Saturday, September 13, 2014

16 Life Changing Albums

I just posted this same long note to Facebook and thought it might interest a few folks here.  I friend that I've known since my college radio days, posted 16 albums that were influential in forming his musical identity and nominated me to do the same.  These aren't necessarily my favorite albums of all time(though some are).  Some introduced me to new sounds or artists.These recordings form a timeline of my musical evolution. 

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust (1972)
Jethro Tull - Aqualung (1971)
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (1975)
Genesis - Wind & Wuthering (1976)
David Bowie - Low (1977)
Brian Eno - Before & After Science (1977)
Tangerine Dream - Sorcerer (1977)
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians (1978)
Brian Eno - Music for Airports (1978)
The Police - Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
Peter Gabriel - 3 (1980)
Talking Heads - Remain in Light (1980)
Bryne & Eno - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)
David Sylvian - Gone To Earth (1986)
Steve Roach - Dreamtime Return (1988)
Avett Brothers - Emotionalism (2007)

I was a high school freshman with mediocre music taste(Beatles, Elton John, Foghat), when my brother changed my life, musically.  In 1974 for my 14th birthday, he gave me 4 albums - David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust, Led Zepplin I, Rod Stewart - Every Picture tells a Story and Jethro Tull - Aqualung.  Bowie & Tull were very important in setting me on a path of musical discovery.

I remember listening to Pink Floyd on headphones, playing it on my parents giant RCA console stereo.  It blew me away & started a love affair with prog rock.  Speaking of prog, my entre to Genesis was "Wind & Wuthering" which is why it's on the list rather than "The Lamb."  I won the album from a local radio station & had no idea what the music was like. 20 or 30 albums later I guess I liked that first taste.

I didn't like Bowie's "Low" album when I first heard it.  But it grew on me & it was my introduction to Brian Eno.  I bought Eno's "Before & After Science" just because of his association with Bowie and that lead to a lifelong obsession with all things Eno.

I picked up the Tangerine Dream album because it was used in a William Friedkin film & I liked the Tubular Bell's cut he used in The Exorcist.  "Sorcerer" was probably my first all electronic album and played a big part in my love for synths.

Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians is probably one of the best albums ever recorded.  I was completely amazed when I heard it for the first time.  Totally different from anything I'd heard before.

Eno's "Music for Airports" is crucial to my musical development because of the role ambient has played in my musical life ever since this ground breaking album.

I put the Police album on the list not because it is an all time fav of mine.  It's there because of the way it changed my thinking.  At the time it was released I was heavy into prog rock & I knew very little of punk or new wave.  Then along comes this tight, catchy three piece and I started to realize that music could be more than 5 minute guitar solos.

PG - 3 was a sonic adventure due to Gabriel's use the Fairlight CMI sampling synth.  It is another album that just blew me away.

"Remain in Light," and "Bush of Ghosts" are important because of the different sonic worlds they exposed me to.  

David Sylvian - Gone to Earth is on the list cuz it's awesome.  Steve Roach - Dreamtime continued my love of ambient music & expanded it even further.

The only recent recording on the list is The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism.  Banjo!  Who knew I could love the banjo?!  It's also on the list because it represents a shift in my taste toward more "normal" music, essentially indie music, in recent years.  I still listen to the old stuff and I make ambient mixes, but much of my time is spent tracking down new stuff from artists like Andrew Bird, Alt-J, Deep Sea Diver, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, The Antlers, Strand of Oaks, Phantogram, etc.

If anybody cares to share their list, please do so.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

halftribe September Ambient Mix

Back in July I featured a guest mix from halftribe.  It was an excellent mix & a nice break for me.  Well, Ryan Bissett(halftribe) has kindly offered another mix and I jumped at the chance to post it.

This mix is absolutely pure ambient bliss.  A beautiful collection perfect for any time of year or any time of day.  I've been listening to it at work and have used it as sleep material as well.  Give it a listen/download, I'm sure any ambient lover will enjoy this mix.

