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Best Ambient Albums For Getting Stuff Done

If you need to relax but remain focused, these ambient albums provide the perfect background music.

Music has the profound power to completely change or complement your current mood. Sometimes, you need an album to fire you up. Other times, you may need to listen to something to help you relax. 

With Boards Of Canada celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Tomorrow’s Harvest in 2023, ambient music and its powers of relaxation are worth further exploration. Ambient music has always been a go-to genre for meditation and relaxation, but it’s also a great option for those moments when concentration is key. Students need music to help them focus while they’re studying, and people who work remotely often need music that can elevate their workday without feeling too distracting. 

If you are looking for music that will help you relax without getting sleepy or losing focus, this list is here to help. Albums tagged as ambient in the Discogs Database were surfaced, releases that were most collected or reviewed were considered, and albums that were proven by a human to be good for concentrating were included below. 

Now that you know how the list was curated, here are some of the best ambient albums for concentration.

Tomorrow’s Harvest (2013)
by Boards Of Canada

Hypnotic, Infectious, Melancholy

Tomorrow’s Harvest
Boards Of Canada
Electronic, Downtempo, Ambient
Vinyl, Album

Boards Of Canada struck a perfect balance on their 2013 album, Tomorrow’s Harvest. The music throughout the album uses hypnotic passages, infectious rhythms, and melancholy atmosphere to create a record that is both memorable and pleasing to have on in the background. Sections have enough time to build and pull you in, but the way the songs expand and shift will keep you from feeling drowsy. If you do put this on while studying, cleaning, or working, you’ll feel inspired to get a lot done.

Oxygène (1976)
by Jean-Michel Jarre

Immersive, Ambitious, Tasteful

Jean-Michel Jarre
Electronic, Pop, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Repress

As the son of a composer, Jean-Michel Jarre approached his synth playing with classical composition in mind and became a one-of-a-kind figure at the forefront of electronic music. Oxygène immerses you in ambient textures, but it’s full of forward movement and surprises that will keep you engaged without being overly distracting. Although released in 1976, the tasteful, futuristic synth sounds still sound fresh today. If you’re a fan of classic ’70s electronic music, but need to prioritize concentration, treat yourself to some Oxygène.

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
by Aphex Twin

Intoxicating, Rhythmic, Chill

Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Aphex Twin
Electronic, Techno, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

If you are looking for ambient music that has a steady rhythm you can sync your work or studying with, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 may be the album you’re looking for. The album is known for its “ambient techno” sound, using house and techno beats to maintain consistent rhythms and intoxicating ambient synth layers that will help you relax. The overall result is an album you can chill out to while you still feel inspired to take care of business.

Ambient 1 (Music For Airports) (1978)
by Brian Eno

Calming, Atmospheric, Sparse

Brian Eno
Electronic, Art Rock
Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)
Brian Eno
Electronic, Ambient
Vinyl, Reissue, 180 Gram

As the album that literally defined ambient music and set out to be “as ignorable as it is interesting,” Brian Eno’s Ambient 1 (Music For Airports) is a perfect option for anyone looking to avoid distractions as they put their effort into a job or chore. Eno’s approach to ambient music will allow you to listen to music while you do virtually anything and at times, you may even forget you’re listening to music. Once the music has retreated into the background, a new layer emerges and you are swept up in the atmospheric soundscapes once again. If you are usually easily distracted by music of any kind, this might be the best ambient album for you.  

Structures From Silence (1984)
by Steve Roach

Ethereal, Lush, Meditative

Structures From Silence
Steve Roach
Electronic, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

Steve Roach’s swelling synth textures and ethereal loops put him on the ambient map, and the timeless sound of this recording makes the album sound as vital and lush as ever. You may feel like you’re floating through outer space as you listen to Structures From Silence, but the shimmering melodies and meditative drones will help you feel empowered to conquer any project that comes your way. Roach’s 1988 album, Dreamtime Return, is also an ambient masterpiece that may come in handy when you’re trying to focus. 

