Friday, December 29, 2023

2023 Rewind - Favorite Ambient Albums of the Year


These end-of-the-year lists are usually labeled "Best Albums of the Year" - Best Ambient, Best Jazz, Best Indie, etc. I have been doing that for years. It has been pointed out that calling a list the "Best of the Year" is not only a bit snobby, it's also a little ridiculous because there is so much ambient music released every week that it's impossible to keep up. Plus this list is just my opinion, how can it possibly qualify as the "best"?

With that in mind I was moving towards labeling these as my favorite albums of the year. In this case I called it "2023 Rewind" simply because I found a cool stock photo for the cover art. Anyway, on to the mix.

These lists and mixes are tough to compile. It's so easy for even good albums to get lost in the shuffle. The ones that definitely did not get lost are my top 5 albums:

  1. Crows Labyrinth - Neon Scenes I - Granular Dreams
  2. Brendan Eder Ensemble - Therapy
  3. Eli Keszler - LIVE [LuckyMe]
  4. The Green Kingdom - Ether Hymns [Dronarivm]
  5. Rod Modell & Taka Noda - Glow World [13]

I probably listened to that Crows Labyrinth album more than any other ambient album this year. It had the advantage of being used as a sleep album...a lot. The album has a great Blade Runner vibe that is retro yet fresh. I love it. 

The Brendan Eder Ensemble was a new discovery for me. He self described his music as “meditative woodwind arrangements." That would have been enough to get my attention but then toss in a few Aphex Twin covers and I was hooked.

Eli Keszler has shown up on my lists before but this one is my fav. It is all live percussion, some sparse, some frantic but somehow it all feels ambient. Even when there's a lot going on it feels like it fits more in the ambient genre than jazz. So good.

Michael Cottone has been creating music as The Green Kingdom for a long time. I can always count on him for good quality ambient tracks. "Ether Hymns" is light and beautiful without ever being syrupy or overdone. It sets a perfect tone.

"Glow World" from Rod Modell & Taka Noda is pretty much what you would expect from Modell. Lots of synth washes with some buried bass lines and rhythms. It may be nothing new but it's done so well that the atmospheres suck you right in. 

Here's the full list of my favorite ambient albums of 2023 in alphabetical order:

  • Alex Albrecht - Violet Visionary [ASIP]
  • Alva Noto - Kinder der Sonne (From Komplizen) [Noton]
  • ARROWOUNDS - In The Octopus Pond [Lost Tribe Sound]
  • Bill Seaman, Tim Diagram, Stephen Spera - The World Was Turning Before [Laaps]
  • Brendan Eder Ensemble - Therapy [2023]
  • Claire Deak - Sotto Voce [Lost Tribe Sound 2023]
  • Courtney Barnett - End Of The Day OST [Milk Records]
  • Crows Labyrinth - Neon Scenes I - Granular Dreams
  • Crows Labyrinth- Pulse Mandala - Astral Solstice [Valley View Records]
  • cv313 - Plays Sequential Space [2023]
  • Drawing Virtual Gardens - 22-22 [Lost Tribe Sound]
  • Eli Keszler - LIVE [LuckyMe]
  • Foreign Body Sensation & Justin Maranga - Subterranean Environments [Dune Alter]
  • Hainbach - Voice Magnetic [Seil]
  • Loneward - Willoweald [Stereoscenic]
  • Michael Scott Dawson - Find Yourself Lost [We Are Busy Bodies]
  • Mount Shrine - Lost Loops Collection [Cryo Chamber]
  • Nico Less - Still
  • North Americans - Long Cool World [Third Man Records]
  • Pan American - in daylight dub [Foam On A Wave]
  • Prins Emanuel - Diagonal Musik II [Music for Dreams]
  • PURELINK - Signs [Peak Oil]
  • Rod Modell & Taka Noda - Glow World [13]
  • Saphileaum - Intrapersonal Experience [Good Morning Tapes]
  • Sigur Rós - ÁTTA [Krúnk]
  • Snufmumriko - Havstrakt [Sun Sea Sky Productions]
  • Tapani Rinne - Grey [Signature Dark]
  • The Green Kingdom - Ether Hymns [Dronarivm]
  • Toki Fuko - Spirit Medicine [Astral Industries]
  • William Ryan Fritch - Cohesion [Lost Tribe Sound]

Links to each album:

I am pretty proud of myself that I managed to squeeze in all 30 albums into this one 2-hour mix. Next up a 2023 jazz favorites mix.

Cheers! And here's to a good 2024!

T R A C K L I S T :
  • 00:00    Alva Noto - Kinder der Sonne(Intro) (Kinder der Sonne(From "Komplizen")
  • 03:18    Hainbach - Voice Magnetic (Voice Magnetic)
  • 06:20    Brendan Eder Ensemble - #20(Lichen) Aphex Twin cover (Therapy)
  • 10:06    Michael Scott Dawson - Evening Constitutional (Find Yourself Lost)
  • 13:45    Courtney Barnett - Floating Down (End Of The Day OST)
  • 15:05    North Americans - Western Town, With Road to Mountain (Long Cool World)
  • 18:50    The Green Kingdom - Tradewinds (Ether Hymns)
  • 22:10    Foreign Body Sensation & Justin Maranga - In the Lair of the 5-Sided Serpent (Subterranean Environments)
  • 25:08    Alex Albrecht - Forest Dance (Violet Visionary)
  • 28:28    Saphileaum - Plum (Intrapersonal Experience)
  • 32:52    Rod Modell & Taka Noda - Untitled #2 (Glow World)
  • 38:25    Nice Less - Nice & Quiet (Still)
  • 44:10    Snufmumriko - Skärgårdskväde (Havstrakt)
  • 47:42    Purelink - 4k Murmurs(feat. J) (Signs)
  • 53:05    Crows Labyrinth - Neon Scenes I: Granular Dreams (Single Version)
  • 56:27    Loneward - Light Blossom (Willoweald)
  • 01:01:52    Claire Deak - Dolce Tormento (Sotto Voce)
  • 01:04:27    Bill Seaman, Tim Diagram, Stephen Spera - Far Away (The World Was Turning Before)
  • 01:09:15    Drawing Virtual Gardens - Be aware there is a goat hidden in the trees (22:22)
  • 01:22:47    Tapani Rinne - Tuokio (Grey)
  • 01:27:07    William Ryan Fritch - Timescale (Cohesion)
  • 01:29:15    ARROWOUNDS - Blue Entombed (In The Octopus Pond)
  • 01:25:00    Pan•American - Renzo (In Daylight Dub)
  • 01:28:55    cv313 - Forever In The Sky (Plays Sequential Space)
  • 01:36:27    Toki Fuko - Part Two (Spirit Medicine)
  • 01:42:40    Eli Keszler - Manhattan Part IV (LIVE)
  • 01:46:46    Prins Emanuel - Paia (Diagonal Musik II)
  • 01:50:25    Crows Labyrinth, Pulse Mandala - Astral Solstice (Astral Solstice)
  • 01:54:00    Mount Shrine - Raining Indoors (Lost Loops Collection)
  • 02:02:07    Sigur Rós - Blóðberg (ÁTTA)
  • 02:09:05    end