Also swing by Ryan's halftribe pages:

Halftribe Bandcamp

Halftribe Soundcloud

Halftribe Mixcloud

[ s t r e a m ]  
[ d o w n l o a d ]   [ i t u n e s ]

 T R A C K L I S T :
  • 00'00 Steiner - Happiness And The Longing For Repetition (Unfinished)
  • 05'30 SandStars - Finally Night (Original mix)
  • 12'07 Stabilo - Viridity
  • 19'00 Brandon Hurtado - Merci Et Bonne Nuit
  • 21'50 Massergy - Baptisia
  • 27'48 Halftribe - Holy Ground
  • 33'25 Rdei - Untitled
  • 36'16 SandStars - Cold Voice (Original mix)
  • 41'21 Masaya Ozaki - Alkaline Days
  • 45'17 Halftribe - The Secret Garden
  • 51'10 Gareth Dickson - Harmonics


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Leaving the Station

cinemagraph by Julien Douvier -
Sometimes I go through phases of music listening.  I'll listen to a bunch of old prog rock for two weeks then move on.  I pull out some old Cantebury Scene stuff from the 70s for awhile.  Then I'll go on an early 80s new wave binge.  Then Americana.  Then ECM jazz.

This mix came out of one such binge.  I've been listening to a lot of Jean Michel Jarre & Tangerine Dream lately.  Jean Michel Jarre was a college favorite of mine.  My girlfriend in college loved JMJ.  Which is probably why I married her - how many college girls like Jean Michel Jarre?!

While bingeing on JMJ & TD I knew that I wanted to use them in a mix and the train theme just seemed to flow naturally from there.  So the first two JMJ tunes I chose specifically because of the train sounds in them.  I think I'd like to do another berlin school mix with all artists and music from the 1970s.


T R A C K L I S T :

  • 00:00    Tangerine Dream - Love on a Real Train
  • 03:40    Jean Michel Jarre - Magnetic Fields pt. 3
  • 06:33    Dadub - Arrival
  • 09:10    Miktek - Elsewhere(fade edit)
  • 14:40    Evan Marc + Steve Hillage - Resurface
  • 16:30    Tangerine Dream - Rain and Thunder(Sorcerer Cinematographic Score)
  • 23:00    Jean Michel Jarre - Ethnicolor II
  • 25:55    Grumbling Fur - Eyoreseye
  • 31:33    Mark McGuire - The Instinct
  • 37:25    ??? - ???
  • 41:20    Mohn - Saturn
  • 48:45    Plastikman - Locomotion
  • 52:45    Jean Michel Jarre - Equinoxe VII
  • 59:10    Tangerine Dream - The Dream Is Always The Same
  • 1:02:24    end

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Driving all night

You're driving,
and it's dark and it's raining,
and you're on the edge of the city
and you've been driving all night.
And you took a turn back there
but you're not sure it was the right turn.
But you took the turn anyway,
just kept going in that direction.
And somehow it looks sort of familiar,
so you just keep driving.

Hello. Excuse me.
Can you tell me where I am?

You've been on this road before.
You can read the signs.
You can feel your way.
You can do this in your sleep.

This is a mix I did for the good folks at Intergalactic.FM.  Head over there for this and a ton of other mixes and radio shows.

Like most of my mixes there is a starting point or inspiration that gets the ball rolling.  In this case it was the Laurie Anderson track "Lighting Out For The Territories" from her United States Live album.  The cut is so atmospheric and moody.  It immediately conjures up images of lonely highways, lonely songs and tires thumping on the pavement.

I had a hard time deciding between cuts that have a lonely country, twangy feel and songs that are more pulsating, driving electronic in nature.  In the end I ended up with a little bit of everything.  The two tracks with vocals definitely have a lonely, plaintive quality.  That same feel is also present in the Daniel Lanois tunes and the instrumental from The Antlers(whose new album is fantastic by the way).

