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The Dancing With Myself Award

By Conrad Amenta | 13 December 2011

Ambient Music in 2011

I guess we’re in the post-post-9/11-post-millenial-post-dread era of writing about catastrophic noise and ambient music. Throughout 2009 and 2010, every ambient album I reviewed had something to do with cultural anxiety. It never coalesced into a thesis, and Joel has been doing the conversation more than justice over in his Jericho series. But in 2011 I’m left with a gaping hole in that sense of the genre: what do you do when people are reaffirming their faith in things? The entire system on which society is built might be crumbling around us, and for many of us Canadians, America’s government can seem like it’s on a perpetual Spring Break from logic. These seem, to me, to be conditions for the continuous exploration of those anxious themes outlined by William Basinski, Tim Hecker, Keith Fullerton Whiteman, Christian Fennesz, Yellow Swans, Emeralds, Mountains, Jason Urick. But in 2011, with a run-up to a federal election underway, the American national discussion is one of hope: for government, for our lifestyle, for faith itself. We’ve chosen to return to that collective dream that we’re not all totally fucked, and that dream does not allow really noisy, destructive-sounding music to resonate in the same way. Some incredible ambient music came out this year (you’ll see some of it on our year-end list), but it seemed to sail just wide of the zeitgeistal target. All of which to say: take heart, fans of ambient music! If things continue the way they are (President Perry, Supreme Overlord of Some Smoking Dystopian Remains has a certain ring to it) then ambient music is going to be incredible in 2015.