Top Dark Ambient Albums of All Time

Selected Ambient Works Volume II – Aphex Twin

This may be an odd choice to some, but Richard D. James’ Selected Ambient Works Volume II is about as dark as it gets. This follow up to the upbeat and seemingly optimistic Selected Ambient Works 85-92 hits you kind of like the news of a family member dying. At first the shock hits with Track 1 referred to as “Cliffs” – you’re in a daze, the chemicals in your brain are firing in all directions as your subconscious tries to delegate with your fear center to decide what to do with the information it’s just been handed. Then Track 2 (Radiator) hits and now it’s becoming clear. This is real. You’re trying to focus and then it hits you like a sack of bricks – Track 3 (Rhubarb) – as it gently anchors you to the bottom of your own despair. A track that feels uplifting but really what you’re feeling is tears rolling down your face and the realization that life as you know it, is finite. And that’s just the first three tracks. This album is three hours long. Three hours. It will take you to places you don’t want to go and places you need to go. One of the darkest and most beautiful albums ever composed/written/programmed, Selected Ambient Works Volume II is timeless and will make you question reality or whatever that means.

The Place Where the Black Stars Hang – Lustmord

Being in space is often one of the most peaceful thoughts one can have when trying to relax. No sound, no weight, no control; just an endless void. It sounds pleasant until reality starts kicking in. That’s what this album feels like. The reality of an endless void. You’re in a space suit, your oxygen is going to last another hour if you take small breaths and then you start hearing the heartbeat of the universe. It’s radiation and cosmic energy flowing around your body. Penetrating your cells and soul. There’s no wormhole or MacGuffin set to save you. It’s just endless void until you die. Three of the album’s tracks can live on their own as standalone pieces. Especially Track 2 – Aldebaran of the Hyades.

Blade Runner (Music From the Original Soundtrack) – Vangelis

There are two kinds of people who watch Blade Runner. The first person is the one who tries to watch this movie all the way through in one sitting without falling asleep but just can’t do. So, every Thursday night they turn on whatever streaming service has the rights to the movie that week in an attempt to finally shore up their XP and finally watch this masterpiece all the way through before being woken up out of their non-REM sleep less than 10 minutes into the film when Leon shoots the interviewer from the Tyrell Corporation. The second person is changed by the film and the soundtrack. Blade Runner would have been a completely different film without its soundtrack. A lot of soundtracks almost never match the feel of the films they accompany, rather they sort of tag along. But this film is dependent on the soundtrack. Without it, it feels naked. So why is this album so dark? Well, it’s basically exactly what we thought the dystopian future would sound like and we were right. It’s depressing as fuck to realize that you’re in a future that’s decidedly less cool and futuristic than Blade Runner – this soundtrack only reminds you that we evolved our technology in the wrong ways. Dystopia isn’t even fucking cool or poetic. For that reason, this soundtrack is one of the darkest ambient albums of all time.

The Angelic Conversation – Coil

The Angelic Conversation is a soundtrack released by Coil for the Derek Jarman film bearing the same name. But this is an album that stands alone from the film. This mixes Coil’s haunting soundscapes with Judi Dench providing vocals in which she recites Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s one of those albums that seems artsy but just ends up haunting you and making you feel unintelligent. What’s more, is that if you’re a Coil fan, you’ll notice that “Enochian Calling”, “Angelic Stations” and a few other tracks use samples from Coil’s debut EP, How to Destroy Angels. There’s really no explanation needed – this is one of the darkest ambient albums ever created.

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