Overrated Ambient

Started by drone on, February 14, 2012, 10:09:42 AM

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No, I don't feel picked on or singled out, Bill.  I think you make some good points.  I'm more inclined to be more outspoken about a release if I didn't know the person, because it becomes easier for me to put on my listener hat and react to the music as a fan of the genre.  When I trade releases with fellow musicians, it feels diffferent, and I no longer feel that I have the detachment necessary to be as objective as I'd like to be.  It's not an attempt to elevate a friend by not mentioning him or her, but I think it's legitimate to ask whether it's appropriate for friends to publically review each other's work. That's why I prefer having an arm's length relationship with reviewers; otherwise, it could slide into the slippery slope of conflict of interest.  For me at least, it's not a touchy feeling thing at all.  I haven't hesitated to express disappointment about artists like Alio Die, whom I don't know, but don't feel it is my place to opine in a public forum about the music of friends like Robert Rich or Saul Stokes.  I do feel that any disappointment should expressed constructively.  It's not partciuarly useful to say that release sucks or that someone is past their prime if you don't explain why you feel that way.  And I would certainly would not discourage you or anyone else from committing the heresy of expressing critical views about Steve Roach's work, either (though I may likely differ with you on that one).


El culto

@Bill: i do think you mix up things here  ;)

"What do you think are the most overrated ambient albums?"

It´s by it´s nature not possible to overrate an album which is i.e. for some month or years on the market. So we DO talk here about "older" stuff.

If the question was ""What do you think are the most overrated ambient artist?" then there is a chance for more answers because "hyper hyper" for artists is in today fashion indeed....and if clever done, easy to realize by knowing and using promotion tools like social networks.




One other issue that I don't think your comment really addresses is the risk that one's critical comments will be misinterpreted by the artist himself/herself.  Maybe this becomes a remote risk if you don't know the person at all, but wouldn't it be less cheesy to express that concern directly to the musician rather than stating it in a public forum?  I have experienced the phenomenon in a work setting where a person misuses the "reply to all" feature of email, instead of only communicating directly with the person involved.   One of the things I wish people would ask before using that feature is whether they really wanted everyone to hear their response.


Julio Di Benedetto

For a while I could not understand the esteem that people held the Magnificent Void in.  I understood it intellectually, But I just did not get it......recently that changed.  I do get it, I hear it and it is magnificent.  Granted it is a challenging piece of music and I use it to illustrate a point.....is overrated actually the lack of understanding. 

Interesting comments from Forrest & Bill.....if someone says my music sucks, I smile, shrug my shoulders and say oh well.  If someone says my music sucks because.....now you have my attention.  Constructive criticism is the opportunity for the artist to see / hear their work through another's perspective.  It is often hard to remove the "I" and truly hear what someone has to say because the ego gets in the way.
"Life is one big road, with lots of signs, so when you ride to the Roots, do not complicate your mind, ... "  Bob Marley



I certainly agree with Forrest and Julio on the issue of constructive criticism and not merely saying this or that "sucks" or saying nothing other than it's not worthy of the attention it has received. The potentially interesting and perceptive thing is why you think this about an artist or release. Seems to me, just running off a personal list of likes or dislikes is not so interesting to the world at large.
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans


I agree, if the posts are a discussion of the music that helps me 'get' something or at least listen with a better understanding thats great.

Though I also hear Bill's comment re being strong enough to take negative comments without taking it personally. I did get a review once that said all they got from it was a headache..... ;D :o ;D......I admit - it was hard to sort out the personal emotions given such a negative responce - would hav been the same if they had said it to me personally.

But to use the thread in a way that might help me - can anyone explain Steve Roach's 'Fever Dreams' series for me - why they like them. I have lots of Steve's music but just can't find my way into these releases.

judd stephens

Quote from: Seren on February 19, 2012, 11:55:27 PM
But to use the thread in a way that might help me - can anyone explain Steve Roach's 'Fever Dreams' series for me - why they like them. I have lots of Steve's music but just can't find my way into these releases.

The short version why I like the Fever Dreams series:  Take the liquid grooves of Body Electric or Blood Machine, slow them down a bit and introduce the surreal, meandering dreaminess of Early Man, and what emerges is the 'feel' of Fever Dreams.

Having liked a lot of his techno-tribal releases of the 90's, F.Dreams is sort of a unique spin to that theme with a more languishing pace.  There's organic, insect-like or almost fractal sounds throughout, and then you have Steve's drifting guitar twangs that provide a sense of the feverishness.  This is like the techno-tribal, but for the deep, hot jungle.  There's something more psychoactive that he was going for too than just jungle atmosphere, I think, like the general fever of being under the influence of something:  a shamanic trip, a drug, tantric practices, etc. 

I also find it more relaxing than the growling didgeridoo of earlier stuff, and again it has some element of the 'Early Man emptiness' except with more groove, that makes for a nice passive trip that comes in and out of consciousness while you have it playing.  This song here, along with Fever Dreams 3:  Melted Mantra, especially:

Steve Roach - Tantra Mantra (Fever Dreams)


I have a strong feeling that much better name for Immersion  Five -  Circadian Rhythms Disc One is Fever Dreams IV.  8)
Ambient DNA


The Magnificent Void. Don`t get why this gets talked about more than any other Roach album, it doesn`t seem any better/superior to me.
Brian Eno - Music For Airports. Listened to it but never felt the need to buy it. Structures From Silence is much better.


Both Fever Dreams II and Magnificent Void are masterpieces beyond question. :P
No point in trying to explain why I think so... if it doesn't speak to you, that's too bad. All you can do is give it another spin sometime. Especially the Void may require a lot of patience. Try listening in bed with headphones for a different perspective.


If we're talking overrated I'd have to agree with Aphex Twin, Biosphere, FSOL.

