20 votes

What are some good recommendations for ambient background music?

This thread can be used for general recommendations for everyone, so feel free to recommend anything that fits.

For me specifically, I'm looking for soundscape-style music that has the following properties:

  1. no lyrics
  2. very "low motion" (the music feels smooth, slow, and uneventful -- no fast or abrupt sounds, rhythms, or melodies)
  3. euphonic (the music has an overall pleasant sound and feel to it)

A lot of the ambient and drone music out there hits 1 and 2, but doesn't often hit 3. Much of what I've found tends to have a darker or more neutral tone than what I'm looking for, and some of it comes across as a bit grating. I instead want something that's sort of persistently, mildly pleasant, if that makes sense.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I'm specifically looking for music that I can fall asleep to and read books to, which is why the fact that it should be almost completely unobtrusive is so important!

23 comments

  1. [2]
    vektor
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    I can't recommend game OSTs for this purpose enough. I use them as my go-to background music for mental labor. Some of the games that I think have good soundtracks: Surviving Mars, Stellaris, The...

    I can't recommend game OSTs for this purpose enough. I use them as my go-to background music for mental labor. Some of the games that I think have good soundtracks: Surviving Mars, Stellaris, The Elder Scrolls, Endless Legend / Endless Space (though these have lyrics here and there), No Man's Sky.

    9 votes
    1. alcappuccino
      Link Parent
      I'll also check these games OSTs for work! Thanks.

      I'll also check these games OSTs for work! Thanks.

      1 vote
  2. UniquelyGeneric
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    Have you checked out Lo-fi music? It’s become a bit of a meme at this point, but the intention of the music genre is to blend other genres together without a focus on perfect fidelity (and...

    Have you checked out Lo-fi music? It’s become a bit of a meme at this point, but the intention of the music genre is to blend other genres together without a focus on perfect fidelity (and sometimes intentionally adding imperfections). The end result is a fairly low tempo, easygoing sound. I don’t have any specific artists to call out but for the most part a lot of lofi sounds the same, for better or worse.

    9 votes
  3. knocklessmonster
    (edited )
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    I'm more into ambient listening music, but the entire point of the genre is that it can fade in and out of your awareness, so it's all more or less interchangeable. Heavenly Music Corporation (not...

    I'm more into ambient listening music, but the entire point of the genre is that it can fade in and out of your awareness, so it's all more or less interchangeable.

    Heavenly Music Corporation (not to be confused with Fripp/Eno's tracks off their album No Pussyfooting). Very 90s sort of stuff because, well, it's synth-based ambient from the 90s. This album, IIRC, was made to be broadcaston Japan's St. GIGA satellite station that ran from 1995-2000, (the title is a reference to their broadcast pattern), which ran exclusively ambient music for most of its existence. You can find recordings of St. GIGA broadcasts on YouTube, which will tick all your boxes.

    Brian Eno's stuff. He's got an entire catalog of ambient and is pretty methodical in his approach. Music for Airports was the first ambient album I ever listened to, and it's just nice, quiet, ever-changing music that isn't just drones. I don't think you could go wrong with Eno, a large part of his work is trying to build pleasant generative art.

    Moving towards more conventionally instrumental work, Earth's later stuff is right up your alley. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull, Primitive and Deadly, and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light. Basically anything they've done after this album ticks all your boxes. Earth can get a little melancholy, though, so that's for you to judge, but I find it really pleasant to listen to. The earlier stuff is closer to grunge, but played slower, so it's great, but might not match what you want with this thread.

    Moby's Long Ambients albums are nice droney stuff, and I'd say are actually pleasant. They're meant to be more meditative and I believe are a few hours each. For me, they're great nap time material because there's nothing to draw you into it, so you can sort of drift away on the pleasant drones. At the end of my time at community college I would put LA1 on and fall asleep under a palm tree.

    Aphex Twin has a wide, varied discography. The majority leans toward ambient, but breaks rule 3. I put on his Select Ambient Works album when I want something laid back and familiar, and I think matches your rules. It's ambient techno, but when there's a rhythm it's plodding rather than emotive, effectively a drone on its own, and is faded in, rather than dropped on you, because it's all designed to be ambient music.

    8 votes
  4. Amarok
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    Bing & Ruth comes to mind. Ambient's not my usual jam but I enjoy them quite a bit.

    Bing & Ruth comes to mind. Ambient's not my usual jam but I enjoy them quite a bit.

    5 votes
  5. krg
    Link
    The “father” of ambient: Brian Eno! Discreet Music, Ambient 1: Music for Airports, and Lux are good places to start. But, his breadth of ambient works runs deep!

