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Their music incorporated elements from No Wave, Synthpop, Bossa Nova, Post-punk, Soul Music, P-Funk and Art rock. Despite strong reviews from critics for their three albums, Ambitious Lovers found little success with mainstream audiences.
Lindsay had earlier been active with DNA, a seminal group in New York City's noisy no wave music scene. With Ambitious Lovers, however, Lindsay would reduce the abrasive qualities in his music (apart from his own distinctive, untrained guitar mangling), and increase the presence of standard pop music elements. Notable was a strong influence from Brazilian music, with Lindsay sometimes singing in Portuguese.
Most of their albums featured appearances from many prominent New York-based musicians, including guitarists Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid and Bill Frisell; Brazilian music legend Caetano Veloso; percussionists Nana Vasconcelos and Joey Baron; bassist Melvin Gibbs; and Nile Rodgers, who came to fame with '70's funk icons Chic..
Their legacy helped promote the modernization and globalization of world music under a singular brand and helped forward careers of many performers, who have since recorded for record labels like Nonesuch Records and Luaka Bop.