Author Topic: Overrated Ambient  (Read 12178 times)

drone on

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Overrated Ambient
« on: February 14, 2012, 11:09:42 AM »
What do you think are the most overrated ambient albums?  By this I mean albums that are put on a pedestal to near mythical status, but when you actually hear it you wonder what the big deal was about.

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Wolfgang Voight's Gas releases (individually or the "Nah und Fern" box set).  There are a few excellent tracks but on the whole most of it to me is murky and repetitive. 

Robert Logan

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 04:57:43 PM »
Interesting thread.

I would say Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I think I understand what it is trying to do, and there are some tracks and some moments that are quite sublime, but overall there's too many irritating and lazy aspects in much of the music (for me) to be able to get fully immersed in it.

Another one could be Structures from Silence. Now, I do find this album absolutely beautiful (and much more enjoyable and far less overrated than Aphex's SAWII), but I'm surprised how it's often viewed as one of Steve Roach's best. I enjoy so many Steve Roach releases more than this one (and more than Dreamtime Return, as it happens.) But maybe that's just me.

hdibrell

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 10:34:26 PM »
Heresy!!! But, yeah.
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judd stephens

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 11:59:35 PM »
Heresy!!! But, yeah.

Yes, Lustmord... agreed.    ;)

jkn

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2012, 07:17:11 AM »
Thomas - I agree with you on Music For Airports.  When I finally heard it I was surprised how much I didn't care for it.   Some other Eno I find utterly brilliant - but I think I'm probably more influenced by later artists.  I didn't really sit and listen to Eno until the last decade...

Same with some of the berlin school biggies... friend let me borrow Klaus Schulz and JMJ and it just didn't resonate with me.  Then again - I haven't given them a try in a while.

Aphex Twin SAWII... you know - I bought it back in the 90's, I listened to it, thought it was cool but not "all that" - and then about 2 years later I listened again and loved it - and I still love it years later.   That happens to me sometimes.

John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

drone on

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2012, 11:19:45 AM »
I agree about Music for Airports as well.  Compared to Apollo, Plateaux of Mirror, The Pearl, it's pretty mediocre.  Compared to these others it sounds today pretty dated and not "timeless" like the others. 

Dreamtime Return is good but I wouldn't place it above Roach's other tribal ambient masterpieces like Origins and Artifacts. 

There are some Pete Namlook albums that seem to have been overinflated as well:  The Fires of Ork and Dreamfish (both first in series) come to mind.   

I guess what's frustrating is these "landmark" albums often get all the attention while the artists' much better work is often never mentioned. 

DeepR

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2012, 01:56:18 PM »
JMJ isn't Berlin School and totally different than Schulze.
Try Timewind. Moondawn, Mirage, X.

I agree about the others, except Heresy which I think is great.

jkn

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2012, 02:10:52 PM »
I've heard stuff I like from a ton of artists listed.

Shulze really didn't do it for me and perhaps it was the mood.  I borrowed Timewind and another one... X maybe?  Can't remember.

JMJ - not sure which school he went to - I've certainly heard stuff I like from him.  He just didn't blow me away like I thought he should.

Over-expactations...   that's basically what we're talking about here.   Music for Airports is a historically critical album... and it paved the way for so much to follow.   A pivotal album.
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ffcal

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2012, 05:15:13 PM »
I agree with John that Music For Airports was hugely influential for its time.  I listened to it quite a bit when it first came out, but not so much in recent years.  Compared to today's sample-scapes, that early looped-based music must seem pretty tame now.  You could almost make the argument that as electronic music became more mainstream during the 80s, and especially by the time that it was coopted by the "new age" marketers,  individual releases became less influential.  I liked the odd tunings in SAWII around the time it came out,in the mid-90s but it hasn't worn well for me over the years.  Recently I've noticed that some of it almost appears to have been lazily mixed in mono.

