track, “Depart at Sunrise”, which is so Bladerunneresque it hurts, but mostly because the whole album is awesome.

(2) Sleep Theory Volume 1 by Altus – The second track, “Session 2″, is a rival for Steve Roach’s “Structures from Silence” for the perfect track to write to. It was beaten by “Depart at Sunrise” by just one playing. Best of all, it’s a free download, so there’s no reason not to give it a go.

(3) Monsters (OST) by John Hopkins – I loved this movie and made note of the soundtrack as I was watching. Didn’t realize that I’d actually bought the album in December 2010 but never listened to it. Minus some jumpy moments, it’s a brilliant writing accompaniment. Listen to this track and see what you think.

(4) Conception, various artists – A wonderful anthology of “beatless, serene ambient music”. Here’s the trailer. Also free, although I can’t find a direct link to the download page. Worth hunting for.

(5) There’s no clear album at this position, so I thought I’d just shout out to a few that I loved as well: For Nihon (another anthology, this time to benefit Japan after the earthquake early in the year), Bliss Was It In That Dawn To Be Alive by Arms and Sleepers, The Desert Inbetween by Steve Roach and Brian Parnham, and, finally, just about everything by Loscil, including their new album Coast/Range/Arc.

And that’s. I’m coming to the end of a new novel at the moment (hence my tardiness at posting anything anywhere) so this music is getting a real hammering. Meanwhile, I’m eagerly anticipating the tunes of 2012 and the words they will inspire.

(Huge thanks to those who have suggested music to me in the past. All recommendations welcome!)

  1. Kim Wilkins says:

    I’ll second Paul Brandon on Slow Dancing Society. I never stopped listening to their two albums. I also adored Explosions in the Sky, particularly “All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone” (there were two songs on there that I would listen to breathless every time: “What do you go home to?” and “So long, lonesome”). Also discovered Nils Frahm this year. His album “Felt” is wonderful, and less so “The Bells” (a few “filler” tracks on that one). Also, Brian McBride’s second solo album “The Effective Disconnect” had some brilliant moments on it.

    I can also thank you, Sean, for introducing Tiga’s “Shoes” into our lives (sublime/ridiculous). The kids love listening to it in the car, though on one occasion when I was grooving at a set of lights to it, Astrid did tell me to “stop looking at me in a funky way”.

    K

    • sean says:

      Thanks, Kim. I’ll definitely get Explosions in the Sky. The problem with The Effective Disconnect is that it always puts “Me, I Disconnect From You” in my head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnVDn2Y0aHE) which kinda undoes McBride’s lovely work.
      Re “Shoes”: Hee hee. I still love it too. Next time I DJ in Brisbane, I expect you to dance to it!

  2. Peter Hollo says:

    Jon Hopkins’ stuff is great. When you’re in the mood for something a tad less ambient, his album Insides is stone-cold brilliant, and Contact Note, from a while before, is pretty lovely too.

    For Utility Fog I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff that these days would be classified as “drone” or something rather than “ambient”, but is ambient in affect/effect. As I happen to be listening to him right now, I commend to you Ekca Liena:
    http://www.ekca-liena.co.uk/
    Lots of albums there – maybe try Orb Night, or Slow Music for Rapid Eye Movement. There are more and less ambient bits, but anyway.

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Sean, the energy dome suits you.

    Thanks for the Steve Roach recommendation! Here’s a few of my favourites that I think might help with the writing – not sure they’re “ambient”, but what is that anyway?

    - Songs of Distant Earth (Mike Oldfield – written to “complement” the Arthur C Clarke novel)
    - Computer Voice by Robert Schroder
    - Anything by Mars Lasar, Patrick Kosmos, Kitaro

    For something a bit more left field – try Atlantis Angelis by Patrick Bernhardt

    PS: How come your bio says nothing about being a lousy squash player and an even lousier indoor cricketer?

    • sean says:

      Thanks for the recs. I’ll definitely give them a try.

      My bio also fails to mention that I’m the secret overlord of the underground people and a dab hand at whist. Guess you can only fit so much in. :-)

      • Dave says:

        Indeed so, and perhaps there are parts of our lives we don’t wair to air.

        Hello from the dark past anyway!

        Dave (Hunt)

        • sean says:

          Hello from the slightly brighter present! Great to hear from you. What are you up to these days?

          • Dave Hunt says:

            These days I’m based in Canberra, like all good servants of GOD (Government Of the Day). I think that like you, I found my calling – it just wasn’t quite what I expected it would be, in fact where I’ve ended up is highly ironic. I’m still coaching – but not sport – more data/business analysis, risk management, project manegement, report writing and a bit of etc.

            I’d love to be less vague, but not on a blog. You have my e-mail, and an invitation to use it!

            Dave

        • http://www./ says:

          If your articles are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”

          • Rosie says:

            Umm… this is probably not the place to sak this, I've already sent two messages to the support team, but I've recieved no response. I have a video I want to upload, but I can't because I can't get a cortfnmaiion e-mail – 10 hours have passed and nothing yet. Can I perhaps e-mail someone to manually confirm my account or something?

        • Dr, bom dia…vi numa entrevista do Andres, q o Corinthians irá montar “centros de treinamento” por varios locais do pais. o Sr poderia nos dar maiores informações sobre isso?Abraços.

  4. Sonia Helbig says:

    Hey Sean,

    Want to say this is a great website and I have enjoyed reading a lot and especially thank you for posting this awesome list of music (to write to!)

    It’s the first time I have really delved into this genre. I listened to all of them and LOVED John Hopkins Campfire enough to be on my 5th consecutive listen.

    Long time since I met you at WOTF and your CV clips list is even more impressive now. I’m sure you are a force of nature. :-)

    Happy listening and writing!

    Sonia

    • sean says:

      Hi Sonia!
      Apologies for being slow. I am dreadfully lazy with this blog. :-) I’m glad you’re enjoying the music. More to come!
      WOTF was so much fun your year. I hope all’s well with you.
      Sean

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