|Other names||New Age house|
|Cultural origins||Late 1980s, United Kingdom and Japan|
|Ambient music artists, chill-out music|
Ambient house (also called New Age house and sometimes conflated with "chill-out") is a subgenre of house music that first emerged in the late 1980s, combining elements of acid house and ambient music. Tracks in the ambient house genre typically feature four-on-the-floor beat patterns, synth pads, and vocal samples integrated in a style classed as "atmospheric".
In 1989, Paul Oakenfold ran the acid house night at Heaven, and Dr. Alex Paterson ran a chill-out counterpart in the White Room. There, Paterson (soon to be front man in The Orb) spun Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, and 10CC songs at low volume and accompanied them with multiscreen video projections. Around the same time, in the East End of London, so-called spacetime parties were held at Cable Street. These parties, organized by Jonah Sharp, were designed to encourage conversation rather than dance, and featured Mixmaster Morris.
The ambient house movement began in the late 1980s largely due to the demand for post-rave "come-down" music. It was founded mainly by The Orb members Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. They drew from various influences, particularly Yellow Magic Orchestra (active since the late 1970s), an electronic music group frequently cited as a pioneer of ambient house music, in addition to influences from Steve Reich, Brian Eno, reggae music, and 1970s psychedelic rock, including Pink Floyd. Inspired by the house music played by DJs such as Larry "Mr. Fingers" Heard, Paterson and Cauty began DJ-ing and composing experimental music. The Orb established the genre in 1989 as DJs during night-club events called The Land of Oz, based at the night-club Heaven. After a recording session with John Peel later that year, The Orb released the twenty-minute "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld", which featured "bright, translucent sounds" and "tinkl[ing]" keyboards, as well as heavily sampling Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You". Out of Paterson and Cauty's sessions at Trancentral studio, came Cauty and Bill Drummond's KLF album Chill Out (which featured no credit to Paterson). As one of the first ambient house albums, The Grove Dictionary of Music describes it as "a 1980s pop culture version of musique concrète". After splitting from The Orb, Cauty finished work on his own album Space, and Paterson's Orb went on to create the single "Little Fluffy Clouds" – both important works of ambient house. In 1991, The Orb released the album The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, featuring both of their previous singles. Combining Moog synthesizers with religious chorales and audio clips of the Apollo 11 rocket launch, The Orb popularized the "spacy" sound of ambient house.
The musicians of The KLF stopped their musical production in 1992, whilst in the same year The Orb released the single "Blue Room" which was to become their most successful, reaching eighth place in the UK singles chart. At forty minutes, it was the longest single to reach the UK charts. An edited form of it appeared on The Orb album U.F.Orb later that year. U.F.Orb brought in dub influences into ambient-house. In the years after the release of their live album, Live 93, The Orb largely stopped their ambient-house music production, instead concentrating on producing more "metallic" music.
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Major ambient house artists
- Aphex Twin
- Boards of Canada
- Global Communication
- Juno Reactor
- Tetsu Inoue
- The KLF
- The Orb
- System 7
- Yellow Magic Orchestra
- The KLF – Chill Out (1990)
- Jimmy Cauty – Space (1990)
- The Orb – Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1991)
- Biosphere – Microgravity (1991)
- Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
- The Orb – U.F.Orb (1992)
- The Irresistible Force – Flying High (1992)
- The Grid – 456 (1992)
- Yellow Magic Orchestra – Technodon (1993)
- Moby – Ambient (1993)
- Pete Namlook – Air (1993)
- Tetsu Inoue – Ambiant Otaku (1994)
- Global Communication – 76:14 (1994)
- Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children (1998)
Notable early track releases
- The KLF – "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1)" (KLF Communications, 1988)
- The Orb – "Little Fluffy Clouds" (Big Life, 1990)
- The Grid – "Flotation" (EastWest Records, 1990)
- AFX (Aphex Twin) – "Analogue Bubblebath" (Mighty Force Records, 1991)
- The Future Sound of London – "Papua New Guinea" (Jumpin' & Pumpin' Records, 1991)
- The Orb – "Blue Room" (Big Life, 1992)
- Orbital – Halcyon" (FFRR, 1992)
- The Grid – "Crystal Clear" (Virgin, 1993)
- Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. 166–7.
- Snoman, Rick (2013). Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques. Taylor & Francis. pp. 88, 330, 340–342. ISBN 1136115749. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- "Ambient House". Allmusic. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-17.
- Reynolds, Simon. Generation ecstasy: into the world of techno and rave culture. New York: Routledge, 1999.
- Yellow Magic Orchestra at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- Prendergast, Mark. The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby-The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2003.
- Fulford-Jones, Will. "Ambient house". In Deane L. Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)