Ein Sophistry

Quote from: DeepR on February 21, 2012, 01:59:57 PM
If we're talking overrated I'd have to agree with Aphex Twin, Biosphere, FSOL.

Those were also the first names that came to my mind. I'm also finding that Harold Budd is starting to wear pretty thin with me. I love some of his releases (e.g., The White Arcades), but he hasn't wowed me in quite a while.

Also, I won't single out individual artists (there are so many now!), but on the whole this new quasi-subgenre of what I can only think to call "hipster ambient" really underwhelms the hell out of me. Adding glitches or layers of lo-fi crackle to lazy guitar drones doesn't magically make them nostalgic or otherwise emotionally resonant. There are some gems here, of course, but they're getting harder and harder to find as the ambient market (such as it is) gets increasingly saturated with this stuff.


So much of this discussion about overrated releases comes down to "I don't understand why people talk about this album so much," and usually the release in question is something that came out on a (relatively, for the ambient field) major label.

You wonder why people talk about Magnificent Void more than other Roach albums? I don't. It came out on Hearts of Space, right around the peak of that label's reach and influence, at the mid-90s peak of the relative mainstreaming of the ambient/electronica scene. You couldn't browse the ambient/new age section of a Tower Records without stumbling across that album and FSOL and Aphex Twin SAWII.

I'd argue those albums are discussed more, not because aficionados of those artists consider them the best albums, but because they were the highly visible, highly available albums at a peak time for the genre.

It's the same reason so many of these albums were ranked highly on the ambient@hyperreal.org "all time best ambient" polls -- not only were they talked about a lot, but the CDs were owned by the largest number of people. Same goes for the FAX and Emit and Silent label releases. These were widely distributed in the early-mid 90s heyday of ambient, so everybody saw the discs in stores and everybody owned them.

In other words, I the frequent mention of these releases is more about the label they were released on, and the distribution those labels achieved during those years, than the albums really being highly rated in 2012 by serious listeners of ambient.

Having said that, I think SAW II is a masterpiece and Magnificent Void is my favorite Roach album!
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions


Ha!  Very well said, Mike!

So true though - when I used to buy CD's in a physical brick and mortar store and not on line constantly...  you got what you could find.   Whether we're talking ambient or idm or whatever. 

Barnes and Noble was the only store in my town that actually had a New Age section - and yeah Roach Roach Roach - and only the bigger label ones.   Electronic section..  Aphex would be there, and FSOL, and Orbital.  I did find a Platickman - Sheet One with the actual perferated sheet.  :-)

If I drove to Chicago or St. Louis - yeah - a different story - but here in central Illinois... 

But then the internet became huge and I started buying interesting stuff from here at Hypnos and from a store called AB-CD.com (no idea if still around - they were good for the electronic stuff I liked...) - and now I'm virtually 100% file based for new stuff I buy.

Ok - sorry for the tangent.  But I agree...  the ones we over rate the most are the ones that have achieved a level of success well far and away from so many others - and it's because they got that success.   

Why do I find it so fun to poke fun at Yanni or John Tesh?   Because they've outsold everyone in this discussion combined, most likely.  (I've honestly never listened to either except in commercials... but it's the stereotype that's fun to poke fun at... )
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei


Quote from: Robert Logan on February 14, 2012, 03:57:43 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.

That's interesting because it was the first "ambient" album I ever bought.  I know it was really influential for me.  I thought it was mind blowing stuff but that could have been because I had never heard anything like it before.  I still listen to it on occasion.   


Quote from: jkn on February 15, 2012, 06:17:11 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.

Wow.  I'm really shocked by this thread.  Eno 'Music For Airports' was probably the second "ambient" album I ever bought and I was really in awe of it.  Especially the first track.  I think because he had the balls to release something that people would listen to and say "I could do that.  He's just playing the same thing over and over again".  Which I really thought was so fucking cool.  I love monotony and repetition.  There's not really an immediate reward but if you stick with it you get sucked in and you get the nice pay off. 

I guess I'm two for two on this thread.  First two posts that are "overrated" are two of my fave ambient albums. 

One man's pile of shit is another man's gem. 


Quote from: judd stephens on February 14, 2012, 10:59:35 PM
Quote from: hdibrell on February 14, 2012, 09:34:26 PM
Heresy!!! But, yeah.

Yes, Lustmord... agreed.    ;)

Much of Brian´s stuff is quite overrated, especially "Black Stars". I found this utterly boring. His latest albums were so boring I didn´t listen to them until the end.

Thomas Köner also has some brilliant stuff out, but also quite boring albums as well ("Daikan" comes to mind).

Eno´s "Music for Airports" is nowhere near as interesting as  its title suggests.

"Honour thy error as a hidden intention." (Brian Eno)

drone on

"Music for Airports" is an interesting title?  :o

Also, that's "heresy" what you said about "Black Stars"!!!  :P

Actually, I always thought ['ramp] was the most highly overrated group no one's ever heard of!  ;)

Nice to see you again here, Stephen.  :)


Quote from: drone on on June 15, 2012, 03:24:49 PM
"Music for Airports" is an interesting title?  :o

Also, that's "heresy" what you said about "Black Stars"!!!  :P

Actually, I always thought ['ramp] was the most highly overrated group no one's ever heard of!  ;)

Nice to see you again here, Stephen.  :)

Thanks for the warm welcome! Feels like coming home  ;D.

['ramp] overrated? It definitely sucks big time. And so do I, but who cares?

"Honour thy error as a hidden intention." (Brian Eno)

drone on

Seriously now, here's one:

Ishq-"Orchid."  I really like Matt Hillier's Virtual label releases, and finally got to hear this one.  Wondering what all the fuss is about.  If you go on Discogs Orchid is practically worshipped, yet I found it just OK.