The tracks from Prins Thomas and Brian Reitzell are of the more electronic driving type.  Both have an old kraut rock feel to them that I love.  A totally different feel is found in pieces by Terminal Sound System and Talvihorros, sort of weird Twins Peaks vibe.  Which makes sense because the Talvihorros track is actually the Twin Peaks theme.  Most of the rest of the tunes just sort of felt right for a theme of night driving.

Laurie Anderson makes 4 or 5 appearances in the mix.  All are variations of the opening track. Usually with other rhythms or road sounds added in.


T R A C K L I S T :
  • 00:00    Laurie Anderson - Lighting Out for the Territories
  • 02:20    Sparklehorse - Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
  • 07:00    London Grammar - Wicked Game(cover)
  • 10:30    Laurie Anderson - New Jersey Turnpike
  • 11:53    Brian Reitzell - Auto Music 2
  • 18:20    Calexico - Hair Like Spanish Moss
  • 22:05    Cowboy Junkies - 200 More Miles
  • 27:25    Bexar Bexar - n.r.o.t.
  • 30:30    Watter - Rustic Fog
  • 35:25    Daniel Lanois - New Smoke
  • 37:30    The Antlers - Jupiter
  • 42:00    Terminal Sound System - Duchamp Falls
  • 46:10    Hidden Orchestra - Strange
  • 52:30    Prins Thomas - Kavaler
  • 57:45    Cliff Martinez - Driving to the Bonaparte
  • 58:40    Daniel Lanois - Bell Toll
  • 59:55    Talvihorros - Twin Peaks Theme
  • 1:03:20    end

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer sleeps

This is one of those mixes where the title pretty much says it all...Summer Sleeps.  I found that if I keep titles fairly straight forward and clear that plays on Mixcloud go up a bit.

I listen to music every night when I go to bed.  And lately I was getting bored with old sleep mixes so of course the solution is to make a new one.  There's not much else to say about this mix, just lay back and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

[ s t r e a m ]  [ d o w n l o a d ]   [ i t u n e s ]

T R A C K L I S T :

  • 00'00    Stephen Vitiello and Taylor Deupree - From the Fish House
  • 06'00    Manual - Last Light
  • 10'50    Moon Eye Lids - My Only Moon...
  • 18'30    Sonmi451 - Ruis
  • 25'20    Budd and Eno - Against the Sky
  • 29'00    James Johnson - Entering Twilight
  • 37'50    Steinbruchel - Home
  • 44'15    Kyle Bobby Dunn - Powers of None
  • 48'22    Ruben Garcia - Rainy Day
  • 52'20    Tom Heasley - Ground Zero
  • 1'00'50    St. Kilda - You Are In Every Dream
  • 1'03'53    Tonepoet - So Gently We go
  • 1'11'20    Tiny Isles - With Thanks Petal
  • 1'15'00    Alio Die and Saffron Wood - The Sleep of Seeds
  • 1'18'10    33bowls - Morning
  • 1'24'10    James Johnson and Stephen Phillips - Lost at Dunn's Lake
  • 1'40'44    end

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Halftribe guest mix

The timing on this could be better.  I've been very busy lately and haven't been able to do a mix.  So it's the perfect time for a guest mix.

This mix comes to us from Ryan Bissett who produces ambient music as Halftribe.  What I love about guest mixes is that I'm usually unfamiliar with many of the tracks.  And this mix does exactly that.  Only two artists were known to me before I heard this mix.  Thanks to Ryan for introducing me to even more new music that I'll never have enough time to listen to. LOL!

Halftribe music is one of the discoveries in this mix.  Any ambient music fan will appreciate the music of Halftribe.  Here are some useful links to Ryan's music...

Halftribe Bandcamp

Halftribe Soundcloud

Halftribe Mixcloud

Thanks for the mix!

