Ocean of Sound

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Ocean of Sound
Ocean of Sound.jpg
Compilation album by
ReleasedJanuary 1996
ProducerDavid Toop
CompilerDavid Toop
David Toop chronology
Pink Noir
Ocean of Sound
Spirit World

Ocean of Sound is a 1996 compilation album compiled and produced by English musician and author David Toop. The two-disc, cross-licensed "various artists" compilation contains 32 tracks culled from a variety of musical sources, including dub, exotica, free jazz, and field recordings. Toop compiled the recordings to serve as both a historical survey of ambient music and an aural companion to his 1995 book Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds.

Ocean of Sound was released in January 1996 by Virgin Records. It was well received by music critics and finished fourth in the voting for The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop poll. The album later went out of print.


Toop in 2015

In 1995, David Toop published his second book, Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds, which examined music as a medium for deep mental involvement.[1] In the book, Toop said that ambient music can be defined as music listened for relaxation or music that "taps into the disturbing, chaotic undertow of the environment".[2] As an aural companion to the book, Toop curated the compilation album Ocean of Sound, which would also serve as a historical survey of ambient music.[3] The album was released in January 1996 by Virgin Records.[4] It later went out of print, which music journalist Michaelangelos Matos said was because such cross-licensed compilation albums "seldom stay available for very long".[1]


Brian Eno (2012) produced three of the album's songs.

Ocean of Sound is a two-disc, cross-licensed "various artists" compilation that contains 32 tracks culled from a variety of musical sources, including dub, exotica, free jazz, and field recordings.[1] According to AllMusic's John Bush, all of the songs compiled for the album recapitulate the theme of the book—"that Les Baxter, Aphex Twin, The Beach Boys, Herbie Hancock, King Tubby and My Bloody Valentine are all related by their effect on sound pioneering."[5] In an interview for Perfect Sound Forever, Toop explained why he included free jazz on an album of ambient music, which is commonly thought of as background music:

I was making a point about the immersive quality of 20th century musical experiences. Immersion is the key word for me; not background. The whole idea of background music was a red herring, a distraction – there is no such thing as background music, in the sense that so-called background music is always deployed (though not always accepted) as a lifestyle accessory and lifestyle is a collection of strong signifiers.[6]

Toop programmed the recordings for the album so that they would segue into one another.[7] Ocean of Sound begins with songs by Jamaican dub producer King Tubby, American jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock, and English electronic musician Aphex Twin, respectively, before transitioning to compositions by Claude Debussy, John Cage, the Beach Boys, and Peter Brötzmann, as well as an audio recording of Buddhist monks. Toop programmed the Velvet Underground's 1968 song "I Heard Her Call My Name" so that its muted feedback would segue into an underwater recording of bearded seals barking.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Consumer GuideA[8]

Reviewing for The Wire in 1996, Peter Shapiro said he was impressed by how Ocean of Sound highlighted musical similarities among its disparate artists, calling it a manifestation of the book's discussion and "a remarkable collection of great music".[9] The Independent wrote that "Toop navigates smoothly between the various strands that have contributed to the current techno/'fourth-world' style of ambient-pop", because he used sources such as Oriental music, minimalism, and classical composers.[3] Michaelangelo Matos from the Chicago Reader viewed it as an idyllic compilation whose songs segued fluently because of Toop's aesthetic, while noting they could also stand alone as interesting, if not excellent, separate pieces: "Ocean of Sound is one of those records that have something to teach even the most jaded music fan about how to listen to music."[7] AllMusic's John Bush recommended the album to any "wide-ranging ambient fan" and said that it illustrates the ideas in Toop's book "beautifully".[5]

