Ambient Elders: Tipping the Hat to Three Musical Forefathers

Today we take a look back in time to three different artists or groups who helped shape minimalist, ambient and chillout music into the world it stands as today.All of these artists had/have been active for at least twenty years. As an added qualifier, we will be focusing on somewhat lesser known artists, so groups such as Tangerine Dream or Brian Eno or Aphex Twin will not be highlighted. For those that have been fans of the genres for quite awhile, chances are you’ve heard of at least one or two of the following. No matter what, enjoy!

Tetsu Inoue

Back in 1994, Tetsu Inoue released Ambiant Otaku. While Inoue had previously produced works with Pete Namlook and Uwe Schmidt, Ambiant Otaku was his first major release on his own.

It was a huge success, channelling the minimalism and experimentation of John Cage and others that came before him yet bringing it into the 90s at a time when everyone was pissed off while wearing flannel.

Ambiant Otaku became an underground hit and highly sought-after vinyl record for collectors, but Inoue kept working and travelling. While bouncing  to and from San Francisco, Tokyo and New York, over 40 albums would be released.

Global Communication

Britain has always had a strong place in the world of electronic music, and ambient composers are no exception. Global Communication, made up of Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard, was a project of the ethereal and minimalist. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Pritchard and Middleton espoused using their own tones and melodies instead of sampling.

Since their prized album 76:14, the duo has produced various works, both solo and together, under numerous other aliases, including Chameleon, Reload, Link & E621 and Jedi Knights. Together there are a month’s worth of listening for those who dare take the time. For many though, 76:14, released in 1994, is the standard. LA Weekly’s Jonny Coleman said last year:

“If there is intelligent life out there, these are the peaceful melodies we should be broadcasting to them.”

Wendy Carlos

For those who weren’t alive yet, Wendy Carlos has likely been lost to them by time. But back in 1970, she was well on her way to establishing herself as one of synth’s pioneers, not to mention providing a huge boost to the business efforts of inventor Robert Moog.

Carlos broke it big by releasing Switched-On Bach in 1968, a series of Bach compositions performed on a Moog modular synthesizer. Later,  she would find fans in movie-goers for her compositions for The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and Tron. But it was her 1972 release, Sonic Seasonings, that really inspired her fellow musicians.

A gorgeous double album, Sonic Seasonings was divided into a four sections, each devoted to a prospective season. Carlos had sought to create music that did not require a person’s rapt attention for long periods of time, and therefore created soundscapes utilizing animal and nature sounds juxtaposed against synthesized sounds and melodies. The album would inspire many to follow her lead.

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