Stephen Vitiello + Taylor Deupree - Captiva
This is an album for meditation. It’s a collision of field recordings and minimal, relaxed notes and melodies all inspired and sourced from the ocean. The music here is beautiful and contemplative, full of life and written to place you in a peaceful space. As I have said here before, it’s hard to go wrong with the likes of anyone released on the 12k Label and this is certainly no exception.
Slowdive - Souvlaki
These guys have a bit of a cult following as far as I can tell, and for good reason. The music found here is shoe-gaze at its finest and released back in 1994 when a number of bands were pushing back against the more aggressive side of rock music that had taken hold at the time. It’s hard to go wrong with any of their albums but Souvlaki stands out to me as a defining album for them. It is calm, uplifting music.
Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
I happened across this album a while back and immediately fell for its warm ambient sound. The music calls forward memories of Brian Eno and Aphex Twins ambient works. It’s delicate yet lush and seeps into every ounce of my attention if I let it take over. Melodies are slow and hypnotic as they build organically from note to note. Its rate to find ambient music with so much soul.
Marihiko Hara & Polar M - Beyond
Upon hearing the opening track, ‘April 15th’, I was hooked by its hypnotic piano melody. There is a touch of spoken word at the end that threw me off at first but I have come to enjoy as I hear it more. While the album does drift into some light beat driven territories it rests primarily on an ambient bed lead by piano and guitar melodies. The songs are melodically joyous and relaxing in most cases which makes it great music for calm mornings.
Nils Frahm - Spaces
I can’t remember the last time I heard an album recorded live, in concert be this powerful as a whole. Nils’ music takes a whole new life in this context where his ten fingers manage to bring these studio compositions to new life. I cannot get enough of this record and I know I am not alone. An instant classic, no one should be without a copy of this record.
Hideyuki Hashimoto - Home
I stumbled on this release by chance and I’m happy I did, it’s beautiful and I keep coming back to it. This is a perfect headphone album for a calm afternoon. The way it was recorded leaves you able to immerse yourself in the music. Hiding behind gentle piano melodies there is a distant layer of ambient sounds from the room it was recorded in. No tricks or heavy reverb, just a squeaky piano played in a relaxed, quiet environment. For fans of honest playing and a warm feeling of nostalgia, look no further.
Pan American - Cloud Room, Glass Room
I think of Pan•American’s music as ambient post rock, not surprising considering the artists roots in the band Labradford, a like minded effort. This album comes after a long hiatus for the project and he didn’t skip a beat. The music here is pulled along by more rhythmic elements than I remember hearing in his other albums and the approach in general feels more organic and less electronic which I don’t mind at all. I always appreciate artists who find new ways to explore their music making without totally alienating what made them great to begin with. His style is well in place here and if you enjoy this record I highly suggest you check out his earlier albums as well.
JBM - Stray Ashes
I discovered JBM a while back when I was checking in on the latest from Western Vinyl and bought it on a whim along with another record. Sonically akin to the likes of Jose Gonzales and Damien Rice, his songwriting and voice are easy to love. While I prefer his low key songs more than times when drums come into play the album works well as a whole and it finds its way to my turntable on a regular basis when I need something modest and down to earth.
Memotone - I Sleep. At Waking
I happened across this album while checking in on the electronic label Black Acre and casually put it on one afternoon and was blown away by the dark calm hiding in this release. The music straddles a line between a number of ideas and genres using components of music concrete with a more melodic and sometimes rhythmic backside that hides in the background until just the right moment to sneak into the music. While some songs come across as almost eerie at times overall you will find a deep emotional statement. To me it feels like walking through the backstreets of a big city in the rain. The album works well as a whole so pick a time when you want to get lost and put this one on your player.
More on the artist here.
Heathered Pearls - Loyal
I have always loved ambient music but I have always been really picky about what records I put myself into. It is such a unique genera in that it is not as obvious as pop music, it takes patience to enjoy. There are a lot of different directions it could take, everything from tacky new age sounding melodies for yoga studios to noise based drone music that holds one sustained note for 20 minutes. There are of course happy mediums to discover and artists that use the genera to create truly creative, emotional music unlike anything else out there.
My personal history listening to ambient started with Aphex Twins Ambient Works II, then I discovered Brian Eno, then came Tim Hecker’s Haunt Me, and later I fell in love with a number of Japanese musicians such as Daisuke Miyatani who were using a lot of environmental recordings and incorporating them with sparse instrumentation. While there have been a few I have enjoyed on the noisier and more drone based recordings that I have enjoyed I have always gravitated toward ambient music that told more of a story. It’s amazing when ambient music is able to convey an emotion and it is this type that I get so lost in when I let myself fall in.
This brings me to this amazing album by Heathered Pearls, Loyal. I was immediately hooked on the first track and its subtly gritty sine tone music box like melodies which instantly brought me back to some of the early ambient records that made me love the genera to begin with. Listening to Loyal with a good pair of headphones and kicking back somewhere comfortable is like being wrapped up in a cocoon of warm sound that gently persuades your mind to wander aimlessly through the noise. The music here is classic yet stands on its own as a powerful collection of great ambient music. No fan of the genera should be without this in his or her collection.
Kane Ikin - Contrail
The thing about ambient music is that it seems to speak to each listener differently. It is a meditative genera that leaves your mind to wander. The speed of the changes in tone and any hints at a rhythm alter in your mind depending on your state of awareness. It’s a beautiful way to amplify things you are feeling and center yourself.
