Landmark Ambient Vinyl

You can probably tell through our style of packaging that we’re mad on vinyl. If it wasn’t so expensive to press, we’d likely be a vinyl-only label but we can dream! Our label boss Harry has put together a list of his favourite ever Ambient(ish) vinyl albums and has been gathering the odd missing piece from his collection. The list features everything from drone and electro-acoustic to modern classical, post rock and folk and these pieces of 12″ wax have genuinely formed the inspiration behind the curation of the label. Not only this, many of the selections are widely regarded by many as some of the true Ambient classics, whilst some may be less obvious. Of course, some people may also look at the list and consider the many glaring omissions! But this is a personal list and represents the sounds that inspired Harry over the years.

This feature began its life as a few Instagram photos of vinyl sleeves perched on a Technics 1210 turntable before Harry expanded this into a full list which we’ve posted here for all to see. The list is in chronological order and features a commentary from Harry as well as a photo as posted on Instagram and links to purchase a copy for yourself.


1969


Nick Drake
Three Leaves Left
[Island Records]

The fascinating story of Nick Drake’s troubled emergence into recognition is intriguing enough to inspire you to look deeper into the achievements he accomplished in his all too brief existence. His biggest achievement however is arguably his posthumous success, in that his popularity has built and built timelessly over the decades since he passed away. His discography has seen re-release after re-release from Island Records and as I began to enjoy electro acoustic and folk based Ambient music, Nick’s named cropped up regularly. I wasn’t listening or searching for vocal music but Drake’s Music suddenly struck a chord at the point of a reissue of his discography back in 2013/2014 in which I’d purchased all of his albums. The liner notes, written by his sister told some of the story, but the music itself had the biggest impact and Three Leaves Left to me is his strongest work with every track a winner. It’s an album I own in every format and there’s nothing quite like playing this perfect album on 12” vinyl. Picking out favourites from this album is virtually impossible but particular dear to me are Fruit Tree, Saturday Sun and Three Hours.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
N/A
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=13924&ev=mb&format=Vinyl


1984


Harold Budd and Brian Eno
The Pearl
[Editions EG]

Recognised by many as a true landmark album for Ambient music, The Pearl is a set of recordings which place Budd’s piano performance at centre stage along with Brian Eno’s production and assistance from Daniel Lanois in his studio. By 1984 Budd and Eno had become comfortable collaborators and between The Pearl and Ambient 2: The Plateaux Mirror, you have two of the greatest records in Ambient and Electronic music history. In the pieces, a sense of serenity is crafted by allowing a few fleeting notes of Budd’s piano to decay into a bed of softening drones, before wave after wave of beauty unfold. An icy cold meets ‘by the fire’ warmth with themes of nature and the wider planet to create a sense of wonderment. Late October literally got me into Ambient music.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
N/A
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=12106&ev=mb&format=Vinyl


1993


Loren Connors
Hells Kitchen Park
[Enabling Works]

I picked up Hells Kitchen Park after discovering the work of Loren Connors and scouring his back catalog. I was particularly struck not only by his blues guitar performances which ache with sadness but by the odd short duet he did on the record with his partner Suzanne Langille. The guitar is both soothing and melancholy and combined with the vocals in Child in particular, it really strikes a chord. The performances are all too brief however, Connors intersperses and spaces these with longer more experimental moments which border on Ambient at times, as either gritty electric guitar drones or chorus. Dutch label Enabling Works repressed this one to vinyl in 2010 which features arguably more evocative cover artwork, a black and white shot of poverty stricken slums, presumably of Hells Kitchen Park itself. The title of the album provides food for thought along with liner notes which explain a little of hardships experienced in this section of Manhattan, New York during the 19th and 20th century.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
N/A
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/release/2296457?ev=rb


1999


Sam Prekop
Sam Prekop
[Thrill Jockey]

Nearly 20 years ago (at the time of writing), The Sea and Cake frontman Sam Prekop released his debut album on a back then emerging Thrill Jockey. Produced by Jim O’Rourke, this self-titled album has everything, played out as a studio band album, with all tracks performed on real instruments including guitar, violin, bass, cornet, synth, viola, piano, organ as well as Prekop’s occasional vocals and some beautiful laid-back bossa style percussion. The album has been a big success with Thrill Jockey re-releasing for Record Store Day in 2016 and the reasons are not only the pristine production and beautifully wistful feel to the album, but also its ability to break down genres. Yes you’re right – it’s not strictly Ambient, but its elements of post rock, indie, jazz, blues, modern classical, bossa nova and electronica blend to create a mood which for, is right up with the best records ever made. I can’t listen to just the one track and there’s absolutely no skipping…

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
http://www.thrilljockey.com/products/sam-prekop
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=53205&ev=mb&format=Vinyl


2001


Jan Jelinek
Loop Finding Jazz Records
[~scape]

This now iconic record by Berliner Jan Jelinek is not quite Ambient and not quite Minimal Techno. It was his debut album back in 2001 on ~scape and what a way to announce yourself in the electronic music scene. Despite all of Jelinek’s achievements whether solo or in collaboration, this for me remains his best work and is rightly an all-time classic for many. Its title of course suggests the sampling of old jazz vinyl, something that by 2001 had already been done ‘to death’. But had it? Jelinek took micro samples of which I believe were around a second and used these as the brittle framework to gently pulse its way through a range of Ambient tones. The colour of big room jazz is flushed and drained out, hung out to dry and the remnants are swirling moody washes of late night electronica.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
https://janjelinek.bandcamp.com/album/loop-finding-jazz-records
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=11367&ev=mb


