This was my expression when Pitchfork left Éliane Radigue off its 50 Best Ambient Albums list.
This was my expression when Pitchfork left Éliane Radigue off its 50 Best Ambient Albums list.

Pitchfork's list-making mania is contagious. This editorial compulsion—which of course has been around long before Pitchfork began—sets itself up for rebuttals and all sorts of internet kvetching and outrage. (Pitchfork's lack of a comment section further stokes this reactionary opinion-spouting.) Case in point: Sean Nelson and I compiled our own list to supplement Pitchfork's recent 50 Best Indie Rock Albums of the Pacific Northwest. Now I'd like to do the same with a list of the 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time that they published last week.

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First, credit to the staff and contributors for including some very deep records in this survey—about 66.6 percent of which I have no problem—and for enlisting Keith Fullerton Whitman to write a preliminary essay that drops science about ambient music's multifarious appeal, as well as some of its lesser-known catalysts. His definition of ambient below is superb:

Ambient is a great meeting point: not so much at the center of everything, but floating just above, in a perfect geosynchronous orbit, within reach. At its best, it casts enough shade to dampen the extraneous while causing a shift in our perceptions, enough to take us out of time and place, to wherever we need to be.

That being said, Pitchfork is guilty of some glaring omissions. So I present 50 albums that I think should've been included in Pitchfork's list, which seems larded with too many Stars of the Lid releases (I'm a fan, but come on), marred by sops to indie-rock-oriented readers looking for familiar names, and afflicted with a mite too much favoritism toward American artists. My selections are in whatever order you want them to be. Please note my glaring omissions in the comments, if you would be so kind. Nobody's infallible, especially when it comes to music-oriented list-making.

Éliane Radigue, Trilogie De La Mort (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, 1998)

Ariel Kalma, Musique Pour Le Reve Et L'Amour (Astral Muse Production, 1981)

Ariel Kalma, Open Like a Flute (Astral Muse Production, 1982)

Harold Budd, The Oak of the Golden Dreams (Advance, 1971)

Loscil, Submers (Kranky, 2002)

Peter Michael Hamel, Colours of Time (Kuckuck, 1980)

Tangerine Dream, Phaedra (Virgin, 1974)

J.D. Emmanuel, Wizards (North Star Productions, 1982)

Spacemen 3, Dreamweapon (Fierce, 1990)

Air (Pete Namlook), Air I + II (FAX, 1994)

Taylor Deupree, Stil. (2002, 12k)

Brian Eno, Thursday Afternoon (EG, 1985)

Brian Eno, :Neroli: Thinking Music Part IV (All Saints, 1993)

David Sylvian + Holger Czukay, Plight & Premonition (Venture, 1988)

Earth, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version (Sub Pop, 1993)

Head, Head (Buddah, 1970)

Support The Stranger

Kay Gardner, Moon Circles (Urana, 1975)

James Ferraro, Discovery (New Age Tapes/Holy Mountain 2008/'09)

Greg Davis, Somnia (Kranky, 2004)

Gregg Kowalsky, Through the Cardial Window (Kranky, 2006)

Thomas Köner, Permafrost (Barooni, 1993)

Lull, Cold Summer (Sentrax, 1994)

Terry Riley, Shri Camel (CBS, 1980)

Klangwart, Köln-Olpe (Klangstelle, 1998)

The Orb, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (Big Life, 1991)

Cluster, Cluster (Philips, 1971)

Jo Johnson, Weaving (Further, 2014)

This was my expression when Pitchfork left Vangelis off its 50 Best Ambient Albums list.
This was my expression when Pitchfork left Vangelis off its 50 Best Ambient Albums list.

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto, Vrioon (Raster-Noton, 2002)

Marielle V Jakobsons, Star Core (Thrill Jockey, 2016)

Lichens, The Psychic Nature of Being (Kranky/Holy Mountain, 2005)

Mort Garson, Mother Earth's Plantasia (Homewood, 1976)

Lustmord, The Place Where the Black Stars Hang (Side Effects, 1994)

Robert Rich & B. Lustmord, Stalker (Fathom, 1995)

Madalyn Merkey, Scent (New Images, 2012)

Climax Golden Twins, Lovely (Anomalous, 2002)

Robert Beatty, Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata (Glistening Examples, 2013)

Panabrite, Sub-Aquatic Meditation (Aguirre, 2012)

David Jackman, Sol Mara (Robot/Die Stadt, 1999)

Andrew Chalk, Shadows from the Album Skies (Three Poplars, 2005)

Time Machines (Coil), Time Machines (Eskaton, 1998)

Deuter, Aum (Kuckuck, 1972)

Emerald Web, Whispered Visions (Stargate, 1980)

Global Communication, 76:14 (Dedicated, 1994)

Vangelis, Beaubourg (RCA, 1978)

Michael Stearns, Ancient Leaves (Continuum Montage, 1977)

William Basinski, Shortwave Music (Raster-Noton, 1998)

Joanna Brouk, Healing Music (Hummingbird Productions, 1981)

Jeff Greinke, Cities in Fog (Intrepid, 1985)

Marc Barreca, Twilight (Palace of Lights, 1980)

Sarah Davachi, Dominions (Jaz, 2016)

The Irresistible Force, Global Chillage (Rising High, 1994)