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Stylistic origins Ambient music, East Coast hip hop, trip hop, industrial hip-hop, dub music
Cultural origins Early 1990s New York City
Typical instruments Sampler, turntables, electronics
Other topics
Nu jazz
Raz Mesinai Performing

Illbient is a term allegedly coined by DJ Olive to describe the iconoclastic[clarification needed] music being produced by a community of artists based in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York in 1994.[1] The word "Illbient" is a portmanteau of the hip hop slang term "ill" (a positive expression: bad meaning good) and "ambient".

Psychedelic musician Helios Creed joked that "although Eno invented ambient music while ill in bed - 'illbient' is actually an extreme retro offshoot that demands that the listener produces a doctor's note before being allowed to purchase."

Though there are many individualistic variants of illbient, the music is characterized by interesting dub-wise layering of soundscapes, hip hop-influenced use of samples and a progressive approach to beat programming that encompasses all genres of world groove and electronic music. Usually, but not always, illbient uses beats more than purely ambient music, and often illbient includes loops in the recordings.

Illbient was introduced to the public at large in 1996 through the Asphodel Records Incursions in Illbient compilation and a feature in The Wire magazine.

According to DJ Spooky, DJ Olive started an event in Brooklyn called Lalalandia - that had nothing to do with illbient. DJ Spooky also claims to have invented the word "illbient" in relation to the multicultural digital arts scene in Manhattan.[2] To his credit, he released Necropolis, a mix CD in 1996 as a follow up to the 1995 Subharmonic release VALIS 1 CD that first pulled together many illbient associated artists. DJ Spooky wrote the liner notes to the VALIS release and recommended many of the artists that were included on the compilation. DJ Spooky strongly disagrees that DJ Olive coined the term illbient[clarification needed]. The compilation that Asphodel put out took many of the same artists that DJ Spooky pulled together, and made a commercial release in October 1996.

DJ Spooky's events like Molecular at The Gas Station on Avenue B and Second street in Manhattan set the tone for the genre, and predated all of the Manhattan events around what later came to be called "illbient."


See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Garelick, Jon (January 14, 2008). "Beyond illbient". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 

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