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Gorge Scale Rating

5 - Essential


Berlin School, Elektronische Musik, Krautrock, Space Age Pop


Arctic Ambient, Dark Ambient, Dreampunk, Drone Ambient, Space Ambient, Tribal Ambient


Ambient Dub, Ambient House, Ambient Pop, Ambient Techno, Ambient Trance, Atmospheric Drum and Bass, Downtempo, Dub Techno, Folktronica, Future Garage, Goa Ambient, Hypnagogic Drift, IDM, Illbient, Indietronica, Metrosong, Neo-Psychedelia, New Age, Progressive House, Psybient, Slushwave, Trip Hop, Wave, Weightless, Witch House


Ambient music is the culmination of a long line of musicians trying to make music that focuses more on evoking a certain atmosphere and mood than melody, harmony, or rhythm. The earliest roots of ambient stretch back to the Impressionist movement of the late 19th century, but the most direct origins of the genre are in the progressive electronic and krautrock music of the early 70s. While early examples of the genre can be found in the music of Tangerine Dream and Wendy Carlos, the genre both came into its own and found its name in 1978 with the release of Brian Eno's Ambient 1: Music For Airports.

While ambient isn't strictly an electronic music genre, a good deal of ambient is strongly rooted in electronic music, and the genre has strong ties to electronic. Droning synths, electronically manipulated recordings, and other techniques imported from electronic music are common. Certain ambient genres are most frequently electronic than others; space ambient, for instance, tends to almost always be electronic music, owing to its close relationship with progressive electronic, while genres like ritual ambient and tribal ambient that rely more heavily on acoustic instrumentation feature a great deal more music that doesn't fit into the electronic community. The inherent background qualities of ambient music also makes it a natural fit for soundtracks, and a great deal of acclaimed ambient works come in the form of video game and film scores.

Soon after developing, ambient began to splinter into a billion different directions, owing largely due to how widely applicable its techniques could be in a variety of different tonal situations. Space ambient was the first, originating pretty much simultaneously to the entire ambient genre. The 80s saw the rise of tribal ambient, a fusion of ambient atmospheres with percussion ripped of a variety of African, Latin American, and Asian folk musics that gained prominence with the rise of new age and the "world music" movements, as well as dark ambient, a more sinister and unnerving varient of ambient that arose from industrial. The 90s would see the rise of drone ambient (a genre whose sound you can probably infer from the name), as well as an increased level of prominence for increasingly obscure ambient styles. It also saw a shift in the community surrounding ambient, with a relative shift away from the classical and new age crowd the genre had originated from and a much greater association with underground electronic music communities - particularly the dance music community, which began to widely incorporate elements of ambient into existing styles of EDM to create genres such as ambient techno and psybient, helping in part to kickstart the chillout movement.

In the 2010s, ambient found a new home with the rise of Bandcamp. Its free artist-driven model for music distribution made it possible for more ambient music to get released than ever before, with an unprecedented number of new ambient musicians releasing a full-on torrent of ambient in a variety of styles, fusing the genre's atmospheres with basically every conceivable sound. One of the more significant products of modern ambient has to be Dreampunk, a fusion of ambient and vaporwave that has gained significant popularity through the success of vapor heavyweights 2814.


Vangelis - "Création du monde" from L'apocalypse des animaux (1973).

Aphex Twin - "Blue Calx" from Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994).

Gas - "Pop 1" from Pop (2000).

C418 - "Intro" from Minecraft: Volume Beta (2013).

The Green Kingdom - "Untitled 02" from Expanses (2014).