The then-unknown Apparition (who would later become the mysterious Black Swan: Drones for Bleeding Hearts) released a free album online titled, Alone Again With The Dawn Coming Up: A Tribute To The KLF. Quality drone music.
In the realm of future jazz, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble released a s/t album and Here Be Dragons.
Telefon Tel Aviv released Fahrenheit Fair Enough, an exquisite collection of downtempo IDM. The title track is a standout favorite.
Noteworthy contemporary ambient artists include Field Rotation, the minimal modern classical compositions of Jóhann Jóhannsson, the dark soundscapes of Labradford, Lawrence English, Pulusha, Purl, Goldmund, Ólafur Arnalds, and the magical works of Fennesz & Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Also get your hands on a lossless audio copy of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto's Summvs LP. The album contains recordings of a piano using a 16th tone interval tuning built by Sauter, Spaichingen/Donaueschingen, Germany. There are only 15 of these pianos in the world. Advance to "Pionier IOO" and don the finest studio monitors you can get your hands on. Minimal glitch bliss.
But if you’re looking for all-out desolation and stillness, one of the most powerful pieces available is Jacob Kirkegaard’s 4 Rooms - a sonic presentation of four deserted rooms inside the 'Zone of Alienation' in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
2012 marked the release of William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops 9LP+5CD+DVD numbered box set, featuring exclusive recordings of the memorial concerts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the 54th Venice Music Biennale.
The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations was reissued for its 15th anniversary, a multi-disc box set of compiled recordings of the mysterious and haunting broadcasts around the world from unmanned radio stations. (Fun fact for Wilco fans… there’s a station among them broadcasting the words, “Yankee… Hotel… Foxtrot... “ into infinity.)
Brian Eno released Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Drums Between the Bells, Lux, The Ship, and the generative work, Reflection. The Ship has a somber and harrowing essence, serving as a dire reflection on the Titanic disaster and the horrors of WWI. But the record maintains a meditative and cerebral tone rewarding to any listener who’ll give the album their full attention. The Ship is my favorite album to experience during sensory deprivation.
Max Richter released Sleep, an 8-hour neoclassical ambient album. I picked up the abbreviated vinyl edition, From Sleep as well.
Wolfgang Voigt (performing as Gas) made a triumphant return to music after 17 years with the release of the dark ambient Narkopop LP. It was an instant favorite.
Nils Frahm produced several albums, the highlights of which are the treated piano post-minimal soundscapes of Felt and the field recording album, Spaces.
And with Ólafur Arnalds, they recorded the electro-ambient Trance Frendz LP.
Meanwhile independently, Ólafur Arnalds released ...And They Have Escaped The Weight of Darkness, shedding his electronic leaning in favor of a sound more along the lines of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s modern classical tone poem work on the album, IBM 1401, A User's Manual.
The same year Hidden Orchestra released Night Walks - a highly atmospheric and nocturnal downtempo/nu-jazz record.
More great ambient downtempo in 2010 from Bonobo with the album Black Sands - his best work yet.
Adam Wiltze of Stars of the Lid and The Dead Texan collaborated with Dustin O’Halloran for an album titled A Winged Victory for the Sullen, a soothing and melancholic minimal modern classical album.
Black Swan, owner of the Ethereal Symphony label, premiered two limited numbered edition LPs - In 8 Movements and The Quiet Divide. A symphony of inky black, spiraling sadness.
But I believe my favorite releases of the 2010s has to be The Black Dog’s Music for Real Airports. The result of over 200 hours of field recording and globetrotting, the limited edition hand-numbered 3LP set is a contemporary response to Eno's classic album. (I scored copy #16!)
Mark Prendergast is the author of The Ambient Century, a mammoth guide to the genre. Prendergast said this is "by far the best Ambient record released in years."
Please notify me of any errors or omissions and I’ll be happy to correct them.