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AMBIENT’S EVOCATIVE FUTURE

An immersive sound spearheaded by Huerco S., mineralism’s unique, earth-like sound redefines ambient music. 


By Miguel Gonzales


Photo By Amanda Hess

Ambient music has had a major resurgence in the 2020s. The concept of playing “background music” has risen in popularity — blissful melodic drones and brown noise songs are now widely available to listeners. 


English musician and composer Brian Eno, best known for his Ambient series in the late ’70s, pioneered the soft and quaint sound coined “ambient music.” In the liner notes for his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports, Eno wrote, “[a]mbient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”


Mineralism, also known as “mineral ambient,” is a niche subgenre that stems from ambient music — it’s not known to many outside of online circles or through discovery from streaming algorithms. 


Mineralism’s sound can be summarized as dense with its combination of pulsating low-bass frequencies, texture-rich design, and looping compositions of tranquil synthesizers. Mineralism is aesthetically ambiguous and adventurous — it evokes audio imagery that draws inspiration from organic environments and is infused with elements of dub techno. 


Mineralism shifts between dynamic and subdued beats, intentionally immersing listeners in a textural atmosphere in an effort to avoid the singular drone. 


Huerco S. (a.k.a Brian Leeds) is referred to as the creator of mineralism. In 2016, his breakthrough album For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) set the foundations for the genre. It’s a masterclass in ambient, mellow, and subdued sounds, while remaining busy with the rumbling, swirling synthesizers Leeds captures. 


Upon first listen, you forget each composition is repetitive from the carefully-layered, entrancing ambience — but that’s the point. The first two tracks of Leeds’ album, “A Sea Of Love” and ‘Lifeblood’ are immersive enough for the listener to fall into a whirlwind trance from the low-end bass and airy-synth melodies.


In 2017, Leeds launched his own record label called West Mineral Ltd., a self-proclaimed “Audio-Mineral exploration company” specializing in “Audio-Mineral audio distribution, mining, & refinement.”  


Independent record labels besides West Mineral Ltd. have spawned from the mineralism movement, aiming to expand the reach of this niche genre. Emerging producers within the scene are now collaborating with one another to establish new labels, fostering a tight-knit community of mineralism fans. Ben Bondy, Shy, and Ulla Straus are examples of prominent mineralism producers who now have extensive repertoires on labels like 3XL and Experiences Ltd.


Mineralism is intentionally indefinite, leaving artists with room for unlimited possibilities. Through open-ended collaborations and producers’ creation of surnames and labels to release new music, mineralism has transcended its original heydays. Mineralism producers are still testing the waters, designing layers of sound that are vivid paintings in practice but therapeutically blissful at the same time. 

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