    The “father” of ambient: Brian Eno!

    Discreet Music, Ambient 1: Music for Airports, and Lux are good places to start. But, his breadth of ambient works runs deep!

    4 votes
  6. alcappuccino
    (edited )
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    I've been listening to a lot of ambient music lately, mainly during work. And I totally agree with vektor. Game OSTs are usually very good for what you want. YouTube has a lot of these kinds of...

    I've been listening to a lot of ambient music lately, mainly during work. And I totally agree with vektor. Game OSTs are usually very good for what you want. YouTube has a lot of these kinds of videos, I usually search something like "(game) relaxing" and that usually does the trick.

    Any way, here are some videos that I usually like to hear:

    And if you like a bit of medieval music,


    But besides game OSTs, I think music by Keith Kenniff is usually very good, he has different "personas" and I usually like the one called Helios, but, Goldmund is also very popular. This is my favourite album from Helios, I think you will like it:

    And my last suggestion is from an anime called Mushishi (which I would also recommend watching!):

    4 votes
  7. [2]
    mono
    (edited )
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    Hiroshi Yoshimura. Pretty ambient and spacey. I would definitely consider this pleasant. Steve Roach. Super "ethereal," but maybe more neutral than you're looking for. Brian Eno, of course. Edit:...

    Hiroshi Yoshimura. Pretty ambient and spacey. I would definitely consider this pleasant.

    Steve Roach. Super "ethereal," but maybe more neutral than you're looking for.

    Brian Eno, of course.

    Edit: Also, if you'd be interested in creating some of your own ambient music, you should know about a program known as Paulstretch. It allows you to stretch audio to an extreme degree, producing really high quality ambient textures. If you pick the right audio source, you can get some downright heavenly stuff. Check out an Imogen Heap song paulstretched. Clair de Lune. Pyramid Song by Radiohead.

    4 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      The Paulstretch stuff is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for! Thank you! If anyone knows any artists making music like that themselves and not just stretching out pre-existing songs (though...

      The Paulstretch stuff is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for! Thank you!

      If anyone knows any artists making music like that themselves and not just stretching out pre-existing songs (though I'm honestly excited to try it myself), let me know.

  8. JXM
    (edited )
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    My go to for zone out music is always either Kraftwerk (which has lyrics but it’s very sporadic) or the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk.

    My go to for zone out music is always either Kraftwerk (which has lyrics but it’s very sporadic) or the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk.

    3 votes
  9. blitz
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    I’m not a fan of the type of music you describe, but a good relaxation album for me has been Víkingur Ólafsson’s Debussy—Rameau I think it fits your criteria 1 and 3 but I find I like almost no...

    I’m not a fan of the type of music you describe, but a good relaxation album for me has been Víkingur Ólafsson’s Debussy—Rameau I think it fits your criteria 1 and 3 but I find I like almost no music that fits 2.

    3 votes
  10. jgb
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    I am personally fond of Wolfgang Voigt's project GAS - start with Pop (2000).

    I am personally fond of Wolfgang Voigt's project GAS - start with Pop (2000).

    3 votes
  11. [2]
    balooga
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    Lots of folks here are suggesting music that fits criteria 1 and 3, but not 2. I'll echo what @blitz said, the truly ambient stuff you're looking for is just uninspiring and irritating to me as...

    Lots of folks here are suggesting music that fits criteria 1 and 3, but not 2. I'll echo what @blitz said, the truly ambient stuff you're looking for is just uninspiring and irritating to me as well. But you encouraged sharing general recommendations so I wanted to make sure Ulrich Schnauss' seminal Far Away Trains Passing By got a mention. This has been my go-to mellow background album for 15+ years and I still haven't tired of it. I wake up to the opening track "Knuddelmaus" every morning because it's the gentlest alarm clock sound I've found that is still effective. The music is rhythmic and happy, but unobtrusive.

    3 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Your post made me realize that I forgot to mention the most important part of why I'm looking for recommendations like this: I want music that will outright put me to sleep, and music that will...

      Your post made me realize that I forgot to mention the most important part of why I'm looking for recommendations like this: I want music that will outright put me to sleep, and music that will act as completely uneventful background sound for reading. I can't believe I forgot to mention that! That's what makes criterion 2 so important.

      4 votes
  12. Apos
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    There's some good video game musics like Ori and the Blind Forest / Will of the Wisps, Hollow Knight. Or some great shows like One Piece, Blue Planet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NhwEQEercE...

