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How Are Metal and Ambient Related?

How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 19, 2010, 10:35:42 AM
A lot of rhetoric around this site associates metal closely with ambient music, but prima facie they seem to be completely unrelated.  Is it just a coincidence then, that these are my two favorite forms of music? The ambient mostly consisting of electronic artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Lustmord, Gridlock, Biosphere.  I think some of the old schoolers like Brian Eno sound kind of dated.  I discovered ambient music before I learned that black metal artists were evolving into that style, but came to appreciate that too.  Hlidskjálf is OK.  There are others but I can't think of anyone that prominent.

Of course they are both 'dark,' but there is more.  Instead of 'unrelated' it would be more accurate to call metal and ambient opposites, which is actually an intimate relationship.  The intensity of metal compliments the unobtrusiveness of ambient.  The dynamic between the two is profound.  The blastbeat is the best example, and is why ambient grew out of black metal.  The ear accommodates itself to the constant intensity of the blastbeat, especially in a situation like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, so that the dynamic is actually totally flat (insert allusions to mesmerizing snow here).  This is complimented by Tomhet, which is the opposite: no percussion (pretty much my definition of ambient), but still no dynamics in intensity.  Just on to off.

So in profane language, ambient is basically chill music that is still dark for when you need to take a break from metal.

But is there more to it than that?

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 19, 2010, 12:07:03 PM
(Good) Ambient is generally as highly-structured as (good) Metal.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 19, 2010, 02:29:44 PM
Most electronic artists sound dated rather quickly because they are really working off the cutting edge and experimenting on it heavily.  Not everything works out and the things that don't get stuck in that date forever, but then there are others who still sound like they are in the future.

As far as other metal bands that made ambient music or how they are connected, the relationship sits pretty much with Burzum, Summoning, Neptune Towers. Lord Wind and Dead Can Dance, as well as a few otheres.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 19, 2010, 06:08:31 PM
The ambient mostly consisting of electronic artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Lustmord, Gridlock, Biosphere.  I think some of the old schoolers like Brian Eno sound kind of dated.  I discovered ambient music before I learned that black metal artists were evolving into that style, but came to appreciate that too.

Again, we need to separate instrumentation from musical composition.

If I play Bach on guitars with a drumkit going in the background, does it magically become rock?

In the same way, if I play Bob Marley through a symphony, or Deicide through a kazoo, does it change genre?

It doesn't: genre is composition.

For ambient, look to Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. See if you can spot any structural similarities -- when do riffs change, how do they change, how is melody used to change the song from start to finish -- between those and death/black metal.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 20, 2010, 09:38:06 AM
Most electronic artists sound dated rather quickly because they are really working off the cutting edge and experimenting on it heavily.  Not everything works out and the things that don't get stuck in that date forever, but then there are others who still sound like they are in the future.

I have found the opposite to be true.  Eno and similar artists like Harold Budd sound dates because they use real world instruments like piano.  The electronic artists sound fresher, although of course there are exceptions.


Deicide through a kazoo, does it change genre?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vygsU314TaA

The ambient mostly consisting of electronic artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Lustmord, Gridlock, Biosphere.  I think some of the old schoolers like Brian Eno sound kind of dated.  I discovered ambient music before I learned that black metal artists were evolving into that style, but came to appreciate that too.

Again, we need to separate instrumentation from musical composition.

If I play Bach on guitars with a drumkit going in the background, does it magically become rock?

In the same way, if I play Bob Marley through a symphony, or Deicide through a kazoo, does it change genre?

It doesn't: genre is composition.

For ambient, look to Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. See if you can spot any structural similarities -- when do riffs change, how do they change, how is melody used to change the song from start to finish -- between those and death/black metal.

I was having this argument with myself yesterday: Does timbre matter?  Yes.  It's probably secondary to composition, but still relevant.  If you were to play Bach with drums, it would change the composition.  Similarly, this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16zL4VMzs4g&hd=1) is just guitar leads, so it changes the composition.  Metal has a lot of percussion, ambient has very little.  Ambient is often used as an adjective, so you could apply it to metal (HLTO), but metal has more rigid rules about sound and instrumentation.  I would say you can't even call it metal if it has acoustic guitars.  On the other hand, you could call genres restrictive constructs etc. and not even necessary: it's music in the end.  Even if composition is more important overall than instrumentation, instrumentation is more important to determining music's genre, but then again genre really isn't that important.  I know we would like to afford metal a transcendent sort of status, but it depends on the context.  The difference between metal and rock is probably the best compositional difference, although you have to consider how distorted the guitar is too.  On the other hand, Nu Metal really is metal, just bad metal. 

