|Stylistic origins||Industrial music, drone, musique concrète, ambient|
|Cultural origins||1980s and 1990s, Europe and United States|
|Typical instruments||Electronic musical instruments, field recordings|
|Ambient noise - Black ambient - Funeral doom metal - Drone metal|
|List of dark ambient artists - List of electronic music genres|
Dark ambient (in the 1980s also referred to as Ambient industrial) is a genre of post-industrial music that features foreboding, ominous, or discordant overtones, some of which were heavily inspired by elements of ambient music. The term was coined in the early 1990s by Roger Karmanik to describe the music of Raison d'être and is strongly associated with the Cold Meat Industry record label.
Origins and development
Dark ambient has its roots in the 1970s, with the introduction of newer, smaller, and more affordable effects units, synthesizer and sampling technology. Early genre elements can be found on Throbbing Gristle's 1978 album D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle. An important early precursor of the genre was Tangerine Dream's early double-album Zeit (1972), which was unlike most of their subsequent albums in abandoning any notion of rhythm or definable melody in favor of "darkly" sinuous, occasionally disturbing sonics.
Projects like Lustmord, Nocturnal Emissions, Zoviet France, and Lilith evolved out of industrial music during the 1980s, and were some of the earliest artists to create consistently dark ambient music. These artists make use of industrial principles such as noise and shock tactics, but wield these elements with more subtlety. Additionally, ambient industrial often has strong occultist tendencies, with a particular leaning toward magick, as expounded by Aleister Crowley, and chaos magic, often giving the music a ritualistic flavor.
Among the artists who produce ambient industrial/dark ambient are Controlled Bleeding, CTI, Deutsch Nepal, Hafler Trio, Lustmord, Nocturnal Emissions, PGR, Thomas Köner, Zoviet France, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Lab Report, Akira Yamaoka, Robin Rimbaud, Endura, Vidna Obmana, Daniel Menche, Lull, Hwyl Nofio, Hieronymus Bosch, and Final. Many of these artists are eclectic in their output, with much of it falling outside of ambient industrial. Dark ambient has vibrated also into contemporary classical music. The example can be some solo works of composer Vladimír Hirsch, his project Aghiatrias or composer Jessie Martin.
Dark ambient often consists of evolving dissonant harmonies of drones and resonances, low frequency rumbles and machine noises, sometimes supplemented by gongs, percussive rhythms, bullroarers, distorted voices and other found sounds, often processed to the point where the original sample cannot be recognized. For example, entire works may be based on radio telescope recordings (Arecibo Trans-Plutonian Transmissions), the babbling of newborn babies (Nocturnal Emissions Mouths of Babes), or sounds recorded through contact microphones on telegraph wires (e.g. Alan Lamb's Primal Image).
Generally the music tends to evoke a feeling of solitude, melancholy, confinement, and isolation. However, while the theme in the music tends to be "dark" in nature, some artists create more organic soundscapes. Examples of such productions are those of Oöphoi, Alio Die, Mathias Grassow, Tau Ceti, and Klaus Wiese. The Symphonies of the Planets series, a collection of works by NASA and Brain/Mind Research in which planetary electromagnetic waves are captured by the Voyager unmanned space probes and converted into audible sound, can also be considered an organic manifestation of dark ambient.
- Stosuy, Brandon (October 31, 2008). "Show No Mercy". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
- Werner, Peter. "Epsilon: Ambient Industrial". Music Hyperreal. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
- "Headbanger's Blog". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved 4 October 2012.[dead link]
- Lamb, Robert. "Symphonies of the Planets: Music from the Hearts of Space?" HowStuffWorks. September 15, 2009.