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Downtempo/Ambient – Something for Everyone?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is, not necessarily.

Because downtempo is really the source of all EDM everywhere (due to its initial roots in experimental recording), by this point in time it stretches its long digital fingers into almost every musical genre.  All mainstream music production involves elements borrowed from downtempo.

Remember the theme of Dr. Who?  You love it.  So do I.  That’s electronic classical, which is part of the ambient stream, along with a number of other themes to children’s shows and educational materials.  The Beatles and Pink Floyd also experimented with the psychedelic textures of downtempo throughout the late 1970s.

So yeah, the average listener is likely to find a bit of downtempo they like (or at least, remember liking).  Whether it’s a new-age ocean soundtrack, the floating melodic rhythms of Enya, or the chill sounds of world music, there’s a nice easiness to this type of EDM that’s guaranteed to soothe.

Not only that, but there’s some really cool stuff in the popular realm too – think Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, Thievery Corporation, Tricky, Boards of Canada and Portishead.  All of these artists offer interesting listening and pretty good music for party or for sex (I’ll leave it up to you to combine those two descriptors).

However . . . A lot of EDM listeners are looking for more.  Even the most carefully-constructed ambient music runs the risk of becoming stagnant and repetitive.  Its cushion of softness occasionally becomes its downfall.  Where good, creative breakbeats and deep house music inspire the body to move and groove all night long, downtempo may lose its appeal for some after only a little while.

The whole arena of chillout music is recommended for people who want to explore downtempo, but are afraid of getting roped into earth worship and massage-therapist-worthy background music.  Acid jazz, downbeat and trip-hop are engaging, compelling and trippy.  They sometimes offer a bit of complication, without veering into spiritualism.

Other listeners who won’t have any time for downtempo are those deeply invested in the complications of their own preferred genres – I’m thinking of folks who are into heavy industrial, acid house or acid techno and anything related to heavy hip-hop or gangsta.  You won’t be too interested in the relaxation, moodiness or mental twists and turns induced by most music cruising along the ambient spectrum.

Given a little time to explore, then, a huge number of listeners will find some kind of downtempo that appeals to them.  It’s a versatile genre with styles and techniques that have been applied to so many mainstream musical efforts, it’s nearly impossible to tease out where ambient EDM begins and ends.  The best kind of downtempo steers clear of elevator-style background hum-drum and moves into melodic but interesting beats that compel you to listen, think, and maybe even dance (slowly).

By | 2016-12-02T15:18:05+00:00 May 8, 2012|News, Opinion|0 Comments