These days if you mention the term ambient music, the instinctive reaction of most music fans would be to think of some form of electronic music or other. If acoustic instrumentation and real-time performances are mentioned, then they would probably think of terms like post-modern classical or similar. As if those terms and similar could not relate to practically the same thing!
Of course, it all depends on the ideas and the concepts of the artists themselves.
Based on his latest release, Zed Zed, UK artist Phil Self, who operates under the moniker of Dau, doesn’t seem to care much about genres as strictly defined categories.
It all becomes clear when you take a look at a few notes from his previous work. As his press release says, Self is a member of numerous projects, including acclaimed UK instrumental sextet yndi halda and the live band of folk-rock singer-songwriter Will Varley. He additionally runs the wonderful Isolation Choir non-profit initiative for the elderly and vulnerable, in which musicians and non-musicians alike are invited to contribute remotely to pieced-together ensemble performances. Brian Eno was so moved by the first video, he offered his services for the second.
Cryptically titled Zed Zed can certainly be called an ambient record, as Self creates a set of six soundscapes. But instead of opting for electronics or computer processing, Self created an entirely acoustic record, recorded in real-time. Alongside bowed guitar, reed organ, and voice, he employs acoustic recordings of water bowls, falling rain, and the sounds of his kitchen.
And when something produces great sounds like Self does on Zed Zed, you don’t really care what those sounds were produced with or what category or genre it falls within. You just keep on being amazed at the imagination and inventiveness presented.