[ s t r e a m ]  [ d o w n l o a d ]   [ i t u n e s ]

T R A C K L I S T :

  • 00'00   Halftribe - Excursion 4
  • 06'48   Pines - Dowsing Rod
  • 09'06   Letna - Koritnik
  • 13'22   Ex Confusion - Two Things 
  • 15'19   Lost Trail - A Stained August For The Jetcrash
  • 18'36   Moshimoss - Homeland
  • 21'30   Letna - Mokra Gora
  • 24'50   Halftribe ft OJWoods - Sleep Song
  • 29'10   Sandstars - Separation Anxiety (original mix)
  • 32'15   Izzard - Airways
  • 35'15   Caught In The Wake Forever - Meditation In Exile #2
  • 37'15   Linear Bells - L'Oisseau
  • 48'36   Ben Woods - No Word From Above, 
  • 50'00   Easychord - With Your Feet On The Dash
  • 53'20   Tone Color - Drone
  • 55'09   Milkky Wayy - Drone Me
  • 57'52   Zudi - Thank You Mr Karoshi

Monday, May 19, 2014

Always & Forever - Americana Vol. 1

I know this blog is supposed to be about ambient music but over the years I've posted some outliers - "Quintessential Jazz" "Footsteps" "Psalms and Lullabies" "Sunday Morning Music" "Vox Electronix" and some other odd balls.  It gets a little boring just mixing nothing but floating ambient so it's nice to branch out every now and then.

This mix, "Always & Forever," is definitely on a different branch of the musical tree than ambient.  It's a collection of Americana style tunes that I've been listening to a lot lately.

I've been a fan of the Avett Brothers since my daughter introduced me to them 7 or 8 years ago.  Listening to the banjo as used by the Avetts and Sufjan Stevens started me on a path to enjoying stripped down, acoustic, country/americana/roots/whatever-you-want-to-call-it music.

Even though this mix is Americana music I think it still retains some of the Low Light Mixes feel.  Most of the tunes are simple and laid back.

There are two soundtracks represented here, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Nebraska."  I love the beautiful simplicity of the "Nebraska" soundtrack.  It always conjures up the black and white landscape images from the film.

Oops, there are three soundtracks used in this mix.  I forgot about "Inside Llewyn Davis."  Another of my favorite films from last year.  The job Oscar Issac did was fabulous and so I couldn't resist using two cuts from the album.

Also included in this mix are four artists that I heard for the first time in 2013, Elephant Revival, Valerie June, Johnny Flynn and Gregory Alan Isakov.  All excellent recordings.

Some other artists that I just had to include are The Avett Brothers because, well, they're the Avett Brothers.  Also Blessed Feathers because they are local duo that does awesome music.  And Andrew Bird because he has become my favorite all around artist over the last 2 or 3 years.

I hope you all enjoy this newest diversion from the ambient formula.  I like this mix so much that I'll probably do more.


[ s t r e a m ]  [ d o w n l o a d ]   [ i t u n e s ]

T R A C K L I S T :

  • 00:00    Oscar Issac & Marcus Mumford - Fare Thee Well(Dinks Song)
  • 02:52    We Are The West - JV Tryouts
  • 07:00    Night Beds - Even If We Try
  • 10:50    Avett Brothers - Souls Like The Wheels
  • 14:40   Mark Orton - Their Pie
  • 16:40    Blessed Feathers - Everyone I Love Is You
  • 20:55    Delta Spirit - Devil Knows You're Dead
  • 24:15    Benh Zeitlin & Dan Romer - The Survivors
  • 27:15    Elephant Revival - Spinning
  • 29:33    Valerie June - Somebody to Love
  • 32:57    Johnny Flynn - Einstein's Idea
  • 38:45    Andrew Bird - Lit From Underneath
  • 42:00    Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden
  • 46:22    Gregory Alan Isakov - A Suitcase Full of Sparks
  • 50:15    Sarah Jarosz - Floating in the Balance
  • 53:00    Andrew Bird - Danse Carribe
  • 58:05   Oscar Issac - Green, Green Rocky Road 
  • 1:01:08    Elephant Revival - Remembering a Beginning
  • 1:04:55    Mark Orton - Magna Carta
  • 1:07:24    end

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Mixcloud Favorites

I was checking out some of the latest mixes on Mixcloud this morning and thought it might be cool to post some links to some of my favorite Mixclouders.


