Ambient Nights – Free music, not bad after MP3DirectCut

The short: Quasi-netlabel Ambient-Nights.org serves up some good downtempo semi-ambient music for free, but you’ll only get them through BitTorrent, and each album is one long mp3 file– no individual tracks.

Long a fan of freely available music, I’d heard about Ambient-Nights a few years ago, but wasn’t all that thrilled with a few things:

  • No direct downloads are freely available from the site. You have to use a BitTorrent client to obtain the mixes, which entails waiting and perhaps attracting unwanted attention from your ISP or other hideous parties.
  • Once finally downloaded, the entire mix albums are only available in single, continuous, ~80 minute mp3 files. No individual tracks are available for free.
  • Even if you are able to chop up the mp3’s into individual tracks, the music is seamlessly mixed, DJ-style: the tracks cross-fade into each other, which may cause some jarring track changes if you play them with the rest of your music collection. (This is somewhat alleviated if you activate cross-fading with your music player, and the intros and outros of the cut tracks are attenuated.)
  • Much of the music seems to be from professional artists, and though the site operates totally in the open, it isn’t clear whether the site can legally distribute their music. There’s no legal or copyright information readily obvious on the site. Glomming all the tracks on a CD into a single mp3 may evade some industry ire, or perhaps all the artists in question have granted permission to have their work distributed– it’s hard to tell.
  • Individual tracks of higher quality are available– if you cough up a ten-spot. Not really an issue if you enjoy the music, and ten bucks is reasonable for over 30 albums of music. Again, however, it isn’t clear whether the artists are cool with this.
  • Totally invalid musical taste opinion: The music selections, good as they are, aren’t really ambient, they’re downtempo. Think closer to SomaFM‘s Groove Salad or Space Station Soma than to Drone Zone or that magnificent musical gateway drug, SleepBot.
    Admittedly, ambient is a pretty broad genre these days, and, grouch that I am, I stick more to Brian Eno’s definition of ambient music than some might today, since a good 30 years have gone by since Eno created the genre. I also say this after listening only so far to the first four CD’s, each labeled Ambient Nights 1 through 4. Hell, my gripe is actually a plus if you have an active dislike for old-school ambient drone.

However, not to appear totally ungrateful for what is in the end a window to good free music, there are substantial upsides:

  • Free music! After some dancing with torrents.
  • Alex, the site’s progenitor, has a good ear for tracks that go well together.
  • The free mixes are of a very listenable quality. No 64kbps RealAudio stream quality here, though higher-quality versions are available only after parting with two Lincolns. Whether you pay or not, though, you get good quality music.
  • The individual mix CD’s are thoughtfully put together, full-length ~80 minute mixes, with CUE sheets for CD burning and cover art available.
  • The CUE sheets available allow you to dice up the tracks using Mp3DirectCut with relative ease, allowing you to integrate them with other tracks in your music library with some small effort.
    (However, you will need to edit said CUE sheets to meet Mp3DirectCut’s standard, or it won’t understand them, a minor pain.)

There’s a level of loving care in Ambient-Nights.org that extends also to the quality of the mixes: this person wants to share music that he loves, and that deserves admiration. To that end, the website and torrent trackers are bankrolled by Alex himself and the ‘VIP’ members who have paid for the higher-quality individual tracks. They’re doing it for the love, and I commend them for that.

I’ll cover how to divide an Ambient-Nights mix into individual tracks in a future post. Until then, overall verdict is Highly Recommended.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Matticusx

    I came across this post and wish to thank you for taking the time and effort to pass on our website link to others it is much appreciated by all of the Ambient Nights Team.

    There are a few things though which i would like to correct.

    It is true that only VIP’s can get the downloads direct from our ftp server and that everyone else can obtain them via the torrent system however, the quality [kbps] is the same for VIP’s and torrent downloaders alike. we use the mp3 format which is set at 320. so the highest quality file size.

    There is a free streaming service on our site which is set at 96kbps so that our regular listeners can hear the mix before or during their download. the massive bandwidth used for this service is financed by our VIP’s.

    The only things our VIPs receive which differs to other listeners is that they may download the new mix one week before it is released to the public and the VIP mixes which are a small thank you from us for their generous donations towards the running of the site.

    You are correct that the minimum donation is 10 dollars but this is a one time donation and entitles you to a life membership as a VIP.

    The Mixes are well within the law when produced and offered in the format that we offer. That is why our site is still running openly for over 6 years now.

    Yes, some of the artists have popped in to say hello and have thanked us for featuring them on our site. Ambient as you know is a specialised musical experience that is not classed as main stream and thus artists of this genre have very few places they can turn to to advertise their works. We try where-ever possible to link the tracks featured with the artist’s homepage so that our listeners can buy their music or find out more about the artists.

    Once again I personally wish to thank you for your extensive write up on our site and take the time to wish you well.

    Best Regards

    Alex

  2. Hey, thanks for reading and for the thoughtful reply. I’ve actually been listening to your mixes for a while now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy good music that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to. I’m also glad that your site is still thriving in a lawsuit-happy world.

    I appreciate the clarifications and assume that any misunderstandings on my part have generated no hard feelings. Thanks for the music selections, and for reminding me to revisit your site!

  3. Hi Doctorfrog

    No hard feelings were generated in the making of the reply to your post at all :)

    Quite the opposite, we are grateful to all those who post on their blog sites about us as this is our main source of advertisement save perhaps word of mouth.

    The AN Team also understand that Ambient is not to everyone’s liking and expect constructive criticism [how can people improve if they are not told]

    Yes the law does limit us to what we can and cant do so we are tied into a small box with regards to the presentation of the music but most people understand this and are happy with the format we can offer.

    I did forget to mention that the mixes are split into genre’s

    Ethnic [which can cover downtempo / traditional / new age styles from around the world

    Spacey [The Sol System Series] Which is beatless and mainly synthesizer sounds

    And the named and numbered series which is pretty much for everything else that we offer.

    You are 100% correct. As a traditionalist our definition of ambient is a little left of the centre of what Brian Eno had perhaps envisaged when the he came up with the genre but to our defense i believe that Ambient is a genre that has the ability to change states of mind, or perhaps make us think and it is really to that end Ambient Nights strives to change people’s minds or to make them think about this genre. I have a friend who dislikes the taste and texture of onions however if they are cooked in a way that they disappear in the cooking process he eats them in the full knowledge that they are in the food he is eating. We try to present Ambient in the same way wrapping it up in something that people know in the hope that they will explore the whole genre which will lead them back to Brian Eno.

    To reiterate there were no hard feeling generated at all by your post and I hope and wish you well for the future.

    Best Regards

    Alex

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