The Godfather of synth music, in my opinion. Takes classical music pieces (ie Debussy, Strauss, Holst et) and recreates them using synths in a space-ambient style.
The man is a master of synthesizers and music composition; his albums are sonic works of art that beg to be listened to with headphones and the lights off.
I’m still amazed at what he was able to accomplish using the limited technology of the mid-to-late 70s/early 80s… the use of synthesizers, sequencers and effects to create a cohesive sonic experience and music full of emotion is simply mindblowing, and must be heard to be believed.
Listen to Tomita’s “The Planets” album straight through, followed by “The Bermuda Triangle” (side 1, side 2) and “Kosmos” and you will be taken on a mind altering sonic journey, guaranteed! 🙂
In the mid 90s, I was exposed to Autechre and the musical genre of IDM (intelligent dance music), and my life changed once again.
I first heard a sample of the track “Bike” from their debut album “Incunabula” and was instantly hooked. Something about the simple melody, beats, and soft sounding synth lines just grabbed my ear and wouldn’t let go. I bought the album and listened to it straight through.
While there were some good tracks on Incunabula, it wasn’t until Autechre’s 2nd album, “Amber” that I became a true fan. This album is one of my favorite ambient electronica albums of all time. Track 4 (“Slip”) and Track 9 (“Yulquen“) especially just took me places, and from thereon in I was hooked for good. Their 3rd album, Tri Repetae, was equally amazing in a slightly more industrial-sounding fashion, with tracks like “Clipper” and “Eutow” being particular highlights.
Anyway, Autechre has since gone on to do many more albums, some of which seem completely abstract, and others which approach the musicality of their earlier efforts. They are masters of synths, samplers and other gear, both hardware and software, and their creativity knows no bounds.
I highly recommend listening to their albums (with headphones, lights out) from the beginning to see how they have progressed, and how they have made the most of both vintage and modern electronic music technology. It is a listening experience which can at times be inspirational, emotional, challenging, or simply do your head in completely.
A true master of shoegaze electronica/chillout. Tracks like “Blumenthal“, “A Million Miles Away” and “Ordeal” should tell you why.
Beautifully melodic ambient music, compositions, production and style… tracks which may trigger a visceral emotional response of euphoria, or a dream-like state. Check him out if you haven’t already and get hooked.
Boards of Canada
Boards of Canada are amazing at what they do.
I find their music evokes memories from childhood and vintage analog electronica from the 70s/80s. Many of their songs have a timeless, classic feel which are often mixed with found sounds and beats to create an all-encompassing experience.
When you need to be taken back to the age of retro, in an ambient/relaxing style, give them a listen. Actually, give them a listen anyway!
I first discovered Testu Inoue on the Sleepbot radio station/website back in the late 90s, when they were broadcasting the albums “Ambiant Otaku“, “Organic Cloud” and “Zenith“. I was instantly hooked.
His ambient tracks are often 10-20 minutes long but evolve slowly over time to create an engrossing experience… often with looping arpeggiators and effects, sometimes with beats, sometimes beatless. His music tends to have a very “organic” and minimalist feel to it, and his use of synths to achieve these soundscapes is fantastic.
Checkout the tracks “Karmic Light”, “Bionic Commune“, “Holy Dance“, “Ring of Power” and “Plexus Solaris” for a good example. Highly recommend if you need to just sit back and chillout, let your mind drift and relax into the night.
What can be said about Vangelis that hasn’t been said already?
The man from Greece who created the Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire movie soundtracks certainly needs no introduction — he is a true musical genius, a maestro, an incredible musician and composer, and of course… an amazing synthesist.
For me, his seminal work is and always will be the music he composed for the Blade Runner movie soundtrack. The incredible sonic palette and depth of sound Vangelis was able to achieve in an era of analog synths and sequencers, tape recording and related music technology is simply mind boggling.
The music in Blade Runner is at times haunting, other times awe-inspiring… but first and foremost always emotional. In particular, the opening scene and its famous motif is beautiful, powerful, and simply unforgettable.
Vangelis’ use of multiple legendary and astronomically expensive (and 200lbs heavy!) Yamaha CS-80 synthesizers in composing the music for Blade Runner is well known. The expressiveness of his playing becomes even more magical through the sounds of the CS-80, as it roars to life through its 8 voices of powerful analog circuitry. If ever there was a movie soundtrack to showcase the Yamaha CS-80 and the emotional capabilities of synthesis, this is certainly one of the best.
If you’ve never heard the Blade Runner soundtrack (where have you been??) I advise you to rush out now and listen. Better yet, watch the movie in surround sound (The Final Cut version on Blu Ray) so you get the full impact of Vangelis’ music alongside Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi/film noir masterpiece.
Jean Michel Jarre
A pioneer and master innovator in the world of electronic music, synthesis, live performance and composition — Jean Michel Jarre is like no other.
