On the internet, it has been incredibly easy to find incredibly niche music if you know how to look for it, or even if you just accidentally stumble into it. One of my favorite recent instances of this has been a scene referred to as mineral ambient, or simply mineralism.
Mineral ambient is a form of ambient that focuses on atmospherics based off of ambient dub and dub techno, which means lots of echo, layering, and a very nocturnal sound.
Unlike these, mineral ambient has a strong focus on creating an organic-yet-surreal atmosphere – I’ve personally described it as “primordial ooze music,” which I still feel is a good descriptor of the vibe.
The unusual name comes from the label West Mineral Ltd, which describes itself on its website as “an Audio-Mineral exploration company.” Founded by ambient artist Huerco S, the label is considered the originator of the sound.
That said, after development by artists outside of it, there’s now a wide range of albums that would be considered mineral ambient or adjacent to it. So let’s get into some!
Various Artists – “bblisss”
This compilation, released on the 3XL label, is one of the first instances of something that I’d firmly call mineral ambient. Many of the artists on it, such as Ulla Anona and Pendant, went on to release albums on West Mineral Ltd, and others underwent a name change before doing the same.
The first track, “Moon” by Ulla Anona, is an excellent introduction to the genre. Calming synths are constant throughout the track, while some parts like a flute or a soft drum fade in and out as the track develops. It is, in one word, relaxing.
Mister Water Wet – “Significant Soil”
“Significant Soil” is the first mineral ambient album that I listened to, and I still believe it’s a quintessential entry into its canon. Here, the tracks are relatively sparse, with a heavy focus on the surreal atmosphere. Most have only a few layers, although the sparseness is effective – “Good Apple,” for example, is mostly just a piano loop and synths, but man, does it sound good.
Part of the reason why this album is so essential to me is that it also does a very good job at highlighting what separates mineral ambient as its own microgenre. Some tracks, like , have a beat unlike most standard ambient, but are also too atmospheric to really fall under any other genre. It’s a strange niche, but it works very well.
Poison Damage – “KSA”
“KSA” is a very recent release, and also probably the one on this list most under the word “adjacent.” It was released on Plaster Fe, a more recent label created to house things in the dub techno, mineral ambient, and general strange atmospheric electronic sphere.
In this album, Poison Damage makes a more experimental take on mineral ambient. Most of the album consists of field recordings, but this only enhances the surreal-yet-organic vibe. It also helps center the album on its theme of Poison Damage’s home of Kansas.
The joint music video for “Aquifer” and “XR Dub” is probably one of the best visual representations of the genre – it consists of heavily filtered loops of bodies of water, which perfectly fits the music being field recordings and synths overlaid with static.
The world of genres that are too small to really be considered full-on genres is wide and wonderful, and I hope you’ve had a great time venturing into it with me.