    There's some good video game musics like Ori and the Blind Forest / Will of the Wisps, Hollow Knight. Or some great shows like One Piece, Blue Planet:

    Not 100% of the music is as you describe, but you could filter it down and select only the tracks you like for your playlist.

    2 votes
  13. ohyran
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    Might be not perfect but I have a thing for Rúde - which is basically slightly more complex beat-tracks with the formation of complete tracks. Rúde - Eternal Youth: https://youtu.be/3uXHaVENo6E

    Might be not perfect but I have a thing for Rúde - which is basically slightly more complex beat-tracks with the formation of complete tracks.

    Rúde - Eternal Youth:
    https://youtu.be/3uXHaVENo6E

    2 votes
  14. Flashynuff
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    I think Chuck Johnson is exactly who you're looking for. He nails the 'euphoric soundscape' sound. https://chuckjohnson.bandcamp.com/album/balsams Some more I think you'd also enjoy, some of it...
    2 votes
  15. ruspaceni
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    I got big into vaporwave-y stuff when i realized I loved ambient/passive things more. That might be fun thing to explore over time. Blank banshee, Saint pepsi, 2814, and Corp (esp 'palm mall') are...

    I got big into vaporwave-y stuff when i realized I loved ambient/passive things more. That might be fun thing to explore over time. Blank banshee, Saint pepsi, 2814, and Corp (esp 'palm mall') are some of my go-to searches when looking for an album to fall asleep to although some are full speed and more hypnagogic because of the distorted patterns/loops like when you get just 1 line of a song stuck in your head.

    There's an aggregator channel called "vapor memory" which is a pretty good place to dip your toes and see whats popular. I found a band called Elyphant on there which is closer to dubstep than it is vaporwave, but super atmospheric and has almost no lyrics at all save for the occasional vocal glitch effect and whatnot.

    Another good atmospheric thing is literally anything by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. They've done a few hour long soundtracks for a show called "Utopia" which is eerie/unsettling kinds of atmospheric. There's a much faster/lighthearted but still tense feeling soundtrack he did for a show called Dirk Gently. I missed this one until now, but he also did one for a show called "Humans" an hour and a half of flat atmospheric ambience as opposed to the eerie stuff of Utopia.

    2 votes
  16. [2]
    cardigan
    (edited )
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    I recommend Triptych by Éliane Radigue. I read in another comment that these are mainly so that you can sleep to them. In that case, it's hard to do better than Imperial Horizon by Kevin Drumm....

    I recommend Triptych by Éliane Radigue.

    I read in another comment that these are mainly so that you can sleep to them. In that case, it's hard to do better than Imperial Horizon by Kevin Drumm. That album's only, hour-long track is called "Just Lay Down and Forget It." But there's also Robert Rich's Somnium, which is a studio version of one of his Sleep Concerts -- in which he would lay out pillows, invite the audience to try to sleep, and perform for 7-10 hours.

    2 votes
    1. Flashynuff
      Link Parent
      Éliane radigue is some of the most beautiful ambient out there, glad to see her mentioned

      Éliane radigue is some of the most beautiful ambient out there, glad to see her mentioned

      2 votes
  17. viridian
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    It's a pretty old tune at this point in time, but when I need to have something chill droning in the background on repeat, I'll just put the fragrance of dark coffee from the original phoenix...

    It's a pretty old tune at this point in time, but when I need to have something chill droning in the background on repeat, I'll just put the fragrance of dark coffee from the original phoenix wright game on repeat.

    It's pretty funny though come to think of it, because it's exactly the type of emotionally dead background music that a lot of current Jazz artists, including one I know personally, hate.

    1 vote
  18. wervenyt
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    Mother Earth's Plantasia is my go-to for this genre, along with Aphex Twin and Brian Eno. It's a short album made to be enjoyed with houseplants, and primarily consists of theremin and other early...

    Mother Earth's Plantasia is my go-to for this genre, along with Aphex Twin and Brian Eno. It's a short album made to be enjoyed with houseplants, and primarily consists of theremin and other early synthesizers. The real name of the author is Mort Garson, and while most of his other work is a little less euphonic, his whole catalogue is worth investigating.

    1 vote
  19. hamstergeddon
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    lofi hiphop has become my go-to for background music. I kept seeing the stream on YouTube recommended to me and I kept resisting because it just didn't seem like my thing. Then one night I gave in...

    lofi hiphop has become my go-to for background music. I kept seeing the stream on YouTube recommended to me and I kept resisting because it just didn't seem like my thing. Then one night I gave in and I haven't looked back. ChilledCow also has a few other streams for different moods/settings and all of them have Spotify and Apple Music playlists.

    1 vote