College years: 90-94
2. Current 93
3. This Mortal Coil
It is kind of hard to pin point specific bands, but there were certain genres and groups of artists that were influential for various reasons. Ride represents for me the appeal of the shoegazing era, and is one of several bands I adored (including Lush, Slowdive, MBV, and others).
Current 93 is representative of some of the industrial/experimental stuff I liked (e.g., Nurse with Wound, Psychic TV, Hafler Trio, Organum) that eventually got me into ambient music. I eventually discovered--after listening to a lot of tiring artists banging on pipes and cans and looping those sounds over and over--that what I really liked was drone-based compositions that had ethereal rather than noisy qualities. It was a small, but significant step, to discover Eno, Fripp, Roach, and others after college and to make the bridge to what is more commonly discussed on these forums.
This Mortal Coil in some ways represents everything I loved about 4AD in the 80's and early 90's.