Optic Echo


Six Degrees Records

Headphone Commute

Folk Radio UK




post-rock paper scissors


Tru Thoughts

Nocturne Records


The Hedonist

Irregular Crates

Adam Kvasnica



Star Talk Radio

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Favorite Ambient Tracks of All Time

I've already done a "Favorite Ambient Albums" mix and a "Favorite Ambient Artists" mix so it makes sense that there would eventually be a "Favorite Ambient Tracks" mix.  And here it is.

Ambient music is definitely not a song based genre.  I like to remember works as a whole or an artist's work as a whole.  There are artists that I absolutely love but can't name more than a handful of specific tunes.  So it sort of goes against form to make a list of fav ambient tracks.  That being said, when I sat down to make a list there were a few cuts that I immediately knew I wanted in the mix, like Structures From Silence.

This is a looong mix, clocking in at 2 hours and 9 minutes.  I wanted to let some of the longer tracks breathe, even if I couldn't play the entire 28 minutes of Structures.

Here's a few thoughts on the tunes that made the cut...

The first track in the mix is a beautiful, watery tune, Submarine Poetry, from krill.minima.  I used this one in my first "sea" mix and every time I play that mix I marvel at how perfect this tune is.

Next up is Lantern Marsh by Brian Eno.  I could have filled this entire mix with Eno favorites but I had to try and limit myself somehow.  I love On Land and this cut pretty much sums up that wonderful album for me.

Track number three is Lear by Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis and Pauline Oliveros.  I'm curious as to how widely known the album Deep Listening is.  This is not classic Eno or Roach ambient.  The recording took place inside a huge cistern which is responsible for its tremendous reverb.  The unusual instruments of accordion, trombone, didgeridoo and voice use the acoustics of the cistern to create long sustained drones.  The effect is hypnotic and beautiful.

The fourth cut is the previously mentioned Steve Roach track, Structures From Silence.  A lot of ambient music doesn't really have a recognizable melody but this song is about as close as you'll get.  I've been listening to this one for a loooooong time and never seem to tire of it.

Next is Peter Gabriel's The Nest That Sailed The Sky from the Ovo album.  The album is pretty hit and miss but this tune is gorgeous.

Another Eno tune drops next and it's Drift from the Apollo album.  There several cuts on this album that could make a lot of great ambient lists but I just like this song because it reminds me of the scenes it was used with in the film For All Mankind.  If you haven't seen the film do so asap!

The next cut has been a sleep time favorite for years.  It's A Smooth Surface by A Produce.  I love all the space between notes.  It doesn't really change much over the course of a long track, but that's what I love about it.

I have a special place in my ambient heart for the eighth track, Silence Speaks In Shadows, because it was recorded not far from where I live here in Wisconsin.  Paul Vnuk Jr. recorded environmental sounds near his studio in Cudahy.  Those sounds include thunderstorms, street noise, trains and even a police siren wailing in the night.  Combine those field recordings with some droney synths and you've got a great night time atmospheric piece.

The Most Beautiful Blue by Eluder is the next cut.  This is a track that I didn't realize how much I liked it until I realized that it kept showing up in mixes and playlists.  Similar to Submarine Poetry, it has that great ocean/sea feel to it that I love.

This next cut, Diamond Cove, is from a favorite artist of mine, Kyle Bobby Dunn.  It's from his album Bring Me The Head Of Kyle Bobby Dunn.  Just like Eno I could pick a bunch of KBD songs to put in this kind of mix but I settled on this one because I like its simplicity.

