This was a good year to listen to ambient music, whatever that is

The cover art for KMRU’s 2020 ambient record Peel
The cover art for KMRU’s 2020 ambient record Peel | Courtesy of Editions Mego

In the early days of despair, I looked at Spotify and decided that everything sounded bad. All songs were boring, and I was sick of everything. What that really meant was I was sick of myself. But by the summer, I’d found the solve: ambient music. The best music I heard this year was barely music at all.

The notion of “ambient music” is pretentious, sure, but the concept is simple. If most music is centered around some alchemy of melody and rhythm, ambient music eschews that for whatever else: tones, moods, atmosphere.

I’ve listened to Peel by Nairobi-based artist KMRU roughly once a day since I first heard it in July. Like most music in the genre, the album is concerned with timbre and texture — a lot of shapeless, ambiguous noise that…

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