From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Ambient house, a music genre that first emerged in the late 1980s, is a sub-genre of house music, combining elements of acid house and ambient music. Tracks in the ambient house genre typically feature four-on-the-floor beats, synth pads, and vocal samples integrated in an atmospheric style.
Birth of ambient house
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.
Major ambient house artists
- 808 State
- Aphex Twin
- Boards of Canada
- Global Communication
- Juno Reactor
- Tetsu Inoue
- The KLF
- The Orb
- System 7
- Yellow Magic Orchestra
- The Orb - A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (1989/1990)
- Jimmy Cauty - Space (1990)
- The KLF - Chill Out (1990)
- Biosphere - Microgravity (1991)
- The Orb - Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1991)
- Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
- The Orb - U.F.Orb (1992)
- The Irresistible Force - Flying High (1992)
- Pete Namlook - Air (1993)
- Tetsu Inoue - Ambiant Otaku (1994)
- Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children (1998)