10 Best Ambient Music Artists of All Time

4. The Orb

Founded by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty in Britain in 1988, the Orb are lauded as Ambient House music pioneers. Inspired by electronic musicians of the 70s and 80s, the collective – known for their drug-related and science fiction themes – makes hallucinogenic-sounding music which continues to be innovative and extremely popular in modern-day rave culture

Personnel changes never seem to change the focus of what the group is best at — creating luscious, gauzy rhythms draped over colossal mounds of experimental loops and samples. The Orb‘s eye-popping live shows have earned them comparisons to Pink Floyd in their use of lights and psychedelic imagery.


3. Tangerine Dream

This German electronic music collective was formed in 1967 by Edgar Froese who died in 2015. Though they’ve seen many lineup changes over the years, the collective continues to release music today. Significantly, Tangerine Dream was one of the first groups to ever primarily produce what is currently known as Ambient music.

During the collective’s most influential period in the mid-70s, the best-known lineup of Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann churned out album after album of atmospheric, evocative soundscapes. Collectively, the group has released over one hundred albums – more if you count compilations and fan releases.


2. Wendy Carlos

American synthesist and composer, Wendy Carlos, has been called the godmother of electronic music. She is also known for her film scores. As a music composition student at prestigious Columbia University in the early 60s, she was involved in the development of the new Moog synthesizer.

On her first album, released in 1968, Carlos performed the music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the Moog. The album, Switched on Bach, garnered Carlos three Grammys and popularized the instrument she helped develop. Wendy Carlos went on to release several more keyboard albums and is still active in music today.


1. Brian Eno

With a career spanning from the 70s through today, Brian Eno remains the undisputed king of Ambient music amongst techno fans. His work in music began with the glam band, Roxy Music, from which he parted ways in 1973 and immediately released the first of his solo albums. Eno has released albums on his own and with several collaborators over the years.

With Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Eno also developed a tape delay system with which the two produced an album. The method is still used by many electronic musicians today. In addition to continuing to make his own music, Brian Eno has collaborated with and produced albums for many well-known artists, most notably David Bowie.

With more and more people listening to Ambient music, more new artists are entering the sea of already established artists. It’s good to have some knowledge of the genre to make the voyage more fulfilling if not more pleasurable. Hopefully, this list will help you navigate the waters. It’s a long, strange trip but it’s worth it.

Of course, instrumental music for relaxation existed before Eno defined it, but defining it at all is considered restricting by many Ambient music enthusiasts. What it boils down to is this: from Eno to Basinski to Stars of the Lid, Ambient music is made for chilling out. So, head out with this list in hand, then return and relax.


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