Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Music

1990s Ambient Music: The KLF, The Orb, Plastikman and more

Discover five lesser known ambient music albums from the 1990s to take your mind off things.

The KLF Chill Out 1990 Album Cover Crop

Article by E. Little from In Sheep’s Clothing Hi-Fi

ISCHifi logo

At the beginning of the year, the essential Music from Memory label issued Virtual Dreams: Ambient Explorations In The House & Techno Age, 1993​-​1997, an ear-opening survey of a deep global scene that brought the theories and ideas of artists including Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Laraaji into the chillout-rooms. Just as the genre’s pioneers helped temper the LSD- and cocaine-fueled jitters of the 1970s with soothing come-down music, starting in the 1990s ecstasy-fueled rave kids looking for a place for a cuddle puddle gravitated toward chillout rooms. 

Upon the release of Virtual Dreams, writer and friend of ISC Andy Beta wrote a Bandcamp feature on that collection and a few more deep listens from the movement. One particular quote from that fascinating read captures the spirit of the music: 

“I grew up with ’90s ambient, and that style and period of music is near and dear to me,” Tim Humphrey of the new 90s ambient reissue label re:discovery records told him. “It takes you away to another place, like reading a great sci-fi book. It’s mysterious and futuristic, you can escape from whatever is going on in your life. The music makes you dream.”

Below, five entry points into 1990s ambient music, with a caveat: Because most of us already know and love Aphex Twin, Eno, and Boards of Canada, we’re focusing on relatively lesser known releases. 

The KLF – Chill Out (1990)

The groundbreaking British duo of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty helped foment the British rave movement of the late 1980s with sample-heavy electronic tracks. Released in 1990, Chill Out was a whole other creature: an uninterrupted 45-minute musical exploration of the American  South. Like Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, it’s a journey. Unlike that classic, though, the KLF use as building blocks a host of wildly innovative samples by artists including 808 State, Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley, Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.  

Biosphere – Substrata (1997)

Released on the Eno-affiliated label All Saints, Biosphere’s late 1990s classic moves from acoustic to electronic instrumentation as seamlessly as snow drifts. Norwegian producer and musician Geir Jenssen is based in Tromsø, which is within the Arctic Circle, and such geographic isolation informs Substrata’s essence.  But at Amazon.com.

The Orb – Orbus Terrarum (1995)

The third album by dub-inspired British ambient team is first to feature genius producer Thomas Fehlmann, who joined as a full-time studio member alongside founding member Alex Paterson and producer Andy Hughes. A soothing bass-heavy excursion, Orbus Terrarum hits its peak on its two extended final tracks, Occidental and Slug Dub. Buy at Amazon.

Labradford – Mi Media Naranja (1997)

Few acts crafted such a singular path through the ambient 1990s than the Richmond, Virginia trio Labradford. One of the earliest bands on Chicago label Kranky, they released five albums from 1993-1999, and each is worthy of attention. But our fave is Mi Media Naranja from 1997. As with each of Labradford’s six albums, it features bassist Robert Donne, guitarist/vocalist Mark Nelson, and keyboardist Carter Brown, with the lovely addition of strings to augment their sound. 

Plastikman – Consumed (1998)

One of the most sublime ambient techno records ever released, Richie Hawtin’s Consumed is a quietly mesmerizing project that, while sticking to techno’s four-on-the-floor rhythm, seems to upholster the beats in plush velvet.  Buy at Amazon.

This article originally appeared at insheepsclothinghifi.com.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement

You May Also Like

Articles

The era of group collectives dominating the charts has ended, probably forever—and it's an issue much larger than just music.

Articles

A new consumer survey measures an industry in which "time is standing still".

Articles

Is the shift from owning songs to streaming them eroding listener loyalty and reducing the cultural impact of music?

Music

Jack White and Jinger deliver some ferocious tracks this week on New Music Wednesdays.

Music

Love, living life on the margins, and losing one's connection to home on New Music Tuesdays.

Articles

The tech titans couldn't have built their empires without songs -- and now they are destroying the cultural ecosystem that made them rich.

Music

Featuring Chicago blues at its finest, the all-analog 180-gram vinyl LP features recordings by Junior Wells, J. B. Hutto, and Otis Spann, captured at the...

Music

Craft Recordings have expanded their Small Batch Series with a vinyl reissue of Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet. For $109.95. Ouch.

Advertisement

ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2022 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.