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Arctic Ambient

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Arctic ambient, sometimes also referred to as cold ambient[2][3][4][5] music, can be described as a bleak, cold, and/or desolate offshoot of ambient music.[6] Specifically, it's a continuation in the same vein as Dark ambient.[citation needed] Whilst dark ambient music focuses heavily on gloom-ridden textures and dissonance, Arctic ambient is the ultimate in creating a feeling of isolation, desolation, and - as the name suggests - coldness. In some cases, the minimalist nature of the genre can come across as soothing in its feeling.

It shares a similarity also in its tendency to border on the drone genre heavily; this is due to the monotonous, generally beatless nature, and the lack of a notable compositional note structure within Arctic ambient music. Specific synthesisers that produce a colder texture are the main focus in creating the work, and generally artists within the genre will include a use of natural wind or other similar field recordings. It is also not uncommon to find Arctic ambient fused with other genres, such as Black metal, as it is often sought by musicians to create a sense of desolation or coldness within their sound.[citation needed]


Early Years[edit]

Arguably the earliest release under the genre itself would be the 1979 Residents album Eskimo, which is composed of avant-garde sound effects, ambiance, and lyrical themes that relate to an Arctic nature. Their use of natural wind effects and electronic equipment produced a sound that mirrored that of the natural sounds of the Arctic.

However, it wasn't until the early 90s that the genre really began to gain shape, and more musicians started to perform and record music in this style. Most notably, the Norwegian musician Biosphere - who through a combination of his Arctic Circle birthplace and influence from ambient musicians (notably Brian Eno) created music that further explored the desolate sound that encompassed these regions of the world.[1] His 1997 album Substrata is often ranked highest amongst the genre, even to this day,[7] and is regarded as one of the most expressive of the genre itself.

Other notable early pioneers of the genre include the German musician Thomas Köner, Lull from the United Kingdom, and musicians on the Norwegian music label Beatservice Records.[8] Some of Tim Hecker's work can be described as fitting within the Arctic ambient genre - notably his first record, Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again.


Since the early development of the genre in the early to late 90s, more musicians have adopted the genre and more labels have formed that focus on releasing music that fits its main focus. Labels such as Svalbard's Bleak Records, Mankymusic, and the recent Italian Glacial Movements are three such labels. The latter of which is still producing regular releases that further explore the genre, usually mixing in elements from other electronic musicians. SleepResearch_Facility's 2007 album Deep_Frieze was critical in bringing more listeners to the genre, and is on the same level as Substrata[neutrality is disputed] when referring to the genre's unique sound.

Notable Arctic ambient musicians and bands[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Biosphere's "arctic ambient" music (that always managed to sound both lyrical and stark, fluent and hermetic) is augmented with a process of random "remixing" of a sound source (in this case old crackling records of Debussy music), Biosphere Biography
  2. My music is inspired by the beauty of nature especially by winter landscapes, Forgotten Deity - Cold Ambient
  3. Cold Ambient... When Day Chokes the Night
  4. Similar tags include Arctic Ambient, Cold Ambient music on Bandcamp
  5. Cold Ambient music from Toronto's Kalte, Kalte Music
  6. Nordic-based "Arctic-ambient" music – frigid soundscapes of isolation and desolation, Arctic Ambient (or) Ambient House at 30,000 Ft
  7. List of Arctic Ambient Releases and a Chart of the Highest Ranked Albums
  8. What began with Volume 1as a "selection of sub zero soundscapes", at once compiling and defining the so-called Arctic ambient of Norway..., Arctic Circles Vol. 3

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