Zeit (1972)
by Tangerine Dream

Haunting, Soothing, Entrancing

Tangerine Dream
Electronic, Ambient, Experimental
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

Zeit helped lay the foundation for dark ambient music, and even though the album was released over five decades ago, the music it contains is as hauntingly beautiful as ever. One look at the art on the cover and inside the gatefold sleeve and you’ll know exactly what to expect. If Steve Roach made you feel like you’re floating in space, Tangerine Dream will probably make you feel like you’re about to enter a black hole. For the right type of person, this album can become a powerful soundtrack for a productive day.

Sowiesoso (1976)
by Cluster

Thrilling, Mesmerizing, Dark

Electronic, Experimental
Electronic, Krautrock, Experimental, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

Before teaming up with Brian Eno, Cluster released an impressive run of albums. 1976’s Sowiesoso showcases the band’s ambient abilities as they take you on a thrilling yet ethereal journey. If you like your ambient music on the darker side, Sowiesoso is a must-listen and a great album to enhance any workday or study session. Cluster’s krautrock foundation will appeal to you if you’re a fan of Kraftwerk or Can, but will provide you with mesmerizing sounds that are perfect for getting stuff done.

Tri Repetae (1995)
by Autechre

Gritty, Driving, Somber

Electronic, Experimental
Tri Repetae
Electronic, Abstract, IDM, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

If you’d prefer your ambient music to be a little less ambient, Autechre are known for incorporating some grit into their signature IDM sound. Like some of the other more rhythmic entries on the list, Autechre’s driving beats are ideal if you’re needing to lock into a groove and work or study at a steady pace. If you typically enjoy heavier music and don’t often dabble in the electronic genre, Autechre might be the best entry point as you explore ambient albums that complement concentration.

Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1976)
by Mort Garson

Whimsical, Relaxing, Dreamy

Electronic, Experimental
Mother Earth’s Plantasia
Mort Garson
Experimental, Ambient
Vinyl, Reissue, Green

Originally given away with the purchase of a plant or mattress, the songs on Mother Earth’s Plantasia were composed with various types of plants in mind. Whether you play the music for your plants as the album suggests or put the record on as you get some housework done, Mort Garson will help keep you motivated. The experimentation and whimsical feel of Mother Earth’s Plantasia makes it a standout release on this list, but its relaxing qualities and soothing rhythms will keep your spirits high as you concentrate on the task at hand.

The Expanding Universe (1980)
by Laurie Spiegel

Experimental, Breathtaking, Eclectic

Electronic, Experimental
The Expanding Universe
Laurie Spiegel
Electronic, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

The expanded version of The Expanding Universe showcases a variety of moods within the experimental electronic and ambient worlds, which means it may be the ideal album for those with shorter attention spans. Laurie Spiegel’s electronic compositions have gained her praise in the music world and her appearance on the Voyager Golden Record means that her music is somewhere out there in space, representing the sounds of Earth. If that doesn’t intrigue you, throw The Expanding Universe on and find out just how much you’ll get done.

A Rainbow In Curved Air (1969)
by Terry Riley

Dynamic, Repetitive, Spellbinding

Electronic, Experimental
A Rainbow In Curved Air
Terry Riley
Minimal, Ambient
Vinyl, Album, Reissue, 180 gram

Terry Riley and his early adoption of tape loops helped him create a whole new style of music often referred to as minimal. Originally released in 1969, this groundbreaking album uses repetition and busy synth flourishes to create a dynamic electronic album with ambient layers. If you’re a fan of prog rock keyboards, but also want something that taps into the immersive qualities of ambient music, A Rainbow In Curved Air is more than worth your time. It may come off as a bit busy at first, but the rapid synth runs create their own unique type of hypnotism as you listen further. 

Veiled Sisters (1993)
by Muslimgauze

Ominous, Trance-inducing, Gripping

Electronic, Experimental
Veiled Sisters
Electronic, Ambient, Dub
Vinyl, Album, Reissue

Muslimgauze’s discography is incredibly expansive and diverse, but Veiled Sisters is a fantastic starting point for those looking for a highly rhythmic ambient experience. The album is incredibly hypnotic and trance-inducing, but the sound bites and Middle Eastern influences give each song a unique feel that holds just enough of your attention. If you are looking for something that strays from the typical ambient formula, give Veiled Sisters a spin the next time you are ready for some inspiring background music.

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