Enter Contrail, yet another wonderful release from 12k. You may be familiar with Kane’s work as part of Solo Andata which is also a beautiful album that for some strange reason I have not added here yet. The music on Contrail features beautiful ambient melodies which gently create a bed for sparse guitar and other meandering layers of sound and melody. These elements all combine to form engaging compositions ripe with warmth and a delicate sense of wholeness. I am excited to have this in my collection because although at 20 Minutes it can feel short once you get lost in the music I can’t help but continue to head back to the start and listen through again and again.
It has been released on a 7” vinyl record which I find highly appropriate for ambient releases such as this. Something in the act of putting a record on adds so much to the listening experience. I can only hope that 12k continues this series of releases on vinyl or perhaps even expand it to 10” or 12” inch records as well but I won’t hold my breath as they have traditionally stuck with CD releases.
Artist Site label page
HoloPaw - S/T
I have no idea why it took me as long as it did to discover this album. John Orth is front and center within the music as the vocalist and his distinct songwriting and singing lingers and keeps me coming back for more. He seems to go largely under appreciated as being part of Isaac Brock’s Ugly Casanova project. Maybe this is why it took so long for me to find his music. I remember going out to see Ugly Casanova long ago when they were touring for their release (boy do I regret not picking up a vinyl copy of their album at the show). This is easily my favorite album from Holopaw because of its quiet, country/folk influenced feel. The harmonies and simple yet lush instrumentation often seem to get stuck in my mind. It is an essential album for your collection that should not be overlooked.
Laura Arkana Met Peter Broderick - Lentemuziek
While Peter Broderick needs no introduction among these pages, Laura Arkana was new to my ears when I came across this album. While she sings in Dutch and I cannot follow along what she is singing about I still find myself gravitating toward her voice and wonderful, uplifting melodies. Peter Broderick’s classic elegance is found on every track and makes for a beautiful collaboration. It’s one I am happy to have a vinyl copy of, perfect for a quiet night by the fire.
Ezza Rose - Jacob
This was a gem of a find. I love this sort of soft, lo-fi singer songwriter music that pushes expectations of what an album like this could be. She incorporates a number of styles and instruments into the mix which I really love. Most songs have a gentle sway about them with a touch of classic country/bluegrass that adds a nice charm to the music. If you enjoy the recent movement of underground folk artists and lo-fi recordings this will be right up your alley.
Nils Frahm - Felt
I Find it hard to believe it took me so long to discover the music of Nils Frahm. Its nothing short of amazing and has quickly shot up the ranks of my personal favorites within the world of quiet music. Felt is a sparse work centered on the piano and dashes of minimal electronic elements. The result melts into my mind as I hear it. His performances on the record are telling of his ability to use the piano as a voice in which he is able to communicate a sense of calm. The post production and mixing work using a handful of nostalgicc sounding synths has been added with a delicate touch and leaves the original recordings of piano plenty of room to breathe within the music. The soft sounds of keys being pressed and the subtle ambience of the room in which it was recorded gives you a sense of being present during its performance and lets the listener connect in an intimate way. I find this to be essential listening for anyone that follows You Disappear.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Self Titled
I came across this album while checking out what was new over at the label Erased Tapes and quickly fell for it. It’s full of lush music driven by piano, strings, and subtle synth work and leaves your mind at peace. This is beautiful, meditative music. The kind that leaves you daydreaming of those impossibly perfect moments that only exist in your mind. If you let it take shape and lay down and give this album the attention it deserves your breathing slows and this becomes a soundtrack for your imagination and personal space. Maybe I am over stating it a bit but I believe music can bring such meditative calm to anyone if they let it soak in.
Filed in: Songs
James Blake - What Is It You Said About Luck
B-sides are always a bit of a mystery, what may once have been considered lesser tracks, left off a full length album are now seen more often as those hidden gems by artists only found and known by the true fans. Seems to me these days a song can have just as much weight as a full album as far as its weight is concerned. In this case I feel as though this song stands well on its own and it deserves to be heard. It’s less genera pushing than some of the work on his full length album. Clocking in at just over two minutes its easy to overlook but with its humble, simplified approach it leaves me coming back to it again and again.
Squanto - On being Lumpy
I love coming across humble, self released albums such as this. The music holds a sentimentality that can get lost in the polish of label releases. Listening to this takes me somewhere in my imagination that is an invented memory of laying around in front of a fire while friends pluck away on guitars and instruments and occasionally find stories to tell as they sing along with the light, floating melodies that emerge from the somber mood hanging in the air. A warm experience all around and well worth supporting.
Robag Wruhme - Thora Vukk
Here is one for those of you who enjoy a rhythm to your calm moments. You will find an intricate blend of field recordings, clever sound design, and dim beats to guide your mind as you listen. WIth its slow pull you may find yourself feeling uplifted by its warmth as quiet beats lead you to nod your head along to the music. I can’t help but feel a wash of calm happiness while I have this record on and I love it. It feels like the warm sun shining upon my face on a cold day. Highlights in my mind are the short interlude between the more beat driven songs in the ‘Brücke’ series which add breathing room to the overall experience. Beautiful music not to be missed.
Small Sur - Tones
This was an exciting discovery when I came across it. A new record of beautiful hushed music that is familiar and has a sleepy calmness about it that I really love. The wavy melodies sung through a warm hushed voice with songwriting that leaves me feeling at ease. There are a lot of beautiful layers at work as the songs glide forward which blend together in a way that leaves me discovering new favorites every time I listen through. Highly recommended.