Last year, I made a list of 100 albums that I called my favorites of 2012. This year, despite a subscription to Spotify Premium, I hardly listened to any new releases (in fact, in the past few months, a lot of the music I’ve listened to was composed before the 1900s). I can agree with many other 2013 lists and say that I really enjoyed Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Kanye West’s Yeezus, but instead of writing about what everybody else is writing about, I’ll talk about four ambient releases that caught my attention.
1. Harold Budd – Jane 1-11
This album might still top my list even if I included everything else I’ve heard this year. I first encountered Harold Budd through his collaborations with Brian Eno – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror and The Pearl, which also happen to be the two crown jewels in my record collection. He’s quite a prolific artist, and a random hop through his vast discography should yield satisfying results. Jane 1-11, dare I say, tops the collaborations with Eno, and maybe everything else that Budd has done. It’s a masterpiece!
2. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
I bought this album at End of an Ear, in Austin, Texas, and listened to it for much of the trip. It is certainly the most accessible album here, out of the four – admittedly, ambient music has a great ability for putting listeners to sleep. I’ve liked Boards of Canada since 2005′s The Campfire Headphase, which was the album that preceded Tomorrow’s Harvest, and I think they’re still at the top of their game. Maybe this album isn’t too ambient, because sometimes drums will kick in and give everything a good jolt. But you can definitely space out, so that’s good enough for me.
3. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Taylor Deupree – Disappearance
I mentioned Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Playing the Piano in another post. That isn’t an ambient album, but the soft, fuzzy slippers of ambient music certainly fit this collaboration with Taylor Deupree. Disappearance gets more atmospheric than the other albums on here, and it sometimes flows into dark and creepy spaces (the title of the album really works). I recommend hearing this one with a subwoofer, because low sounds rumble through this album, and they’re important for the experience (there’s also a beating heart sound in the album that comes out of the bottom range – very cool).
4. Bvdub & Loscil – Erebus
I first heard Loscil off his 2010 album called Endless Falls. Since then, he’s been a “go-t0″ artist, which is one of those artists who you put on when you’re not sure what to put on, but you want to hear something good. He collaborates with Bvdub on this album, and they create these songs that are as thick as forests with layers of sound. For an ambient album, Erebus gets loud. If Paradise exists, I think that angels probably write stuff like this, or the music just naturally streams out from them, like birdsongs from birds.