Mixtape Primer: The Essential Ambient Collection

Brian Eno’s new album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, his first solo album since 2005, comes out in just two weeks. With that in mind, this seems the perfect moment to look back at a genre to which he’s contributed a great deal over the years: ambient. Eno’s work throughout the ‘70s was pretty much unmitigated genius – the unhinged creative freedom of his solo debut Here Come the Warm Jets and its follow up Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, the lush grandeur of Another Green World, the collaborations with Robert Fripp – but even so, his quartet of ambient records were a particular high point. After all, not many people can claim to have created (or at least defined) a genre.

If you thought ambient was all whale calls and new age noodling, then think again: in the first installment of a monthly Mixtape Primers series, Tom Hawking gives us his essential ambient collection… designed to fit right onto a C60 for your listening pleasure! Go track by track after the jump, and listen to the whole mix at the end of the post.


1. Brian Eno – “1/1 (excerpt)” (6:12)
From Music for Airports, 1978

OK, so in fairness, Eno might not have been the first to come up with the idea of music that eschewed rhythm and melody for atmospherics and texture, but he was the first to put a name to it, and his ambient records from the late ‘70s have been hugely influential on the development of the genre. This track is where it began: the first piece from his first entirely ambient album, 1978’s Music for Airports (apparently the idea of music designed to offset the generally unpleasant atmosphere of airports came to him after being stuck in a terminal for several hours). It introduces several of the concepts that Eno considered crucial for ambient music: the idea of a utilitarian sound designed for a specific purpose, which to some extent creates itself – the music on “1/1” is several tape loops of different length played simultaneously, interweaving and creating both dissonance and harmony as they do so.