The KBD song segues nicely into the Olancha Farewell by Harold Budd.  I didn't know how much I loved this track until I recently heard for the first time in years.  Normally when I think of Harold Budd I think of his ambient piano but this track is just too beautiful to keep out of this mix.  It's similar in feel to the KBD song that precedes it and to Rhubarb by Aphex Twin.  Olancha Farewell is from the album Lovely Thunder.

The Marsen Jules song, Oeillet Sauvage, is similar in feel to the A Produce track from earlier in the mix.  It has lots of space in between notes, which I love.

The third Eno song in the mix shows up next.  It's 1/1 from Music for Airports.  I remember buying this on vinyl the day it was released back in 1978.  I had come to Eno through David Bowie so I knew of some of his quieter stuff on Low and Before and After Science.  But I was unprepared for the deliberate repetition and slowness of Music for Airports.  It blew me away.  This album has remained a favorite to this day.

After Eno we move on to Mark Rownd - Painting Twilight.  I hesitated to put this track in because the album as a whole treads very close to new age territory.  But I sort of fell for this album back when it was released in 1998 and it has stayed with me.  Especially the title track, Painting Twilight.  It has that ebb and flow, breathing quality that I go for.

Next up is the classic Aphex Twin cut, Rhubarb from Selected Ambient Works, Vol.II.  I read somewhere once that this cut should be the theme song form the monolith in 2001:A Space Odyssey.  I could see that.

The next cut is even more Eno music, this time in the form of the Budd/Eno tune, An Echo Of Night from The Pearl.  A great atmospheric tune that would fit well on Eno's On Land.

One of my favorite ambient albums of the last ten years is Butterfly by Disturbed Earth.  First released on Atmoworks in 2012, it was originally recorded in 1977 using a Fripp-style two reel to reel set up.  I love ambient guitar in general and this one just hits the sweet spot of ambient guitar, ebb and flow, and classic sound and fell.

I'm not sure how many folks would put this next track on their best of all time lists.  If I were hearing this cut, The Path Not Taken by Thom Brennan, for the first time today I'm not sure if I would like it as much as I do.  I know that part of my love for this track is wrapped up in the time I discovered it back in the mid 90s when tribal ambient was a big deal.  I've pretty much stepped away from the tribal stuff now, but this track still gets me every time.

We reach the end of this epic mix with Fripp and Eno - Evening Star, the title track from Evening Star.  I know, more Eno.  But I couldn't resist this one.  Beautiful cut, perfect end for a favorite mix.

Wow!  That's easily the most I've ever written for a mix post.  Hope that didn't bore you to death.  I wasn't planning on a track by track essay but I started talking about a few and it just took off.  Anyway I hope you enjoy this mix I much as I did.

[ s t r e a m ]  [ d o w n l o a d ]   [ i t u n e s ]

T R A C K L I S T :

  • 00:00 krill.minima - Submarine Poetry
  • 07:25 Brian Eno - Lantern Marsh
  • 11:50 Stuart Dempster & Panaiotis & Pauline Oliveros - Lear
  • 20:15 Steve Roach - Structures from Silence
  • 28:40 Peter Gabriel - The Nest That Sailed The Sky
  • 33:00 Brian Eno - Drift
  • 35:25 A Produce - A Smooth Surface(deep meditation version)
  • 46:15 Paul Vnuk - Silence Speaks in Shadows
  • 53:30 Eluder - The Most Beautiful Blue
  • 58:15 Kyle Bobby Dunn - Diamond Cove
  • 01:01:20    Harold Budd - Olancha Farewell
  • 03:20 Marsen Jules - Oeillet Sauvage
  • 09:00 Brian Eno - Music for Airports 1/1
  • 19:00 Mark Rownd - Painting Twilight
  • 24:30 Aphex Twin - Rhubarb
  • 31:00 Budd & Eno - An Echo of Night
  • 33:05 Disturbed Earth - Butterfly
  • 45:30 Thom Brennan - The Path Not Taken
  • 02:01:30    Fripp & Eno - Evening Star
  • 02:08:54    end