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Dark ambient

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Dark ambient

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Dark ambient
Stylistic origins: Ambient industrial, Ambient music, Gothic rock (particularly Ethereal Wave)
Cultural origins: 1980s and 1990s, Europe and United States
Typical instruments: Electronic musical instruments, field recordings
Mainstream popularity: Low
Fusion genres

Dark ambient is a subgenre of ambient music which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s with the introduction of new synthesizer and sampling technology in the electronic music genre and other technical advances in music. Dark ambient is a very diverse genre It is often closely linked with industrial music, noise, gothic rock, and sometimes even black metal, yet can be free from any derivatives and connections to other genres or styles. The term is generally used as a catch-all for any form of ambient music that has dark or discordant overtones.



The genre did not have a single pioneering musician or persons who invented the term or genre, it somewhat evolved on its own, similar to that of the IDM genre. The roots of dark ambient can be seen in several of Brian Eno's early collaborations that had a distinctly dark or discordant edge, notably "Swastika Girls" (from No Pussyfooting (1973)), a collaboration with Robert Fripp that incorporated harsh guitar feedback, the ambient pieces on the second half of David Bowie's Low (1977), and Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics (1980), a collaboration with Jon Hassell.

Ambient industrial projects like Coil, Lustmord, Zoviet France, and Nocturnal Emissions evolved out of industrial music during the 1980s, and were some of the earliest artists to create consistently "dark" ambient music. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a "darkwave" and ethereal wave trend emerged within gothic rock, that tended toward moody atmospheric pieces rather than jangly minor-key rock. Darkwave was particularly associated with the Projekt record label, with bands like black tape for a blue girl doing music that ranged into moody ambient soundscapes.

By the mid-1990s, a large number of artists were working in ambient industrial, ambient noise, ethereal wave, illbient, isolationism, and other emerging "dark ambient" styles. Among these artists were Autopsia, Vidna Obmana, Daniel Menche, Lull, Raison d'etre, and Shinjuku Thief.

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 organic soundscapes which don't prey on misanthropic tendencies. Examples of such productions are that of Oöphoi, Tau Ceti, Klaus Wiese, and Robert Rich.


Many people debate whether dark ambient should be considered a subgenre or style of its own, due to the fact there is no solid basis on which the genre can be described. This is especially true given the diverse genres described as "dark ambient"; projects such as Coil, Daniel Menche, and black tape for a blue girl, are working in very different areas of music, united only by the fact that they create soundscapes or atmospheric work that happens to sound "dark".

It is argued that it should all simply be considered ambient, as there is no set "rules" as to what makes it dark. Fans of the music argue that dark ambient is a genre of its own, as when compared to artists like Pete Namlook, it is anti-social in nature, and less organic and more mechanized, hence the relation to industrial and noise. Whether or not it is considered a true genre, the majority consider dark ambient to be something on its own due to the obvious differences between other forms of ambient.

Related styles

Ambient industrial

Main article: Ambient industrial

While dark ambient is primarily a descendant of ambient music itself, it is closely related to industrial music. Dark ambient gets the term dark from the dark theme often portrayed in industrial. Feelings of an industrial nature are present. Old abandoned factories, primitive machines, and noise. The dark 'non musical' and realistic feel gives some dark ambient its feel of solitude and isolation.

Ambient noise

Main article: Ambient industrial

Noise music is often regarded as a 'relative' or 'sister' genre to dark ambient, or vice-versa. Noise is considered unpleasant and dark, as is dark ambient. Some noise artists create almost ambient soundscapes, such as Aube, Junkielover, Daniel Menche, Kiyoshi Mizutani, Iszoloscope, and some Merzbow. Some, for example Iszoloscope, also compose ambient on the side, such as his Les Gorges Des Limbes album. While the two genres can't really compare sound wise, many labels, such as Ant-Zen, release both ambient and noise, as well as combinations of both, taking both avant-garde genres further.

Musique concrete

Main article: Musique concrete

Some consider dark ambient to be more related to musique concrete, in the sense that it frequently utilizes natural sounds gathered through field recordings.

Black ambient

Main article: Black metal

While black metal and ambient are nothing alike (other than utilizing minimalism to different extents), a lot of metal bands, specifically black metal, have side-projects in which they produce dark ambient, noise, or other experimental types of music. Many bands mix ambient in their albums, creating something unique and original, similar to that of Ulver and other avant-garde metal acts. Some people have spawned a new subgenre, black ambient, in relation to black metal, as it is often related to the ideology in some black metal, as well as linked to various forms of satanism. Related to this style are artists such as: MZ. 412, Aghast, Abruptum, Burzum, Dapnom, Nommam Erytz, Orkhestre Khaotique, Karna, Wongraven and Pazuzu.

See also

External links

Home | Up | Ambient house | Ambient industrial | Ashtorath | Dark ambient | Illbient | Lowercase | New Age music | Psybient

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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