Forrest

Bill Binkelman

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2012, 07:52:43 PM »
With 200 views of this topic and yet only 9 replies, I think it's safe to say that ambient fans are, well to be blunt, afraid to cast stones. Maybe there are hardly ANY overrated releases (unlikely, IMO), but over the years, what I have witnessed is that ambient fans, more than fans of other genres (again IMO) are reluctant to criticize almost anything or anyone within the genre. At least in the way this question is worded. Sure, there are isolated critics (*cough* Alan Lockett *cough*) who will blast what they consider a poor ambient recording, but to actually put a name or a title to the descriptor "overrated" may be asking ambient fans, who seem to (once again, IMO) view "their" artists in a sort of paternalistic fashion, might be akin to asking cops to rat out one of their own.

Just my observation and my two cents. Long time readers of my rants know I have called out more than a few overrated albums, but I have gone public with so many over the years it would be a retread to spin them out here yet again.

I am merely commenting on the (what I think is obvious) fact that with 200 views but only a scant few opinions offered, either ambient fans think NO ONE ALBUM is overrated or they think that stating so would be Quisling-esque in its betrayal.

Or maybe it's just my creeping age and resultant cynicism. ;)
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APK

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 08:38:28 PM »
I've checked this thread a few times and said nothing. But its not out of some freaky reverence for the genre or fear of offending or related reason. My experience is simply that the albums I've heard many people praise highly over the years (for quality and/or influence) I have more often than not found to warrant that praise. And I don't have to personally like an album to recognize its excellence or influence (a fact lost on people who think judgements of quality are all just a matter of personal taste).

Eno's Airports, Gas, and a number of things by Schulze or Namlook or Roach or Biosphere are exceptional and important works for various reasons. But you don't have to like them, no more than you have to enjoy reading Dante or Finnegan's Wake or listen to Verdi operas.

And isn't it great that some people love this music enough, and find so much in it, that they raise something onto a special pedestal.

I'd be more concerned about people who dismiss this music, and who don't hear the magic in it.
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jdh

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 09:15:20 PM »
I agree with what Bill said.There is very little criticism on this site about ambient or even other genres of music,especially of artists who read this forum.
There are certain albums that I like that others do not that may seem overrated and vice versa. If you enjoy it,it is not overrated. But everyone can agree on landmark albums such as Biosphere Substrata or Eno Airport or Bowie Low and so on.
I mention Kraftwerk in the rare times they do something and I have never got a response. I am surprised as I would think they would be considered essential and not overrated.

Seren

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2012, 01:08:27 AM »
Having had a 17 year gap in my listening history I have no real concept of what people describe as landmark, seminal or essential albums (other than my own personal taste).

I also did a short spot of reviewing and decided that if I didn't like or understand something it was most likely a reflection of me rather than what I was listening to.

I thought actually starting the thread was a brave thing to do and although checking it out to see if I learn anything, have nothing of value to add.

petekelly

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2012, 06:22:59 AM »
I think it's tricky for an artist to state what they think are over-rated albums (or other artists, for that matter), as accusations of jealousy and general mean-spiritness generally may abound. It seems to me a general trend these days not to criticise anything ambient music wise, which I think is unhealthy. This leads to a situation where nothing is (publicly) considered to be awful, but a lot of mediocrity is deemed to be great.

In my view, certain works (and sub-genres) are over-rated, equally there are a number of significantly under-rated artists / albums out there as well. Some artists are deemed to be 'hipper' than others and other artists fall under the radar - sometimes for reasons which have nothing to do with their material.


Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2012, 06:24:48 AM »
I'd be more concerned about people who dismiss this music, and who don't hear the magic in it.

This would be my concern as well.....actually there's not enough ratings generally.  Outside our small world most people if they know Brian Eno at all its probably in connection to Roxy Music and producing U2 

jkn

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2012, 06:51:01 AM »
I tend to only write or listen to music i like... so the question is kind of valid to me as originally stated.  Something that so many people have recommended and then I heard it for the first time and went... "really?  it's that great?" - now most of those grew on me.   Ambient is a genre in general where a first passing glance listen will not reveal the brilliance underneath. 