2005


The Boats
We Made It For You
[Moteer]

By the mid 2000s Craig Tattersall and Andrew Johnson’s label Moteer was a go to imprint for a range of forward-thinking electronic ‘Ambient’ music which at that stage had made huge headway in banishing the perception of laid back electro acoustic music being ‘whale’ or ‘elevator’ music. Moteer put out plenty of lo fi folk and glitchy electro acoustic goodness before closing shop in 2011 but amongst the fondest for me in a catalog boasting work by Part Timer, The Remote Viewer and Tokyo Bloodworm is the work by The Boats, which comprised of Craig and Andrew Hargreaves and other guests. I have too many cherished Boats records to narrow down but We Made It For You plumps it, with its beautiful piano and acoustic tones and clicks/cuts. It preceded the bulk of the modern classical movement, which uses sparing electronics with orchestral instruments and I recall this sounding out of this world at the time with its intricate detail of electronics which litter the album with endless minutiae. It still sounds incredible today and with the added nostalgia of several years of plays. The tracks are all named after friends and family, presumably as a gift to these people, given the album title. However this isn’t defined, which is welcoming in itself – a few plays and you’ll wonder whether you were the intended recipient, as the piano loops become ever more sentimental.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
N/A
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=1153243&ev=mb


2006


The Gentleman Losers
The Gentleman Losers
[Büro]

I own every record to date by Finnish brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka and have been personally inspired by all of their work and I guess when I heard this, my search to create more interesting and creative music strengthened to the point where I knew I was in this for good. Their eponymous debut album remains my favourite and the one I reach for the most and I’ll never tire of these licks of moody blues guitar. Released by Buro which was a subsidiary label to the hugely influencial City Centre Offices, this record opens with just over a minute and a half of dusty old guitar awash with static and the faintest sound of distant church bells. Then the prevailing sound of the album follows with the retro synth sounds, slow jam beats, flute and guitar of Gold Dust Afternoon which sets the tone for the album. That opening piece really heightened the impact of the rest of the album on my first ever listen, as it stilled me in readiness for a sound that I couldn’t believe I was hearing. Every track a winner but Salt Of The Sea goes down as one of my favourite ever pieces of music.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
https://thegentlemanlosers.bandcamp.com/album/the-gentleman-losers
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/The-Gentleman-Losers-The-Gentleman-Losers/master/147561


2008


Peter Broderick
Float
[Type]

In 2008 I discovered Ambient music and spent much of the year grabbing free music via netlabels as well as scour the back catalog of early founders of the genre, such as Eno and Budd etc. That year I also stumbled across the work of Peter Broderick and Float was my first introduction to him. I later learnt that Broderick was a musical genius able to turn a hand to pretty much any instrument he picked up and this was a fascinating departure that convinced me that Ambient isn’t all synth and drones. To think that Peter was only 21 when he released this album is incredible and as a young man he’d already conquered crafting ‘the complete album’; Float has everything…Some of the themes recur, there’s so much detail, restrain and quieter moments, field recordings – it really is a perfect listen from start to finish. It’s worth noting that this was my first taste of the label too – Type went on to release so many more gems.
Broderick has gone on to perform as part of Efterklang as well as releasing numerous subsequent albums but for me, this one is special for so many reasons. So when Erased Tales reissued this on vinyl in 2013 I made sure to get my copy on order.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
https://www.erasedtapes.com/release/eratp054-peter-broderick-float-2013
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?master_id=58162&ev=mb&format=Vinyl


2009


Richard Skelton
Marking Time
[Type]

Originally released on Preservation in 2008 and repressed by Type the following year, Marking Time had to be the first piece of Ambient vinyl I ever bought and Richard Skelton remains a huge influence to my own work. Richard began to combine his own musical works with artwork by his late wife into beautifully handmade packages, oozing the rural charm of the Pennines near to where he lived. Unlike the photos of trees and landscapes that adorned most electronic drone Ambient from the mid to late 2000s, Skelton’s sound was as rustic as Ambient could be, with layers of droning bowed strings, guitar and piano emanate a connection with the landscape and the natural world. Whilst my own local landscape is nowhere near as wild as the moors, this record is one I reach for on long country walks or Sunday afternoons in Autumn.

Buy Direct from the label/artist:
https://aeolian.bandcamp.com/album/the-complete-marking-time
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/release/1841157?ev=rb

 



Steven R. Smith

Cities
[Immune]

Worstward Recordings boss and multi-instrumentalist Steven R. Smith has released an innumerate amount of quality music since the 1990s under either his own name or under his ‘Ulaan’ pseudonyms. In 2009 Immune released a Cities, which I’ve owned on vinyl ever since its release in a run of 900 copies. The perfectly balanced 10 tracks of Cities were recorded solely on analog equipment and the sound pool used consisted of baritone psaltery, piano, organ, guitars, cello, melodica and fretted spike fiddle. These are mixed into a fuzzy sonic tapestry and the beautiful cover artwork is a simple painted, abstract landscape nodding to the work of Mark Rothko. Vinyl copies are still readily available at a reasonable price from the label direct or on Discogs – see links below.

https://immunerecordings.bandcamp.com/album/cities
Browse Discogs Marketplace for physical editions:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/release/1907596?ev=rb

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