That's funny Ain Sophistry, the second I read the title of this thread, I too thought "Hipster Ambient". The last time I was actually paying attention in a meaningful way, that was a worrying trend. I bought some albums from these artists, and frankly, after being a fan of the best of the best in real ambient, this stuff seems pretty weak. I think it is the more savvy presentation of the music, and its lacing with metal/darkness that made it more cool for the kids to like it.
I think more hardcore critique by reviewers would be welcome, it definitely elevates things when the reviewers are not afraid to really take on a release. But pardon my ignorance, how many people are actually reviewing real ambient music anymore? I've been out of it, so haven't been paying attention, so pardon my unawareness. But if I wanted to buy a release these days (and after a long hiatus, tonight in fact, I am shopping around like the old days) I don't think I would look to any review, judging the samples and memory of past releases as the final arbiter.
For a while I did feel like this genre was dead. I was an obsessive collector too, but after a while just felt let down by a seeming lack of passion and intensity in the music. And I'm not talking about intensity as in heaviness, but intensity in terms of what ambient music offers. It just really started to feel like the music was becoming rote, and too well behaved and predictable. Not enough emotional input.
The other night I stumbled upon a copy of On Land and Music for Airports that escaped my album purge of some time back. I put both of them on back to back and was utterly mesmerized, almost coming to tears. I am not a big fan of Eno by any stretch, having been burned by many of his crap albums, but these two just had that rawness and emotion. They are intensely pleasurable in the way true ambient can be, and not tainted by the need to be annoyingly avant guard.
Now I've got out Mystic Chords, all four discs, one of the only Roach albums I saved from the last album purge (I needed money, but that wasn't the only reason, also wanted to clean my musical pallette) and am reveling in how great these are. I agree with some posters about Mag Void, I don't necessarily think it was overrated, but I personally just never caught on to it.
Anyway, it's good to be back, this music is quite refreshing after a bit of a break.