Knuckledragger

The ambient/IDM thread.

118 posts in this topic

A while back, some head-caser (I forget who) made some disparaging remarks about ambient, IDM, and drum n bass. While it is far beyond my abilities to defend Monotonous Snare Music, I do have a keen interest into the other genres. "IDM" (Intelligent Dance Music) is kind of a misnomer at this point, as virtually none of it is remotely danceable. The truth is "IDM" meant something quite different in the first half of the 90s, when it served to differentiate from dance music that was more than insipid house music or moronic raver noise like (shudder) happy hardcore. I used to read the IDM mailing list on hyperreal.org. They had a keen "IDM" logo in the style of IBM. Sadly, I don't have a copy, and couldn't find one on hyperreal.

These days, I don't listen to much IDM. There's to many micro-genres made by hipsters with laptops, and I can't stand most of it. That said, the poster children for IDM are among my favorite electronic acts. I am of course referring to Boards of Canada.

This is not their best song, but definitely a doozy. The video is pretty keen, too.

As a whole, head-case seems to prefer music made with acoustic instruments vs synthesizers. That said, I've seen BoC and the like appear more than a few times in the What Are You Listening To, Two thread. What are some of your favorite ambient and IDM tracks, H-C?

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Not really a huge fan of IDM specifically (as a lot of it is really repetitive and hence boring) but I like it in small doses. My IDM collection is horribly incomplete though and is missing a lot of the stalwarts like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher, and The Orb - never got into them back in the 90s/00s, maybe I'll rediscover them now. ;) I do like Photek and Source Direct. Klute is also cool stuff (not to be confused with another non-electronica band of the same name).

Ambient > IDM for me overall, I just like the freeform "floating" sound that requires absolutely no critical listening to enjoy. Hard to find good ambient electronic though. I'd post the artists I have stuff by, but I tend to forget what I own and would need to be in front of my CD (and MP3) collection for a refresher.

Oh and synths > acoustic instruments, definitely. :) The whole idea of synths + sampling allows for a creative freedom that IMO surpasses what can be done with real instruments.

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I feel so strongly about the two albums below that anything I say will sound ridiculous, so I'll just say that they are currently my favorite electronic albums.

1) Gridlock - Formless.

Its got the avant-garde factor, but not at the expense of beauty and/or melody. Too many IDM type albums seem to intentionally jettison anything resembling melody, and it doesn't always work.

2) Kashiwa Daisuke - Program Music 1

Pretty much the same deal, very beautiful. This one fuses elements together much like the Justice self-titled album, but in a far more mature manner, imho.

I really dont know what category this falls into though. Parts are ambient, and parts are not.

I'm not great with the categorization, but I'd put it in either 'ambient industrial' or IDM I think. For me, "electronic" is pretty much the limit of mental categorization that takes place. I tend to put Nine Inch Nails in the same group as Knife, KMFDM, Autechre, etc.

I don't fare very well with ultra repetitive material, so anything that gives some approximation of changes, or song structure gets my preference in the genre.

Ultimately my favorite 'electronic' albums dont seem to be firmly in one camp, but incorporate everything into one entity.

---

I finally ordered some more Kashiwa Daisuke the other day, looking forward to comparing it to the impossibly high bar of Program Music 1.

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I checked out BoC yesterday, being mostly ignorant of this genre, I liked it. I'll sample more of their work but would love to hear other recommendations in the same vein.

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Oh and synths > acoustic instruments, definitely. :) The whole idea of synths + sampling allows for a creative freedom that IMO surpasses what can be done with real instruments.

Coming from the "other" side, synth/electric instruments will never sound like acoustic instruments. And there is something magical about hand produced instruments, in that each and every one sounds different from each and every other one, vs. specific electronic gear and specific models of instruments that people use. And of course, the players themselves have a specific way of playing, and that in combination with finding a good instrument that really jives with them makes the experience truly one of a kind. That said, I like both, as long as the music is good.

