For the first generation of ravers, the “Summer of Love” (1989 – 1990) kicked-off a drug-fueled series of events that would forever change the landscape of music and parties. In this post-rock-n-roll landscape the same laws of music physics did not apply. The parties went all night, booze was replaced by chemicals, guitars were replaced by turntables and clubs were replaced by outdoor fields and warehouses. Even though it was a brave new world, after a multi-hour ecstasy-fueled dance-a-thon, even the most hardcore raver needs a place to come down. Hence, the birth of the chill room.

Ambient music has been around since the advent of the hippy. Space music, cinema for the ear, ambient noise. It’s well traversed territory, from the academic halls of John Cage to sweeping shores of DJ Spooky’s Illbient drops, atmospheric music has a storied history. But in the 90’s things were different. A more tactical kind of chill out experience was emerging. This was something, literally, to come down to. This was the counter-point to a solid dance groove, a place to chill out. Only now it had the thump of an 808 kick-drum.

In the UK, New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, producers were taking Hip Hop beats and merging them with the sonic wallpaper that is ambient music. Massive Attack, Portishead, Tranquility Bass, Spacetime Continuum, DJ Olive, Aphex Twin… across the globe people were starting to create a new hybrid mutation of ambient. Bass and Space was the order of the day.

There’s so much more that could be written about this, but here is my personal top 10 Ambient, Trip Hop, Chill Out anthems from 1990 – 2001, along with a special bonus list.

10. Massive Attack – Protection

9. Portishead – Sour Times

8. Tranquility Bass – They Came in Peace

7. The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds

6. Seefeel – Climatic Phase 3

5. Tetsu Inoue – Background Story

4. Pete Namlook – Heaven

3. Global Communication – 14:31

2. The Higher Intelligence Agency – Speedleam (Empathy Mix)

1. Cold Cut – Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force Mix)

Bonus List – Best Ambient Records of All Time


Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92

Brian Eno Ambient 1: Music for Airports

The KLF – Chill Out

The Irresistible Force – Global Chillage

Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children

Spacetime Continuum – Sea Biscuit

The Orb – The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld

Bill Laswell / Axiom Ambient – Lost in the Translation


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