May has been an impressive month, filled with plenty of memorable ambient and chill tunes from dreamy drones to deep percussions. Besides the incredible album releases from notable artists Bryant Canelo, Melting Bridge, and Sontag Shogun, there have been some exciting previews as well. Industrial Ambient producer, Hüma Utku provides a sneak peek of her upcoming album with a throbbing and inspirational track, while French producer and label owner, Sub Accent experiments using only one piece of hardware.
Another month proves the limitless creativity of this thought-provoking genre and I’m excited to present my choices to you. I urge you to be a part of the conversation as well. What ambient artists are sending you on a sonic journey lately? How would you arrange or deconstruct this list?
1. “YOU GONNA REGRET NOT TEXTING ME BACK ONCE MY THESIS GETS PUBLISHED” – BRYANT CANELO
Ok, I am thoroughly impressed with South Carolina-based Bryant Canelo’s self-released EP, 6000 Ways, hilarious and puzzling titles included. This first track is a good way to ease in with its melancholic melody moaning through vinyl static and electric guitar incorporations. A smooth and hazy hip-hop beat provides some stability as rapid undulating electronics wash over. Canelo is known for taking apart various genres like techno and rap, infusing spoken word and veils of lo-fi that take you straight back to the 90s.
2. “OI OI SPIT” – TIPPER [TIPPERMUSIC]
There are plenty of downtempo, glitch-infused masterpieces to choose from on David Tipper’s album, Jettison Mind Hatch, but ‘Oi Oi Spit’ is the only (almost) beatless addition with a hypnotizing static reverberation that pulled me in right away. Dreamy pedals of sounds bubble and twist through the track’s spaced out atmosphere, making it the perfect closing track.
3. “MINDFLIGHT- ODE TO FLORA” – MATTHEWDAVID [LO]
This enchanting soundscape comes off the VA release, Spaciousness, from London’s Lo Recordings. Co-founder of LA’s Leaving Records, a label that is no stranger to this list, Matthewdavid (real name Matthew McQueen) creates an open space for wondrous melodies to blow freely in the wind.
4. “CITY OF BRIDGES (EXCERPT)” – KATE CARR [LONGFORM EDITIONS]
This is a beautiful example of combining field recordings and music. Kate Carr has a delicate touch, adding various instruments between seagulls, a crosswalk voice, and human conversations. These are just some of the sounds Carr recorded while in Saskatoon, Canada and her ability to draw musicality from the natural environment is as meditative as it is impressive.
5. “II-A1” – NICK KLEIN AND LACK [ENMOSSED]
The way the warped sounds twist and weave in and out is really hypnotizing, making me want to sway ever so slightly. Soft pads pelt along as lasers and other noises make their way in, subdued at first, from left field. Nick Klein and Lack’s heavy background in the underground dance and ambient culture is evident in this precise production. They know how to put people under a spell. II releases June 25 via Maine-based label, Enmossed and all proceeds will go to Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ilapmaine.org).
6. “KOBU” – CLEVELAND [HIVERN DISCS]
Brussels-based producer, Cleveland uses quirky electronics to disrupt and brighten a smooth deep house-like rhythm. For me, the hypnotizing and fickle textures call to mind artists like Toto Chiavetta and Eduardo de la Calle. “Kobu” is strange and unpredictable enough to stand out, but its melody is also warm enough for a zoned out session by the pool.
7. “BEGIN SYNC END” – SOFIE BIRCH [SEIL]
As the gentle melody made its way through a crackling backdrop, childhood feelings of invincibility rushed back to me. Echoing waves of drones feel calm and magical as if floating on a cloud. For more wondrous narratives, check out Sofie Birch’s album, Planetes, out now via Seil Records.
8. “CLSTRS” – SONTAG SHOGUN [YOUNG BLOODS]
Brooklyn-based label Youngbloods presents another Brooklyn group who are no strangers to the ambient and analog experimental world. Sontag Shogun, a trio known for palpable, organic textures and warm piano themes, celebrates their album, It Billows Up. The project contains a range of surprising field recordings (among delicate piano melodies, euphoric percussions, and chilling vocals), but nowhere on the album are they more present and musically inclined than in “Clstrs,” a fitting title for a composition of primarily found sounds. An organ tune, layered doorbells, glitched conversations, an unraveling and rewinding tape all ‘cluster’ together for a curiously calming experience.
9. “LEAVE THEM ALL BEHIND” – HELM [PAN]
This drowning, pulsating journey through what can only be described as some alien pipeline is very meditative. The steady soft pads are accompanied by a continuous brief buzz every 16 seconds or so. HELM’s album, Chemical Flowers, explores a decaying, yet intriguing atmosphere filled with strange twists, bursts of reverb and mysterious field recordings that come and go like memories.
10. “(+358)S - PHYXI8” – DJRUBIO [HOTTEST THING ON THE MARKET]
I’m addicted to this dreamy melodic tune from DJRubio. The beat sounds like light maracas against a spacey, feel-good atmosphere. It’s the perfect segue into warmer weather. The Finnish producer’s self-released synth-filled album, Heartbreaker, has a lot of range. Dark ambient, field recordings, and soft, indie pop-like vocals are some of the stops along the way and I’m loving it all.
11. “BLACK WATER RED” – HÜMA UTKU [KARLRECORDS]
This pounding, industrial-fused ambiance comes off Istanbul-born/ Berlin-based artist, Hüma Utku’s forthcoming LP, Gnosis, and it is a mesmerizing ritual. An echoing chant comes in through the pulsing drums like a warcry. The tone gradually becomes victorious, fitting for the album title as well, which in Greek means “knowledge reached through intuition and individual experience.” Check Karlrecords on July 5 for the release.
12. “DOEPFER DARK ENERGY I” – SUB ACCENT
Taken from the name of one of Doepfer Musikelektronik’s synthesizers, Sub Accent used only this instrument to create this track. Bright tones and sharp laser pinches shift through trippy electronics that are layered and layered on top of each other. Smooth percussions help move everything along in an otherwise open space. The Berlin collective, One Instrument, prompts musicians to choose a single piece of hardware, the constraint providing an ideal framework to create in.
13. “BAZAAR” – DENSE, TRANSLIPPERS [COSMICLEAF]
The deep house side of ambient can be so seductive sometimes. This dark, sexy track put me in a trance instantly with its developing mystery and slow building drums. The bass hits just right. Dense, Translippers incorporate a mystical flute and relaxed 303 play making the track even more hypnotizing, indigenous even. Catch their album, Entitas out now on Cosmicleaf Records.
14. “FALLEN” – ANTHÉNE [ARCHIVES]
This lush synthesized symphony is so dreamy, I was instantly transported to a vast, open landscape. I would say it looks something like the cover of Anthéne’s album, Lost Channel. Trees and crisp air, an endless ocean. “Fallen” is emotional, epic almost, an excellent example of drone-leaning ambient that doesn’t sound tired. I was completely consumed by the wondrous tones, at times reverberating upwards and descending, but always graceful.
15. “DB2D IN THIS WORLD” – MELTING BRIDGE 融化橋 [EVENING CHANTS]
Tawain based Pia Hsieh and John Tucker come together for their full-length debut, 我們從明天來 (We Come from Tomorrow). It’s an incredible album that uses an array of Eastern acoustic instruments, electric guitar, drum machines, organic sounds and more. “Db2d in This World” has curious percussions from various sources to start it off. An otherworldly atmosphere is created through trembling drones and soft drums that are never the same twice, but manage to be almost catchy.