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Who Inspires Ambient Electronic Artist Syntax? These Artists Do. That’s Who.

(Editor’s Note: This piece is written by guest writer James Mann — better known as ambient electronic artist Syntax (available for your listening pleasure on the latest Vehlinggo mix). He highlights ambient cuts that are meaningful to him. Have fun.)

Slipping into that elusive stream of consciousness. Delving into a world which entails insight into the human condition. Understated, and yet captivatingly overstated. Work that changes how you look at people, yourself, and in turn the world.

The word “ambient” has long carried a sense of shrouded mystery and context, all of which are personal and unique to each listener. Atmosphere. Tone. Delivery. Defying the traditional arrangements of music, the genre has managed to define itself among so many others, without any specific “sound” or “signature mark.”

As a lover of music, I confess ambient has and will be the most appealing form of work out there. With each composition a soundtrack and story unfolds, one which has an ability to guide my feelings and sensibilities towards something greater than myself.

Sometimes it’s just the tone of a particular synthesizer, or the thoughtful percussion alongside the blend of pads which can stimulate my mood and overall wellbeing. Other times it’s the totality of the arrangement that seems to freeze time and offer solace in a seemingly unimaginable way.

Brian Eno has unofficially gained the title as “founder” of the ambient genre, but this piece isn’t geared towards the history of ambient music. Rather, it’s discussing the therapeutic and heartfelt purpose that bridges all lovers of music together. Listening to Eno’s work most certainly evoked what I came to loosely define as “ambient music,” and ended up as a puzzle piece among the countless more I discovered. Warm pads. Thoughtful melodies. Layering, repetition, and purpose.

Over the years countless artists have either infused ambient-like qualities into their tracks, or have carved out careers based upon the genre. Aphex Twin’s two Selected Ambient Works volumes really were a game changer for me, and among the most inspirational releases in my music production as well. He combined techno, IDM, glitch, and ethereal ambient qualities in his works, and I began to understand that creating music did not have to specifically sound like a “genre,” but rather something that came from within that represents the deepest facets of you.

I am always listening to ambient throughout my week. I still find myself discovering new artists who really inspire me to create and feel. Sometimes I imagine that if this world were gone tomorrow, I would have some solace knowing the track I was listening to made the final departure a perfect one.

Here are 10 ambient tracks which have changed my outlook on life, music in general, and my music.

10. Marconi Union – “Weightless”

9. Lucite Bourdin – “Dweller In the Infinite”

8. Aphex Twin – “Stone In Focus”

7. Hammock – “Cold Front”

6. Phillip Wilkerson – “Adrift In Peace”

5. Patrick O’ Hearn – “Where We Once Stood”

4. Rykard – “North Cormorant Obscurity”

3. Milieu – “Pink Leaves”

2. Loess – “Brumal”

1. Carbon Based Lifeforms – “Frog”

(Editor’s Note: Read about Aaron Vehlinggo’s take on spacey ambient cuts, including those of Syntax. Also, check out the review of Syntax’s latest album, Transmissions.)


  1. I’m a big fan of Phillip Wilkerson’s long-form ambient music. Patrick O’hearn is another favorite. Have you heard the compliation “The Ambient Expanse” with Roach, O’hearn, Obmana, etc.? It’s a bit hard to find now, but worth it if you do.

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