I like ambient stuff, but haven't really delved into IDM as a lot of the stuff really is repetitive to me. And then there's drum n bass, in which every song sounds exactly the same as every other. I like what I've heard of Aphex Twin.

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1) Gridlock - Formless.

Its got the avant-garde factor, but not at the expense of beauty and/or melody. Too many IDM type albums seem to intentionally jettison anything resembling melody, and it doesn't always work.

2) Kashiwa Daisuke - Program Music 1

Pretty much the same deal, very beautiful. This one fuses elements together much like the Justice self-titled album, but in a far more mature manner, imho.

I really dont know what category this falls into though. Parts are ambient, and parts are not.

Until you mentioned them, I never heard of these of these. I am in the process of securing a copies of both as I type this.

There really is no one exactly like BoC, but another shining light of IDM is Ulrich Schnauss. I'm not as big on his recent material, but the first first two albums under his own name are absolute classics. Ulrich was a drum n bass producer in the late 90s, and not one particular note. In 2001 he released Far Away Trains Passing By which caught the attention ...nearly everyone who was listening to electronic music at the time. Seriously, check out the Discogs reviews. My personal favorite track on the album is "Blumenweise Neben Autobahn" but the "big hit" from the album is "Between Us and Them":

He's done better stuff that this, but it serves as an excellent introductory track for his sound. I'll probably post more later.

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Four Tet's new album is quite fantastic. Can't stop listening to it.

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This is my favorite Ulrich Schnauss song, at least off his first album. The piano motif is simple, but gorgeous. Ulrich is not a serious beat programmer (he's more of a songwriter) but he did go in an interesting glitchy/IDM-y direction here that's a bit different from what else he was doing at the time.

Edited by Knuckledragger
I like pie.

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Until you mentioned them, I never heard of these of these. I am in the process of securing a copies of both as I type this.

There really is no one exactly like BoC, but another shining light of IDM is Ulrich Schnauss. I'm not as big on his recent material, but the first first two albums under his own name are absolute classics.

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm going to check them out within a few days.

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There are two major ambient artists who record under the name Gas. The first is Wolfgang Voigt, who is the significantly more famous and prolific of the two. The other is Mat Jarvis, whose music I much prefer. Thusfar he's only released one album under his Gas moniker, and that was 15 years ago on the storied em:t label. em:t (pronounced "Emit") has never been terribly well-run and has gone out of business at least twice. Supposedly, Mat recorded a second Gas album, but it has never seen the light of day. In all my years on the intertubes using various p2p apps, I have never com across a copy of it (unlike the second Young American Primitive album, which I eventually got in FLAC.)

Given how rare and poorly distributed em:t releases are, it was quite a few years until I discovered Gas. I think I first heard "Oxygen" from the em:t compilation 1197 on SomaFM's Groove Salad in early 2001. Later that year, I got lucky on eBay and found a copy of that CD. In early 2002 I joined SoulSeek, which changed my perspective on electronic music forever. There I quickly found mp3 copies of dozens of albums I'd been after for ages. Included in that initial batch was Gas's 0095. It's somewhat on an uneven affair, but the good tracks sound stellar, even in 192K mp3s. A couple years ago, Mat released a remastered version in FLAC and announced it on Discogs. That is the sound of the Information Age working.

The video above is for Microscopic which would be my favorite Gas track were it not for Oxygen. I think Microscopic might actually be the better piece of music, but it's not the first one I discovered. Obviously, the audio quality of a YouTube video is crap, but it's handy for embedding purposes. You can get a free download of the song in lossy format off last.fm (and if you ask nicely, Knuckles might furnish you with a FLAC.)

Around the 3:30 mark, Mat does a solo with a stunning portamento synth string patch. The main lead in this song is a powerful argument for analogue synthesizers. The lead sound returns again around 7 minutes in to do it again.

10 minutes might seem like a long time to listen to one song, especially embedded on a message board thread via a YouTube video. This is one track that is worth the time commitment. Use your most musical source and most forgiving "euphonic" cans if you must.

