With April comes rain to nourish the earth so comes ambient showers to nourish our souls. Keeping on that aquatic note, there have been many deep and hypnotic additions this time around, including an oceanic album from Colombian techno producer Aleja Sanchez and chilled out, dub-techno elements by returning labels Silent Season, Oslated, and Kranky.
On the more experimental side, labels IA and Chinabot continue their exceptional curation with releases from Astma and Ayankoko, proof that what was once the “airport music” of Brian Eno’s day has evolved into more than just sounds that wash over you. Usually lacking danceable rhythms, ambient can leave room to question and open up discussions, even take action.
Besides discovering talent from Colombia, Iran, Morocco, and Japan, this Brooklyn writer is also proud to highlight artists from around the way including Bookworms, Earthen Sea, and Hilsa along with their accompanying label, Youngbloods.
With so much talent coming from all around the world, it’s always hard to choose just 15 ambient and chill tracks, but these April selections each have something special to get you through the storm...or plunge you into it.
1. “SISTER” – ULLA STRAUS [QUIET TIME]
Ulla Straus appeared on February’s chart alongside frequent collaborator, Pontiac Streator, and now she’s back with Big Room, an album that is both peaceful and completely spellbinding. With her sensitive touch, it seems that space is experimented with as much as sound and having to settle on one track was really challenging! The tone is almost playful in “Sister,” but there is something haunting about it. A dreamy piano melody fused with leftfield slashes of sound, made me feel like I was melting into someone else’s memories.
2. “CATENOID” – AROVANE + PORYA HATAMI [KARLRECORDS]
A trippy, spaced out atmosphere reminiscent of Zero 7’s “In the Waiting Line” opens up for careful high-pitched transmissions to slink through. They reverberate into time until bursts of static and rapid clicking disrupt the motion a bit. Iranian composer, Porya Hatami and German sound artist, Arovane unite again for their third album from Karl, C.H.R.O.N.O.S, a tranquil LP that really hones in on the details.
3. “LOST IN THE DEPTHS”– ALEJA SANCHEZ [NORTHALLSEN]
It’s a special moment when one of your favorite techno producers releases an ambient album. Ocean Hypnosis, off Alejas Sanchez’s label Northallsen, offers eight ethereal contributions that swell and moan like the sea itself. “Lost in the Depths” (6:26) is particularly haunting with lengthy (ocean) sprays that sound like whispers. Deep drops and echoing sounds that are part creature, part machine layer over one another like waves. Get lost in this mix of the album below.
4. “MOLLOY”– KERU NOT EVER (FEAT. BIANCA SCOUT) [INFINITE MACHINE]
What starts off as bursts of harsh machine noise and a crunchy voice turns into an otherworldly dreamscape around 2:30. Enchanting tones and angelic vocals lift up to the skies until some of the static from the beginning returns. This time the cracking is less harsh, working with the softer melody, a combination of two different forces. Keru not Ever’s album, The Wind Of?, is out now via Mexico City-based label Infinite Machine.
5. “EDGE OF EXISTENCE”– ASTMA [IA]
Like trying to contact another life form, deep swells form against a beeping melody on this curious lo-fi addition. Astma’s latest album, Mountain Scream, is an exceptional exploration of bass-techno and industrial experimentation. Big in the Polish electronic noise scene and beyond, it was only right that Warsaw label IA picked up the producer for this release.
6. “HEAT DEATH” – CHAFIK CHENNOUF & KATSUNORI SAWA [THE STONE TAPES]
I really appreciate the juxtaposition of the pretty melody and experimentation on this track. After a reverberating voice tries to pierce through the radio, a soft singing vocal takes hold. The album offers heavily textured techno with industrial elements and hellish ambient. Not to mention the sounds of birds and rain pouring. Two label heads from Morocco and Japan respectively, come together for an interesting sonic mashup.
7. “SOMETHING WRONG”– QUEIMADA
This glitchy experiment at times sounds like a factory, the machinery crunching and moving in synchrony until a chanting tribe creeps its way into the mix. I don’t normally see such different elements working together so gracefully, but Queimada delivers while maintaining a slow, seductive pace.
8. “DELTA ZERO”- ALPHAXONE [CRYO CHAMBER]
Iranian sound artist Alphaxone has returned to Cryo Chamber’s cinematic platform for more consuming, atmospheric soundscapes. From his album, Chronosphere, “Delta Zero” is deep space ambient elevated to a state of peace. The soothing drones and attentive field recordings draw up a climate made for extraterrestrial meditation.
9. “MY LAO ACCORDION” – AYANKOKO [CHINABOT]
Though growing up in France, Ayankoko is of Laotian descent and his album, Kia Sao, aims to reflect Laos’ fluctuation of destruction and healing. As the most bombed country on Earth during the Vietnam War and plagued by landmines decades later, the tracks echo this history through bursts of chaotic sound and moments of slowed down ambiance. “My Lao Accordion” contains an emotional melody, like a pain that will always be present despite progress. Conversations break through the static and fade quickly into a sudden end. As a consistent experimental label for Asian artists, Chinabot offers the perfect platform for Ayankoko.
10. “VIEUNTITLED” – BOOKWORMS [C MINUS]
A beloved producer in the Brooklyn underground, Bookworms appears twice on the sixth VA compilation from Kansas podcast C Minus. “Vieuntitled” opens up the story with murky electronics roaming through flickering lasers and a warped electric guitar. The strange, melodic groove makes you want to hold on till the end of the album, which Bookworms rightfully closes as well.
11. “WITHOUT WORDS (SAPHILEAUM'S 4TH SKY)” – SANJIB [OSLATED]
Experimental and dub techno label, Oslated has released another ambient gem for the books, one that is warm, deep and tribal. Soft waves roll in the background to add even more pleasing textures to this peaceful dream.
12. "SHALLOW, SHADOWLESS" – EARTHEN SEA [KRANKY]
Brooklyn-based musician, Earthen Sea (real name Jacob Long) flows through a misty atmosphere complete with gentle dub pads and a faint clapping rhythm. This is a really soothing journey to clarity. His album, Grass and Trees, drops June 7.
13. "SERPENTINE MOSAIC" – KASSEL JAEGER [LATENCY]
In this experimental piece, French composer Kassel Jaeger lets the natural rhythms of sounds form, rather than pre-determining them. The soothing pulsations sing on their own as he adjusts, a soft accordion-like melody only beginning to unfold around 3:30. He explores this organic relationship between sound and space on his LP, Le Lisse et le Strié, out May 5 via Latency.
14. “SPRING RAY” – TOKI FUKO [SILENT SEASON]
Imagine a pulsing drum growing louder as you enter an ancient forest. People around you are playing instruments made from the natural landscape. Toki Fuko takes his time, introducing soft bursts of sound gradually until we are enveloped in dark, sensuous textures. True to Silent Season's deep aesthetic, Toki Fuko's release, Spring Ray, offers an escape from busy daily life to rolling waves of euphoria.
15. "WASH" – HILSA [YOUNGBLOODS]
Like playing a tape uncovered from the rubble, “Wash” is a nostalgic piece combining classical music with droned out chronicles. Radio transmissions rupture through a possessing harmony as a breathy vocal sucks everything in. Closure comes with an abrupt end, and just like that, everything is lost again. Hilsa is the collaborative project of Kallie Lampel and Skeleton Zoo and their self titled album is out now via Brooklyn label, Youngbloods.