With a whole year to look back at the ambient and downtempo genres, it was a treat to select some absolute stand-out tracks. Below is a solid playlist covering these vast genres. There will be a lot of strange and uplifting sounds and plenty of dark and unsettling ones as well. Get out the good headphones or hook up a proper speaker. Thank you 2019! Here's to another amazing year of mesmerizing soundscapes!
1. “I TRUST YOU” – CARMEN VILLAIN (DJ PYTHON REMIX) [SMALLTOWN SUPERSOUND]
Ambient and deep-reggaeton mixer, DJ Python, had several solid releases this year, including the euphoric and lush album, Derretirse. This deep and quirky track comes off another record though. Both Lines Will Be Blue by Carmen Villain combines dreamy instrumentals and field recordings with dubby ambient moods for a 7-track masterpiece.
2. “SISTER” – ULLA STRAUS [QUIET TIME]
April saw the release of Ulla Straus’ mystifying album, Big Room and it is truly one for the books. The track “Sister” is particularly dreamy, providing a feeling of lost memories and peace. Catch it at 19:36 and the rest of the album below.
3. “TRIZ BEND” – PONTIAC STREATOR
One of the artists that always takes the ambient genre to the next level, Pontiac Streator offered this twisting, bubbling journey in September and it still bounces and crumbles like colorful claymation.
4. “THE WEAK SONG” – PHILIPP OTTERBACH [KNEKELHUIS]
Without a doubt, one of the most chill-inducing and compelling tracks of the year.
5. “SPRING RAY” – TOKI FUKO [SILENT SEASON]
A standout dub techno groove from the Silent Season label. Sounds from deep within the forest grab onto you and don’t let go. Following the pounding drums that slowly grow louder until all is still again.
6. “QUIET TURMOIL” – POLYGONIA [IO]
A dark, trippy masterpiece rippling and subtly bouncing through February’s chart. These deep electronics still mystify almost a year later.
7. “SUNDRESS BEVERAGE” – BODY SAN [100% SILK]
One of the sexiest, most feel-good grooves this side of the deep, downtempo spectrum. With touches of quirky sounds and a jazzy melody alongside the tight percussions, summer isn’t too far away when you listen to this one.
8. “LOCUTION” – BROWN IRVIN [MOTION WARD]
Like being taken inside the inner workings of a sound factory, this dubby-acid release still stands out.
9. “SITTING WITH THOUGHTS” – SALAMI ROSE JOE LOUIS [BRAINFEEDER]
Salami Rose Joe Louis’ sci-fi, genre-crossing album, Zdenka 2080, is one of the must-own releases of the year. The whimsical and soothing “Sitting With Thoughts” gives a preview into her enchanting world.
10. “NOCTURNE” – ANA ROXANNE [LEAVING]
Like being wrapped in a warm blanket, Ana Roxanne provides a soft and emotive journey where the voice takes the lead, echoing into vast landscapes.
11. "UN JARDIN DE LAMENTOS” – PORTENTO [GENOME 6.66 MBP]
Part 24-minute track, part album, this unique release from March incorporates seductive vocals with bursts of unpredictable sound. It remains an enjoyable journey through enigmatic whispers and field recordings—one of the best experimental ambient pieces of the year.
12. “I FEEL INCOMPLETE WITHOUT SOUND” – OSE [GHUNGHURU]
Looking back at September, we remember the stunning ambient stories told by Ghunghuru label founder, Ose. The peaceful and twinkling piece transcends time, making for a shimmering, cosmic journey you will never get tired of as Ose’s dreamy vocal echoes sweep you away.
13. “LOOPING TRUTHS AND EXPECTATIONS” – UNKNOWN MOBILE [PACIFIC RHYTHM]
One of the more dazzling and shimmering ambient pieces from 2019. This really positive soundscape is a great way to ring in the new year.
14. “MOOD SWINGS” – ATARIAME [NOT NOT FUN]
A floating, beeping composition from June weaving its way through machine noises while still managing to soothe the mind.
15. “VV” – BORA [FIRST TERRACE RECORDS]
This dark, introspective piece manipulates the voice, breaking it up into pieces as sharp beats take over. Bora's haunting vocals will stick with you long after the song is over.
And here are all of 2019's best in one playlist: