In 2015 I had now a rather lengthy commute to work on my hands. For the ride, I found that ambient music served best to play as I rode the bus and the T. Sounds of the train, voices talking, even the squealing of the wheels and the dinging of the stops became a part of the soundscape in my head.
So, rather than blocking out the noise, it sort of accepts it as music. As John Cage famously surmised: “All sound is music.”
Hearing sounds which are just sound immediately sets the theorizing mind to theorizing, and the emotions of human beings are continually aroused by encounters with nature. Does not a mountain unintentionally evoke in us a sense of wonder? Otters along a stream a sense of mirth? Night in the woods a sense of fear? Do not rain falling and mists rising up suggest the love binding heaven and earth?
Here are five quite deep archives of ambient music (and its various strata) I found on Mixcloud.
Morris Gould is the undisputed king of the chillout room. A long-time veteran of the scene, he drops downtempo hip-hop into an extended edit of Imogen Heap with ease. This is music for positive chill vibes, and not a drone in sight. He is so revered in the UK that at the world-famous Glastonbury festival he plays for 10 hours in an area they simply call “Heaven.”
Here’s the first of the 10 hours:
(Worth noting that it was only through his re-shares, favorites, and listens that I discovered the remainder of this list.)
2: Optic Echo
On the other end of the spectrum is Optic Echo. Culled from a three-hour radio show on XRAY FM in Portland, OR. Consisting of no more than ambient, experimental, and modern classical vinyl, their hour-long podcasts can get rather dark.
For example, this mix contains music by a group called Indignant Senility and also a track called “Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night,” but also classics from artists like Fourtet and Fennesz.
As I mentioned above, here’s a podcast specifically designed for the commute. The website gets others to curate guest mixes and does some sonic exploration of their own. Like with their “Residuum Series”:
I am excited to present you with the second volume of my Residuum mix series … the transitions in this collection have been meticulously curated for a deep listening experience … do not operate any machinery while listening, as mild disorientation may occur.
Akrrs, from Northern England, goes as far as creating “Dream Sequences” which can be insanely pretty. The Dream Sequence mixes continually work on the eardrums, flowing in and out of the mix. As their title indicates, the idea is to play it when you dream.
The Slow Drift is probably my favorite one of the five, simply because it is so clinical and precise. Our host, Andrew Hoffman, clearly curates these hour long podcasts with care, featuring artists with names like Marielle v. Jakobsons, Kleefstra Bakker Kleefstra, and Carbon Based Lifeforms. It also comes from “community-supported WRFI radio in Ithaca, NY and Watkins Glen.”
At just 157 listens on some of these, Andrew Hoffman is clearly the underdog (and who doesn’t love a good underdog story).
The Slow Drift is an atmospheric mix of ambient, drone, modern classical, and field recordings. Synesthetic textures may evoke feelings of introspection, romance, or a dream-like state. This is completely normal.
Bonus Podcast: Melodica
I just discovered this one lately (guess who shared it? Yep, Morris). Melodica is another carefully curated show but relies even more on disco, house and summery tunes (what some call “Balearic”). So if the above seems a little too dark or strange, I highly recommend Melodica. Its host, Chris Coco, is also himself a bit of a ray of sunshine.