After 5 years of budding interest – this was the year where I bought more ambient music than any other genre. Previously I had dabbled in those “6 hours of healing meditation” type BS videos on YouTube. But the trick is to go straight to the artists who are making the good stuff. This music has been incredibly soothing for me and hopefully it can be for you, too. Bandcamp publishes a monthly “best of” list an that’s a great place to keep tabs on what’s happening within the genre.
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. Allowances for the hi-hats & percussion!
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. Sounds like you’re in an ancient cathedral, hundreds of years in the future. Atmosphere for days, and a truly breathtaking piece of work. Need more of this! Title track is the highlight.
Released on Ninja Tune
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. “Suite pour l’invisible” – and all it’s soaring vocals, is a contendore for ambient track of the year in my book!
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) label of the year in 2020. Worth it for the title track alone, and it’s rapturous crescendo.
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.