Trading the ‘mental’ for the ‘transcendental’ – welcome to the ambient age… [January 1990]


With the world going to hell in a handbasket, maybe it’s time that we trade the ‘mental’ for the ‘transcendental’?

That was the opinion of Mixmag in January 1990, thirty years ago this month, which included a feature on ‘The Ambient Age’, anticipating that the years ahead could be a ‘decade of quiet clubbing’. (Note: It wasn’t).

‘Have you ever stood in the middle of a packed club, deafened by loud music, surrounded by plebs, and been jostled about like a Tyson sparring partner and though to yourself, ‘What on earth am I doing here?’,’ the article, recently uploaded by the excellent Global Variables blog, reads. ‘Well have faith, sensitive one, for the answer may be just around the corner.’

You can read the full article (as well as select articles from the rest of Mixmag‘s January 1990 issue), by clicking the magazine cover below.


This was a time, let’s not forget, that Enigma was topping the charts with Sadeness – a chill-out/trip-hop crossover that we reckon still sounds fresh today, while Enya’s Orinoco Flow (which while an instrumental, was still set to a 4/4 rhythm) had recently set the world alight.

After all, if it worked in Ibiza, why couldn’t it work back home?

‘Just as the Balearic isle of Ibiza exported the vitality and party atmosphere, the soothing Latin vibes of Cafe del Mar, where weary clubbers would gather after a night of wild dancing, can perhaps be seen as the starting point for the new wave of ambience. ‘Chilling Out’ is hardly a new thing – Mark Moore likes nothing better after a night behind the decks than to curl up at home with a Philip Glass CD, whilst a generation of rock’n’rollers have discovered (largely through TV commercials), the mellow qualities of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony’.

Of course, for true ambient aficionados like The Orb’s Alex Paterson, the chill out realm offers plenty of scope for musical experimentation.

“Maybe I’ll be playing one side of bird noises from a BBC sound effects record, while on another deck there’ll be some classical music, then I’ll throw in some house rhythms,” he says.

The article also comes with an accompanying ‘Essential Ambience’ playlist, which, for the purposes of bringing the past to life, we here at 909originals have replicated for your listening pleasure. Namaste!

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