Regardless of how important you think composition vs instrumentation is, metal and ambient have different compositional techniques too.  Comparing metal to ambient, ambient has a more textural approach to music.  Metal has more discreet parts and ambient is more amorphous.  Tangerine Dream for example uses repetitive riffs and changes the envelope to change how it sounds.  I loved Phaedra but the rest of the discography is pretty redundant.  I tried to like Kraftwork, but I don't think that's happening.

Some other ambient artists:

Aidan Baker (associated with metal via Nadja)
Bad Sector
Blood Box
Bohren & der Club of Gore (started off as grindcore)
Final (Justin Broadrick)
Gas
Kammarheit
Maeror Tri (thanks ANUS)
Nordvarg/Drakh (black metal inspired)
Raison d'Etre
Robert Rich
Stars of the Lid
Steve Roach
Tim Hecker
Vinterrikket (black metal inspired)
William Basinski

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 20, 2010, 11:08:55 PM
Ambient music was originally defined by Brian Eno on his Ambient 1: Music for Airports album as something "as ignorable as it is interesting." He went on to elaborate, but it turned out that the definition was somewhat malleable. I'd like to think that ambient music is a derivation from the science of ambient noise, meaning that, in an abstract sense, it's able to communicate information about the sensory data composing a time or place.

To do this, it must apply a reasonable amount of abstraction, meaning that attention must be paid to both technique and structure. With this in mind, and given what many albums are capable of evoking, I'd consider black metal to be a type of ambient music. Ambient isn't so much a genre as it is a property, like slow and fast.

Burzum and Ildjarn are most certainly ambient projects. Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger is ambient, even though there is no electronic instrumentation. Atmosphere, which is conducted through streamlined, minimalist structures, is what necessitates that it has this property.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
July 21, 2010, 12:28:22 PM
I'd agree that ambient is all three:

Quote
(1)

A mode of thought, where music is designed to be atmospheric and repetitive, kind of like Debussy, Bruckner and Saint-Saens versus earlier classical.

(2)

A mode of composing, where beats are constant (or close to it) or absent, and the length of each melodic phrase determines the meter.

(3)

A genre adapted to carry on these conventions, much as metal is a genre adapted to carry on the power chords + horror film soundtrack convention.

I first heard the term ambient metal when someone at anus used it to refer to Slayer's Hell Awaits, specifically Necrophiliac.

I'd point to Sort Vokter as an interesting incarnation of the term.

Most ambient music is quite honestly bouncy pop with little brain. I can handle Eno, Fripp/Eno, some Biosphere, Tangerine Dream and synthpop like Kraftwerk. Some Aphex Twin and Autechre is good, when they don't turn into douchey club music like the majority of their catalogues.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
February 02, 2012, 11:23:46 PM
I was listening to Phaedra the other day and I was dumbstruck with how some parts sounded almost exactly like it could be from a black metal album.  Is the assumption that some of the black metal artists were familiar with a band like Tangerine Dream, or that it was a coincidence? 

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
February 03, 2012, 01:09:30 AM
Klaus Schulze used rock guitars and drums for several of his albums (X, Ash Ra Tempel).

Tangerine Dream also began as a guitar rock band before switching over to synthesizers.

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
February 03, 2012, 01:14:49 AM
Excellent documentary on the German electronic music scene of the 1960s and 1970s:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/krautrock-rebirth-of-germany/

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
February 10, 2012, 01:40:15 PM
I was listening to Phaedra the other day and I was dumbstruck with how some parts sounded almost exactly like it could be from a black metal album.  Is the assumption that some of the black metal artists were familiar with a band like Tangerine Dream, or that it was a coincidence? 

http://www.google.be/search?q=conrad+schnitzler+tangerine+dream+silvester+anfang&hl=nl&source=hp&gbv=2&gs_sm=3&gs_upl=2434l10031l0l10359l23l23l0l13l13l0l296l2042l0.3.6l9l0&oq=conrad+schnitzler+tangerine+dream+silvester+anfang&aq=f&aqi=&aql=

Re: How Are Metal and Ambient Related?
February 12, 2012, 09:08:57 PM
Offtopic: What do you think of Autopsia's Kristallmacht

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvDYtSS3vFs

( 4shared.com/file/-WtQLeae/AUTOPSIA_TBCP.html?aff=7637829 )