Ocean of Sound was voted the fourth best compilation of 1996 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[10] Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, named it the year's best compilation in his own list for the Pazz & Jop.[11] In Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s (2000), he deemed it a "gorgeously segued 32-track tour of trad ambient" with recordings that were smaller representations of larger generational concerns such as disorder and anxiety: "For Toop, it answers a need that's both postmodern and millennial, synthesizing insecurity and hope, 'bliss' and 'non-specific dread.'"[8] In a 2011 list for Spin, Chuck Eddy named Ocean of Sound the most essential album of ambient music, writing that its 32 tracks "flowed into each other like the seven seas".[12]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
1."Dub Fi Gwan" (produced by Bunny Lee)Edward O'Sullivan LeeKing Tubby3:56
2."Rain Dance" (produced by Dave Rubinson)Herbie HancockHerbie Hancock8:41
3."Analogue Bubblebath I" (produced by Richard D. James)Richard D. JamesAphex Twin4:40
4."Empire III" (produced by Dan Lanois and Jon Hassell)Jon HassellJon Hassell6:58
5."Sorban Palid"Ujang SuryanaUjang Suryana6:16
6."Prélude à L'Après-midi D'un Faune" (produced by Andrew Keener)Claude DebussyEnglish Chamber Orchestra9:37
7."Sunken City"Les BaxterLes Baxter2:47
8."Loomer" (produced by Kevin Shields)Bilinda Butcher, Kevin ShieldsMy Bloody Valentine2:36
9."Lizard Point" (produced by Brian Eno)Axel Gros, Bill Laswell, Brian Eno, Michael BeinhornBrian Eno3:59
10."Shunie Omizutori Buddhist Ceremony" (recorded by Yoshihiro Kawasaki) unknown artist6:45
11."The Music of Horns and Whistles" (produced by World Soundscape Project)World Soundscape ProjectThe Vancouver Soundscape2:08
12."Howler Monkeys" (produced by Jean C. Roche) no artist1:26
13."Machine Gun" (produced by Jost Gebers and Peter Brötzmann)Peter BrötzmannPeter Brötzmann Octet5:58
14."Yanomami Rain Song" (recorded by David Toop) unknown artist3:03
15."Bismillahi 'Rrahmani 'Rrahim" (produced by Brian Eno)Harold BuddHarold Budd4:48
Disc two
1."Black Satin" (produced by Teo Macero)Miles DavisMiles Davis5:09
2."Extract from Poppy Nogood 'All Night Flight'" (produced by Gary Todd) Terry Riley8:09
3."Coyor Panon" (produced by Lilik Arabowo and Makoto Kubota)traditionalDetty Kurnia5:36
4."Virgin Beauty" (produced by Denardo Coleman)Ornette ColemanOrnette Coleman3:28
5."Chen Pe'i Pe'i" (produced by Jean Rochard)Toop, John ZornJohn Zorn & David Toop2:57
6."Rivers of Mercury" (produced by Paul Schütze)Paul SchützePaul Schütze6:31
7."I Heard Her Call My Name" (produced by Tom Wilson)Lou ReedThe Velvet Underground4:32
8."Bearded Seals" (produced by Jean C. Roche) no artist2:41
9."Boat – Woman – Song" (produced by Holger Czukay)Holger Czukay, Rolf DammersHolger Czukay & Rolf Dammers5:47
10."Fall Breaks and Back Into Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony)"Brian WilsonThe Beach Boys2:02
11."Faraway Chant" (produced by Adrian Sherwood)Adrian Maxwell, Michael WilliamsAfrican Headcharge3:49
12."Cosmo Enticement"Sun RaSun Ra2:59
13."Untitled 3" (produced by John Hadden)Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Hugh Davies, Jamie MuirThe Music Improvisation Company6:24
14."Seven-Up"Deep Listening BandDeep Listening Band2:27
15."In a Landscape" (produced by Brian Eno)John CageJohn Cage6:26
16."Vexations" (produced by Thomas Wilbrandt)Erik SatieAlan Marks2:57
17."Suikinkutsu Water Chime" (recorded by Yoshihiro Kawasaki) no artist2:55
Total length:148:55[13]


Credits for Ocean of Sound are adapted from AllMusic.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Matos, Michaelangelos (12 July 2007). "David Toop Brings Us The Briny Depths Of His Record Collection". Idolator. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  2. ^ Toop, David (1995). Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds. Serpent's Tail. p. 36. ISBN 185242382X.
  3. ^ a b "Various Artists Ocean of Sound Virgin AMBT 10". The Independent. London. 5 January 1996. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Ocean of Sound – David Toop : Release Information, Reviews and Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Ocean of Sound – David Toop". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  6. ^ Gross, Jason (August 1997). "David Toop interview". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Matos, Michaelangelo (23 September 1999). "All Over the Map". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan. p. 238. ISBN 0312245602. Retrieved 11 January 2014. Alt URL
  9. ^ Shapiro, Peter (February 1996). "Soundcheck". The Wire. London: 45.
  10. ^ "The 1996 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. 25 February 1997. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (25 February 1997). "Pazz & Jop 1996: Dean's List". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  12. ^ Eddy, Chuck (August 2011). "Essentials – Spurning Melody, Rhythm, and Lyrics, Ambient Is Music's Quiet Revolution". Spin. New York: 78. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  13. ^ Watson, Ben (1996). "Jazz". High Fidelity News and Record Review. London: 87.
  14. ^ "Ocean of Sound – David Toop : Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 January 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]