Having been exposed to his early works on critically acclaimed albums such as Oxygene and Equinoxe, it is easy to hear why JMJ has sold an astounding 80 million albums worldwide to date. Listen to the beautiful melodies and soft beats on tracks such as Oxygene IV and Oxygene 8 and you instantly get transported to other realms. His use of digital and analog synthesizer and sequencers over the course of his albums is a pleasure to listen to.
His incredible outdoor live performances are equally awe-inspiring, such as Rendez-Vous: Live in Houston (1990) and his more recent concert, Live in Monaco. His use of the famous laser harp is a spectacle of sight and sound, as is the use of special effects and pyrotechnics in his shows.
If you haven’t listened to or watched Jean Michel Jarre, you owe it to yourself to do so… now! 🙂
All the way from Finland comes Bad Loop.
The man is a one-man army of modern synthesis and production techniques, creating amazing melodic IDM/chillout tracks which take you on a journey, often backed by intricate beats.
Back in the day I came across a few of his MP3s during my searches on archive.org for new electronica, which led me to tracks like “Don’t Ever Let Go“, “Kauniit Ihmiset” and later, complete albums such as “Fragments” and “Luo“.
I was instantly hooked. Take a listen and I’m sure you will be too.
Lo-fi electronica/8-bit/chiptunes master. Came across his music on the Montonik net label back in the day (site 1, site 2), and became an instant fan.
Tunes like “abyers73“, “Paroxetine“, “Ricky Babes on the Town“, “Icksmansworth“, “Exists in Bad Sectors (fuzzdrop)” and “1994 Gold (via Ratners)” are classic examples of his work. For full albums click here, here and here.
Another Finnish melodic ambient/IDM prodigy.
Lackluster’s music covers a range of styles within the genre with plenty of beats, drones, samples, effects and use of synth to create atmospheric tracks and soundscapes.
Checkout tracks like “sfacidX3mulch“, “131099“, “Venutian Travels” and “Cut1 (ll260303)” for a taste, then find all his tracks and albums here and here. Well worth a listen!
What can I say, Planet Boelex is yet another Finnish melodic ambient/IDM master (what is it with that country producing such high caliber electronic musicians?) 🙂
PB’s music is a combination of intricate melodies intertwined with lush beats, creating euphoric emotional experiences for the listener. Fantastic use of modern production techniques, effects and synth programming.
Take a listen to “Direction Backwards“, “Joestet“, “Sim Ten (Ignitionmix)“, and “Soft Landing” then get his albums here and here.
Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard teamed up in the early 90’s to release the ambient/chillout masterpiece “76:14” under the moniker “Global Communication”.
The album proved to be one of the most iconic ambient/chillout albums ever released.
Take a listen to various tracks like “9:25“, “Aspirin (Global Communication Remix), and “Gamma Phase” for a taste. Then checkout their full discography and enjoy.
Steve Roach is an ambient music master with a huge following, for good reason. Ambient music full of lush overtones and melodies combine to form insightful journeys through fantastical sonic soundscapes.
I find his music both soothing and deeply introspective, giving the listener a chance to sit back and relax, reflect and contemplate. Tracks like “Something In Tears“, “Destination Horizon” and “Sundial” give you a taste, but be sure to check out his many albums for more.
Legendary space-ambient master artist.
I remember first hearing “And The Stars Go With You” and being taken on a journey to distant galaxies and planets… simply beautiful. Other tunes like “The Far River” continued the cosmic travels.
His discographyis extensive, his music and use of synths is amazing. Be sure to give Jonn Serrie a listen anytime you wish to take a voyage to the far reaches of the universe, and beyond.
While Aphex Twin surely needs no introduction and has produced many albums, his seminal “Selected Ambient Works Vol. I and Vol. II” deserve particular attention.
A landmark in the world of ambient/synth soundscapes, these albums are sonic journeys that take the listener through a variety of emotions and styles in a way only Aphex Twin can. Highly recommended.
All the way from Sweden comes Mosaik. I first discovered his works back in the Monotonik net label days, and have been a fan ever since.
His music tends to have an incredibly “soft” sonic quality to it that is both soothing and timeless, mixed with simple catchy melodies, supportive beats, and great use of ambient synth techniques.
Checkout tracks like “Papilio“, “Rubik“, “Sunreal” and “Cumulus” for starters, then visit his site for more.
World famous DJ Sasha is well known in the ambient-chillout/house genres, making use of great beats, synth lines, melodies and effects.
Checkout tracks like “Wavy Gravy” and “Requiem” from his Airdrawndagger album to start, and others like the epic “Baja” from his Xpander EP. Impressive.
Now-disbanded progressive psytrance duo Vibrasphere hail from Sweden. Upon hearing their track “Ice Flow” for the first time, I was immediately hooked and became an instant fan.
Further tracks such as “Baltic Resonance” and “Northern Sunsets” continue to take me places upon every listen. Great use of synths, beats, effects and melodies… checkout their full discography here.