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I've given Gridlock's Formless 3-4 listens now. It's growing on me quite a bit. "Re/Module" sound so much like 1994-era Autechre, it's not funny.

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It's impossible to have a discussion about IDM without mentioning the genre's granddaddies, Autechre. Both hugely popular and critically acclaimed, they have grown more and more experimental since their 1991 debut single. Personally, I think they completely lost the plot around 1998. That said, what they did from '93-97 is genius.

This is "Bike" from their first album Incunabula. They did better stuff later, but this is a very good introduction to the Ae sound. It's simultaneously sparse and lush, melodic and somewhat dissonant, and possessing a song structure similar to drum n bass(!)

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Richard D James is the granddaddy of IDM. He's also a raging asshat, and something of a money grubber. In his later years (the last decade or so) he'll release whatever floor sweepings he can find to rake in the cash. Fortunately, RDJ's floor sweepings are often better than most producer's magnum opus. Apparently he's been doing some DJ sets around Europe recently, and has been playing some new/unreleased material of his. Supposedly, this video is him playing live. There have been many fakes of RDJ releases over the years, so I'm alway suspicious. The music is pretty good, however. It might be his stuff.

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I really like some IDM stuff, but mostly listen to old school IDM like Mouse on Mars, The Black Dog, Plaid, The Sabres of Paradise, Two Lone Swordsmen and some other stuff from Shadow Records and Warp. As far as DnB goes I really like Spring Heel Jack :D

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I love that Gas album so very very much, and that track especially, probably the best of the em:t label. Also digging Ulrich Schnauss and Gridlock, so keep it coming.

I don't really listen to any IDM (that might change though). Probably the closest I've come to the genre is Bluetech, and that's more of a psy-dub-IDM-ambient-nobody-knows-what-the-hell-kind-of-genre-it-belongs-to kind of thing.

Embed! Embed! No, not working. You'll have to clicky the linky...

This is off the "Sines and Singularities" album, so far my favorite from Bluetech.

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I really should participate in this thread more.

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I like Bluetech. In my observation his music gets lumped under the "downtempo" umbrella. He also gets included with the "psy chill" scene, which in spite of its rather awkward name, has produced some real gems. His debut release was on the mighty Waveform Records, so I'm going to call him ambient dub. :)

...and ye, Dusty, you should.

I've got an extended post in the works, but right now I have to put together a lighting rig for a reggae/dubstep/dnb party. Good thing I've got earplugs. :palm:

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Psychill is probably the better part of what I listen to that's electronic, starting with Shpongle and lots of other stuff like this :

Takes its sweet time getting going but a pretty hypnotic track once it does. This album - Sadhana - in general reminds me a bit of Simon Posford's various non-Shpongle downtempo projects but it's a lot more focused on melody.

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There are a few remotely danceable tracks on Selected Ambient Works: 85-92 (henceforth referred to as "SAW8592") and when it came it out, "Digeridoo" was something of an underground dancefloor anthem. That's no mean feat as the track is 150BPM.

As I said before, "IDM" is more than a bit of a misnomer, and the meaning of the term has changed significantly over the years. RDJ's label (Rephlex) has never endorsed the name "IDM." They prefer the eyeroll-inducing "Braindance" instead. :palm:

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My first post. I come to this forum via a cat I met @ CanJam but I never caught his screen name...

Some good ones that fall somewhere within ambient and IDM

(no particular order)

Casino Versus Japan

Ruxpin

Deru

Clark

Tipper

Nalepa

Christ.

Prefuse 73 (lots of different stuff)

Ametsub

Ror-Shak

Want more?

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you mean like "jail bait"? I wouldn't know. I know bait when I see it though.

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Oh hey, I remember this thread.

Mind Soup produce deep downtempo, with erratic (but somehow sedate) IDM-like beat structures. They incorporate a bit of glitch into their sound, especially on the vocals. Umami is by far my favorite track from them. 7 minutes is a bit long to leave a browser window open in order to play an audio track, but this one is worth hearing in its entirety.

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