Ah!  I forgot one...  after years of beging told Biosphere - Substrata was the tops - best of the best - brilliant - genius and other things - over and over and over - the first time I heard it I definitely had the "really??? seriously?" thought going on.  It has grown on me.

I've heard a lot of music that I listened a couple times and then either put in my "maybe revisit that in a year" shelf (if cd) - or simply deleted out of my ipod queue and left in itunes.   But that's not really the question - and frankly - it'd be kind of mean for me to toss those albums out there... because just because I don't like it doesn't mean someone else doesn't.    And the topic was more of the landmark brilliant albums that seem to come up in the "best of" lists time and again.

I'm not a pro reviewer - I'm a musician first - so my reviews and recommendations are colored in that manner. 

John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

ffcal

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2012, 10:46:43 AM »
Like John, my preference is weigh in on ambient musicians' whose music I like or who I feel should heard by more people (such as Matthew Florianz and Pete Kelly).  If I have critical points to make, I would rather express those thoughts directly to the musicians themselves.  I think that those of us who have stuck it out in our genre for a while should try to be as supportive as we can, as it is too easy on the net to drift into negativity and flame wars.  The net is inherently limited as a medium for communication.  I also prefer not to comment on music from artists who are friends of mine, as it might perceived as shilling if the comments are positive, and poor form if the comments happen to be a little negative.

Forrest

drone on

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2012, 11:24:03 AM »
Biosphere-Substrata, Microgravity, & Patashnik. 

Tetsu Inoue-Slow and Low.  I bought the reissue and after all the hype was pretty underwhelmed.  And I am a massive Tetsu fan. 

Aphex Twin-SAW II. 
FSOL-Lifeforms

El culto

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2012, 01:33:14 PM »
Agree with:

FSOL - Lifeforms

Sounds for me very cheap without any content inside....seems they had just fun to play a bit around...LOL

Bill Binkelman

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Re: Overrated Ambient
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2012, 01:43:38 PM »
Like John, my preference is weigh in on ambient musicians' whose music I like or who I feel should heard by more people (such as Matthew Florianz and Pete Kelly).  If I have critical points to make, I would rather express those thoughts directly to the musicians themselves.  I think that those of us who have stuck it out in our genre for a while should try to be as supportive as we can, as it is too easy on the net to drift into negativity and flame wars.  The net is inherently limited as a medium for communication.  I also prefer not to comment on music from artists who are friends of mine, as it might perceived as shilling if the comments are positive, and poor form if the comments happen to be a little negative.

Forrest

Not meaning to pick on you, Forrest, but this does get at the heart of what I was addressing, in a roundabout way. Ambient, as a community, is small and insular. We all "know" each other well enough that to slag off one person or one album could be perceived as being mean and end up being taken personally. So, in the end, the majority of albums that are dissed on forums are those by artists who would NEVER EVER visit here or any other smallish forum (e.g. ambient@hyperreal) so that's why Eno, FSOL, Aphex, etc. are usually the only ones mentioned.

Someone earlier said something along the lines of "well, this is such a small group anyway that to denigrate anyone weakens us all.." to which I would say "Really? Has it really come to that? Are we so starved for a feeling of positive worth  and value that we aren't willing to be self-critical without feeling like we are under personal attack?" Maybe ambient doesn't have a huge fan base when compared to other genres...but IMO, there is a LOT more slagging off by fans AND OTHER ARTISTS in other genres, including in the press. Is it just because their numbers are vast compared to us or is their thicker skin or do the fans of those genres just not give a shit what someone else says?

If we actually are all involved in a communal love fest, than someone chiming in with "Ya know, I just don't get the popularity of The Magnificent Void." should not be ostracized or held up as a traitor, etc. If we are a "family" (due to our small size and feeling of inclusivity - as opposed to exclusivity - because most people don't "get us,") shouldn't we be MORE open to that kind of comment?

I appreciate all the response to my post. Sincerely. As someone who, through the years, has been criticized a lot for not writing enough overtly negative or critical reviews, it does make me scratch my head, though. But maybe I am comparing apples to oranges.  ???

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