Best Ambient Releases of 2020

by Jan 24, 2021

Yep, the Pitchfork list missed a fair amount of stellar releases. After 3 years of budding interest – this was the year where I bought more ambient music than any other genre. 2020 wasn’t particularly stressful for me personally – but I can imagine how it would have been for many others. In any case, this music has been incredibly soothing for me and hopefully it can be for you, too.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

The Mosaic Of Transformation

The best piece of music in all of 2020 – in all genres. And my new favorite ambient artist. Angelic layered vocals and stunning, imaginative production. Sounds like nothing else out there. Highly recommend her back catalog as well.

Released on Ghostly International

Sam Prekop – Comma

This would have taken the first spot were it not for the previous release which is simply too fresh. If you know The Sea & Cake band then you know Sam Prekop, their vocalist. He’s been experimenting and releasing solo ambient and modular stuff for years, and this is his magnum opus IMO. An endlessly beautiful piece of work.

Released on Thrill Jockey

Robert Carlos Lange

An Explosion Made Me Think Of You

The artist otherwise known as Helado Negro put out two other ambient EPs this year, but it was this one-track release, made with an MPC 2000 XL, that caught my attention the most with it’s lush percussive echos and reverb; a simple yet timeless and effective piece of music.

Self-Released on his Bandcamp

Julianna Barwick – Healing Is A Miracle

Heavenly vocal harmonies backed by soaring strings. It’s like you’re in grand cathedral hundreds of years ago. Title track is the highlight.

Released on Ninja Tune

KMRU – Jar

Signature tranquilizing drone ambience from the Nigerian master. If you absolutely need peace of mind right now, this is it. His Peel album from this year also comes highly recommended. Highlight: Degree of Change.

Released on Seil Records

Gia Margaret – Margaret Gia

Heathered Pearls – Cast

The Polish/Michigan/NYC artist casts a mesmerizing spell with moody loops and spoken word. Gets better with each listen. The techno background and influence is on clear display. Highlight: Life Out Of Balance ft. Shigeto

Released on Ghostly International.

Night Oceann – Sorcerer’s Dream

The lack of Bandcamp support on this one is mind boggling. Perhaps that’s because the artist and label are relative newcomers – but this release is virtually flawless, integrating feel-good string driven melodies, hazy environmental recordings, and percussive elements into a perfect whole.

Released on Expeditions Above

Wata Igarashi – WIP01

The first release on the respected Japanese techno producers new WIP label (with 4 releases in 2020) was the one that caught my attention the most. A 15 minute meandering arpeggiated number followed by a high pitched drone pice make for a very effective one two punch.

Released on his Bandcamp

Ana Roxanne – Because of A Flower

Much anticipated 2nd release from the NYC artist. Germinated over a span of 5 years and informed by her intersex identity. Highlight: Suite pour l’invisible – and all it’s soaring vocals.

Self Released on her Bandcamp.

Jogging House – Be

Warm, sentimental, analog driven compositions that would be perfectly at home with a backdrop of 808s and 909s, yet make perfect sense without. Highlight: Degree of Change

Released on Seil Records

Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders

Harp-driven soundscapes recorded over a span of nine days. The 3rd and final album on this list from Ghostly International, whom I suppose was the ambient record label of the year in 2020. Worth it for the title track alone, and it’s rapturous crescendo.

Pinkcourtesyphone

Leaving Everything To Be Desired

Evoking feelings of a muted, stretched, and softened Caretaker, this project alternates between grand euphoria and darker emotions, with everything in between. First two tracks are the highlight.

Released on Room40

Fogweaver – Vedurnan

Fittingly to the cover artwork, I discovered this while lying in a hot-spring on a riverbed, nestled in the foggy mountains of Taiwan. The sounds of the music and my environment simply melded into one as I soaked the evening away. Also, strong sci-fi vibes as evidenced by the cover. Self-released on his Bandcamp, where you can find plenty more free releases.

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