Not necessarily the best ambient and space music of 2018

by Dave Maier

No, it’s not that time of year just yet! However, since my yearly lists aren’t always exactly best-of-year lists anyway, I thought I might get the jump on everyone else, before we’re all best-of-year’ed out. (I should do sets more often anyway …) About half of these tracks are from 2018, and the rest are recent-ish, so that’s something.

Ethernet – Birds of Paradise (From Here to Tranquility Vol. 7 [Silent])

I don’t know a whole lot about Ethernet (I didn’t bother googling, because I bet you get a bazillion hits for, you know, Ethernet), but this track is a gloriously bubbly spacy ambient number of the sort Silent does very well (although there are all kinds of things on their samplers, of which they are up to Vol. 10 now, I see).

Fastus – Dream Within a Dream (Terra Incognito)

Fastus is a guy named Ian from Jersey City, NJ in the USA. He does great demos for particular synth modules, which is how I know about him. Most if not all of this track was done on a Eurorack modular system, perhaps the very one pictured in blue above. It can be difficult to make modular synths sound musical, so hats off to Ian for this compelling track. Check out the Bandcamp link for a sweet deal on all three of Ian’s records.

Erik Wollo – Traverse (Threshold Point [Projekt])

This is Erik’s 23rd album, some of which, he tells us, was composed “under special and tragic circumstances,” which he says make it “more ethereal and humble” than some of his other music. I haven’t heard all 22 of his other records, so I can’t really say, but this one sounds to me pretty much like the ones I know from his early days (classics like Traces and Images of Light). This particular track may also be an homage to fellow Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, as the chord progression sounds a whole lot like that from the track “Avskjed” from Rypdal’s 1980 album Descendre. If I ever meet Erik again, I will ask him.

Taiga Remains – skin, leaves (works for cassette [Helen Scarsdale])

Taiga Remains is one Alex Cobb. As the title of this release may or may not suggest, these tracks were originally released on cassette (you remember cassettes) a while back, probably in runs of 50 or so. That medium actually works very well for guitar drone like this, as its relatively lo-fi analog nature lends the sound a gauzy feel which fits nicely. These digital versions sound fine too though. Props to Helen Scarsdale for making these tracks available!

Bubble – Alien Piss Tank (i)

Bubble, like Fastus, seems like more of a hobbyist than someone determined to make a living from music, but, also like Fastus, is extremely talented and well worth your time. Yet again like Fastus, he has a crazy sweet deal on his entire catalog available at his Bandcamp page. Unlike Ian, though, Bubble is not a modular synthesist, preferring more conventional means. Of i – a free download, incidentally, though just as good as the others I’ve heard from him – he notes: “As always, this is meant for head phone listening… (preferable the big ass 70’s head phones… lol!)” Since this mix is not in a lossless format, alas, I imagine that small ass head phones would also work fine.

Kinephilia – Radio Free Tunguska [unreleased]

As you may remember from last year, Kinephilia is the name I have chosen for my own humble efforts in the ambient genre. Interestingly, the main sounds here are made by iPad synthesizers available for pocket change, while my costly modular synth provides only the occasional background texture, which is a testament to the quality of the former just as much as the difficulty of the latter. Or so it seems to me. Here too the mix is a bit rough and might be a tad different on an actual release.

Troum – āfȳsan (homework year 2 [taâlem])

Troum has been around for quite a while, doing guitar drone of the highest order, so it’s good to see they’re still making music. This is from a huge collection of various artists on the taâlem label out of Belgium, and it’s a free download so go get it – although a good deal of it is noisier and/or more experimental rather than ambient. (I should do another noise mix …)

Alio Die & Sylvi Alli – Revenir (Amidst the Circling Spires [Projekt])

Alio Die too has been around for many years, putting out both solo and collaborative works on his own Hic Sunt Leones label, and now with Projekt as well. On this disc his synths and zithers are joined by Sylvi Alli’s voice. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, if the last couple of tracks haven’t put you to sleep yet (warning: do not drive or operate heavy machinery while listening, especially if you’re listening on big ass head phones).

Here’s the direct link: