Best Ambient Albums

By Tennant Tennant
updated over 5 years ago

Here you will find what are considered, not just by me, to be the very best ambient albums, with some eccentric personal descriptions. Most of these albums are fairly mainstream relative to the genre, I will include some more obscure picks in another list.

I'm not even going to bother praising this diverse range of albums to no end, they all earned their rights to be total classics long ago. If you are new to ambient and want to start, get hold of these:
* Global Communication - 76:14
* Future Sound of London - Lifeforms
* Biosphere - Substrata
* The Orb - The Orbs Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
* Sasha & Digweed - Northern Exposure

April 2011 Addition

Skeptic: "Ambient is boring"
Reply: "That says more about you than it does the music. You sound like a child requiring constant stimulation; you need to relax and open your mind."

"Ambient must be ridiculously easy to make, it's just the same pads for 8 minutes"
Reply: "I've tried composing ambient music myself and found it more difficult to produce than most other genres. It's all too tempting to introduce a drumkit for instance, but with ambient you are extremely limited stylistically and it is actually very easy to make dull or clichéd ambient - to summarise, good ambient music is challenging to write."

"What's the point of playing it if you don't even notice it?"
Reply: "Notice it or not, ambient music subtly affects your environment and makes it completely different to just silence. The sound waves from the music player are changing the atomic configuration of the room producing a subconscious effect"

"Why is ambient music not popular?"
"It actually was, to some extent, once. The Orb's Blue Room single is 40 minutes long and reached #8 in the UK chart in the early 90s. Robert Rich's Somnium is also famous [not really, hehe] for being the longest piece of continuous music at 7 hours long. And I can proudly say I've listened through ALL... 2 and half hours of the first section."

  1. Biosphere - Substrata

    An icy cold wasteland that is constantly shifting. Sometimes it's like being pulled through a snowy village on a horse and cart, sometimes it's like floating through space.

  2. Bola - Soup

    Beautiful, glowing caverns of crystals.

  3. Brian Eno - Ambient 4 (On Land)

    Aboriginal beginnings, underground worms and a mysterious unconscious landscape.

  4. Carbon Based Lifeforms - Hydroponic Garden

    The Hydroponic Garden is a place of undying beauty. Flawless trees float in a pale blue sunset. Nature is in perfect harmony.

  5. DeepChord Presents Echospace - Liumin

    The 2nd disk is a field recording / drone masterpiece, tugging you into a deep coma focussed on Japan.

  6. The Future Sound Of London - Dead Cities

    This is post-Lifeforms. The arrogance of men has destroyed the beautiful forests and replaced them with towering cityscapes. However nature has got her own back: disease, strife and crime has wrecked the cities and destroyed the people. Now all that remains is perpetual darkness, cities populated only by an aggressive atmosphere and a jungle on the verge of reclaiming what it lost.

  7. Gas - Nah Und Fern

    Deep, foggy and hypnotic. Throughout this journey you are taken through forests. It could be underwater, it could be just you hearing a rave far away, one that you want to be in. The wall of sound is lush and embracing to you; always your friend.

  8. Global Communication - 76:14

    Curiously and purposefully devoid of imagery, 76:14 captures beauty itself. A slice of heaven is immortalized in music. This is more than music; it is a location and an emotion.

  9. Hia* | Biosphere - Polar Sequences

    Barren arctic ambient. Sparsely used samples sound almost inhuman, floating aloft dynamic glacial panoramas.

  10. H.U.V.A. Network - Distances

    Shimmering, deep images of fertile fields spreading out in every direction. A beautiful countryside walk which evolves over the course of the day.

  11. Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht

    Fervent, all-powerful space ambient that sounds like the life phase and subsequent expulsion of a star. Taking into account the context of its creation this is the best ambient album.

  12. The KLF - Chill Out

    A wonderful train journey up the East Coast of the USA - the happiest moment of your life. The sun is blazing, the radio is playing Elvis and you are free of all Earthly problems and responsibilities.

  13. Michael Stearns - Planetary Unfolding

    One grand theme perpetuates, conceiving the universe.

  14. Orb* - The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld

    An eclectic adventure into the Ultraworld, perhaps the strangest universe you will ever will visit. It's being in a mutating state which changes from jungles to beaches to dance halls playing snippets of 80s love ballads.

  15. Orb* - U.F. Orb

    Ethereal and druggy - from the very first you are soaring above the world in a higher state of enlightenment with some great samples repetitively intoning basic philosophy. You are rudely captured by aliens before becoming hopelessly lost in the Blue Room and beyond...

  16. Popol Vuh - In Den Gärten Pharaos

    Taking into account the year, 'Vuh', alongside Schulze's 'Satz Ebene' is the best ambient track ever made. 'Vuh' is a metaphysically enthralling meeting between tribal ritual and Judeo-Christian spirituality.

  17. Robert Rich - Somnium

    It's also a coherent collection of Rich's most entrancing, somniferous and sonorous drones making for narcotic slumbering.

  18. Robert Rich & B. Lustmord* - Stalker

    You have to get across it, but you don't want to... a great land of darkness and horror awaits you; sometimes it clears and you can see the way ahead but you will never complete the journey... the divine drone of 'Omnipresent Boundary' will drain your sentience.

  19. Sasha And John Digweed* - Northern Exposure

    The best ambient mix album. Begins in the rainforests before venturing out to sea, taking a trip to the heavens en route. Disc 2 is a darker journey, you are sent out on a voyage of the high seas at the mercy of Digweed's waves.

  20. Shpongle - Are You Shpongled?

    Take a trip into Shpongleland - a psychedelic land of many wonders... explore the spinning circular vortexes and prepare to be abducted by aliens once again. The climax of the album is when you stumble across a tribal ceremony which you barely manage to escape, before watching the beautiful twin sunset and slowly drift back down to Earth.