The ambient mailing list at hyperreal.org had another go-round at polling its members for their fave discs (I did not participate this time), and the results are here. Numerous gripes ensued, as people complained that the list looked suspiciously similar to the previous edition. Hasn't anything good come out since, say, 2000? So a further call went out, for, well, fave discs since 2000. This time I responded. The upstate returns haven't come in yet, but here is my list (as of whenever I wrote it; it may be different today). No order – they're all good.
1. Robert Rich - Somnium [Hypnos]
This is an audio DVD (not DVD-Audio, mind) of sleep-concerty stuff, seven hours long. Put it on and drift away, only to wake up four hours later with something unobtrusively odd happening in the room, over there somewhere. Very minimal (or is it?).
2. Jeff Greinke - Soundtracks [FWD]
Jeff used to go by J. Greinke, and put out three or four industrial-ish records on the Dossier label in the 80's. This is more drony, including a nice long track. I saw him play live (a couple of years ago already?) – in fact that's where I got this disc. Unfortunately it doesn't include the wild solo trombone thing he did (actually, I think you might have had to be there ...).
3. Bass Communion - Ghosts on Magnetic Tape [headphone dust]
BC is Steven Wilson of the prog rock group Porcupine Tree. This is very spacy, with some nice use of vocal sounds.
4. Rick Cox - maria falling away [Cold Blue]
Like his labelmate Chas Smith, Cox is a guitarist who will never be mistaken for Christopher Parkening (too few notes, no attacks; you get the idea). This has one track with Jon Hassell, but the highlight is a glorious twenty-two minute guitar-heavy track (not like you'd notice though).
5. Kwook - Unidentified Feathered Object [DataObscura]
Kwook is an Aussie, and I think this is his only actual CD release (okay, it's a CD-R), which ranges from Rileyesque sequencer workouts to a tour of the outer planets (no lie). There's a lot of other fine material on this label – check it out!
6. Loscil - First Narrows [kranky]
I mentioned Loscil the other day, touting his recent netlabel release stases (free! free!). I wasn't kidding when I said I liked this record. A new one is due soon, I hear.
7. Shuttle358 - Understanding Wildlife [Mille Plateaux]
All of Dan Abrams's work is good (Frame is a little beatier than the others) but this one epitomizes his sense of proportion among space, melody, and glitch. But also check out optimal.lp (a CD, actually) and the recent Chessa.
8. Oöphoi - Mare Tranquillitatis [Deep Listenings]
9. Alio Die - Il Tempo Magico di Saturnia Pavonia [Hic Sunt Leones]
For some reason Italy is a hotbed of ambience. Oöphoi (Gianluigi Gasparetti) and Alio Die (Roberto Musso) lead the pack. Both of these discs – and I could have picked any of many others, as both artists are both prolific and consistently excellent – are rich, thick, drony, and lushly reverberant. By the way, I think Alio Die's classic Suspended Feathers has been reissued somewhere (of course I have mine already ...).
10. Marconi Union - (Distance) [All Saints]
This was a name unknown to me until recently. It's a very nice guitar-oriented disc (identifiably so this time) that wouldn't be out of place on the Kranky label – like Labradford, only, well, more ambient. They're from Manchester.
I'm sure there's a lot more out there, even in this very room. But I'm sure I'll mention them eventually.