When you’ve been deeply lost in the world of techno for years, it takes something really special to capture your imagination, hooking you for days, even weeks on end. Omonimo is one of those rare creations, a unified set of tunes that immediately leapt into the pantheon of great techno albums.
Here it is, the Optimistic Underground list of best ambient albums ever made. Inspired by all the discussion surrounding Pitchfork’s list of the genre, I decided to lay out my favorites. This is a sound that I’ve been in love with my whole life, so the only problem was narrowing it down.
Lots of people like ambient music for lots of reasons. Some love to fall asleep to it. Some are fascinated with the granular detail of slow songs. Some enjoy the way that it can dilate time, shifting perception for vast stretches.
I love it for all of these reasons, and for the way it can utterly transport my mind in a way that frees me to have all sorts of thoughts, the kind of ideas that spring up during a long bike ride or a mediation session. Ambient music is contemplative music, for all intents and purposes. It’s music to think about, and think to.
As of right now, I can’t imagine setting a strict order for these albums. So they’re not numbered. Some are definitely more beloved than others, but the important thing is that these are all incredible works of music that deserve your attention. Every single album here is a defining example of the power and possibility of ambient music.
These are the best ambient albums ever made:
This week seemed to rush by, with the dying embers of summer swirling all around me. It’s been flush with great music, lots of bicycling, and a really fantastic sandwich.
A pair of short hip-hop albums defined my listening, along with a darkly mysterious little techno release that I’ll share. But most of all, I watched the Netflix show Stranger Things in its entirety. I was utterly floored.
This week brought some genuine surprise to the music world. Frank Ocean finally crashed the hype train into public view, dropping his long-awaited sophomore album on a weekend night. After four years, nobody expected it to appear so randomly, but here we are.
This is the state of music in 2016. The pendulum of control is truly swinging back in favor of the artists. Everything else I discovered this week was courtesy of the artists themselves, broadcasting personally on Twitter, Bandcamp, and other open platforms.
The past two weeks rolled with dark gravity, anchored by the massacre in Orlando that saw 49 people killed in an LGBT dance club. It may be only the latest in a nearly constant string of mass shootings in the US, but it’s the most devastating in my lifetime. I’ll never forget the gut punch of hearing the news.
It’s important to seize on the image of us at our worst, not just to examine how and why, but so we can truly appreciate us at our best. Still, it’s just as important to grasp the good news when we have it. With that in mind, I want to share the great musical discoveries I made in the past couple weeks.
This is the first time I felt compelled to make a mixtape for people I’ll never know.
Ballroom is dedicated to everyone who lost the fight of their lives when someone tried to silence an entire culture. It’s also a dive through my own personal history with dance music, exploring the deep end of the electronic ocean, the sounds that come out as everyone’s going home.
Much Less Normal is one of the best surprises I’ve experienced in months. I’d never even heard of Lnrdcroy a few weeks ago, and now I’m desperately hoping he releases new material. This is dreamy electronic music of the highest order.