POTW (2019/22): Instrumental imaginaries and Atmospheric Architects

This week’s playlist of the week is Instrumental imaginaries and Atmospheric Architects. It’s a wonderfully varied relaxing playlist that journeys across genres and is all instrumental, as the title indicates. It takes in classic rock, disco, funk, classical, folk, psychedelic, epic and ambient styles – amongst others! A constant is the high quality of the tracks selected and how they conjure up images in your imagination. Artists featured range from household names like Jamiroquai and Jean-Michel Jarre to the relatively obscure and label-free.

Mat Champney of The Mighty Fallen is the curator; he also curated another recent POTW: Silent River. (There’s a little about the band in that article, and you can also hear one of their tracks in this playlist).

I found this particular playlist rather immersive. It’s one you might prefer to actively listen to, without attempting to concentrate on something else at the same time. (It works quite well for that, too, though.) I did find myself just disappearing into the music at times and floating off somewhere remote in my mind.

Duration: 3h 56min ; 57 songs

Rating: U, fit for all listeners. Whilst I wouldn’t expect that to change, this being a relaxing instrumental playlist and all, if you are at all concerned about explicit content, put the filter on. Then you won’t need to worry about dubious lyrics appearing while eg your mum is within earshot!

POTW (2019/21): Electronic Independent

Electronic Independent, this week’s Playlist of the Week, is more upbeat than what I’ve brought you the last couple of times. It’s another playlist that features independent artists, but it has a different focus. This one centres around tracks with pumping beats for the gym or the dancefloor (without ending up in hardcore EDM territory). It could help keep you alert on a long drive, or motivate you to keep going while cleaning the house. (I’m thinking of a few jobs I should be doing).

As with most playlists, there is the odd curveball; you might notice an 80s-style throwback with a busy, funky bass-line (e.g. Toy Shoulders’ Eternull), or a blues-swing jazz track (Hey Buffalo!’s Duele). Generally, the sound is fairly chart-orientated, though.

Electronica Independent features several tracks from Ce Ce Hemmings, the playlist’s curator, a.k.a. Hemmingway, who I’ve mentioned before. There’s also an abundance of energetic tracks from other fab electronic artists like Lyia Meta, Fans of Jimmy Century, Bufinjer, etc. And Flavolous, who I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing live at Sonophilia last year, is also present with Favela Flair.

Duration: 4h 12min / 61 songs

NB: I listen to Spotify with ‘explicit’ songs filtered out. There is one such track on this list at the time of writing, and I haven’t heard it! If you think this may be an issue, please apply the filter on your account before listening.

POTW (2019/20): Soft Calm

This week, we have Soft Calm, curated by singer-songwriter Barry McLoughlin as our Playlist of the Week. I’ve featured two of Barry’s playlists before – his Acoustic Treasures and Winter Wanderer playlists, and there’s a bit more about him in the first of those two articles.

Soft calm is a collection of songs that are gentle on the ears. Moving between jazzy, cool, spacey and just plain beautiful sounds, this is a really lovely relaxing listening experience that can just as easily be used as background music for all-day work, creativity or reading.

Duration: 11h / 179 songs.

NB: I listen with Spotify’s ‘explicit’ song filter switched on. There are a few tracks labelled explicit on this list, but I haven’t heard them! If those tracks are likely to bother you, please make sure you have the filter switched on in your own account before listening.

POTW (2019/19): Making Waves

This week’s playlist of the week is Making Waves, courtesy of Skyline Tigers, a fab singer, songwriter and producer who also features in the playlist. Making Waves has been on my schedule of playlists to review for quite a while – I must have first heard it late last year.

A moody, grey sea and a grey-blue sky. Waves are crashing towards you, one of the Farne Islands is in the distance behind the last wave.

POTW is a few days late this week as I got ‘kidnapped’ to some beautiful places on the Northumbria coast by some lovely people from my church for the Bank Holiday weekend. I returned to a backlog of stuff-to-do, some of it related to taking excessive numbers of photos while away. (Also see my post on Overwhelm – I still haven’t got anywhere near being through everything I was trying to do that week!). Yeah, I know, excuses, excuses. Will try to do better next week.

Anyway, the playlist has been my companion today for a serious clear-up of my kitchen (it needed it, believe you me). The tone is chilled, but not the sleepy kind, as there are driving beats at times, and there are songs peppered throughout, which provide more focus. There are 80s overtones at times, but not overdone. A couple of favourite tracks from today’s listen: Skyway Meadows from Nicky Havey, a drum and bass piece that’s gentle for the genre, and Skyline Tigers’ own track Home (Wane of Summer Remix). Or her track Moonlight Sea, which has hip hop tendencies, eastern overtones and almost demands you start dancing around in time to it. (Or is that just me? The comments section is there for a reason…)

Do please show Skyline Tigers lots of love as she’s been going through a rough time lately with a major illness and is now recovering. She was still supporting other indie artists while she was in the thick of it, which is pretty hardcore in my book. Major respect!

POTW (2019/18): Instrumental Chill Out Gems

This week, our Playlist of the Week is Jon Magnusson’s Instrumental Chill Out Gems.

I’ve featured some of Jon Magnusson’s playlists in the past, as he is the artist who started the ‘Monster Thread’ movement which started with The Monster Thread playlist and developed into a platform for indie artists to support each other, collaborate and share knowledge of the industry so we can all benefit from each other’s experience. (For more about Jon, read post on The Monster Thread).

This is another playlist that does what it says. Instrumental Chill Out Gems starts out with Chet Atkins’s Maybelle, a folky guitar piece with a hill-billy ragtime flavour, then moves into modern classical piano territory with Yiruma’s River Flows in You, before featuring independent artists like Tommy Berre, Kip LaVie and some of Jon Magnusson’s own guitar-based pieces.

This collection of pieces frequently features solo acoustic guitars and pianos, and would be perfect for waiting rooms or reading, as it is very calm, without being particularly sleep-inducing. (It’s probably still too calm for playing behind the wheel, though). There are also laid back rock pieces, jazz, downtempo electronica and ambient tracks, plus an occasional foray into epic orchestral music.

Duration: 87 songs, 5h 10min. (Subject to change, of course).

Rating: PG. I would have rated this as U, were it not for the inclusion of Alessandros Kilias’s piece ‘My Idea’, which has some spoken samples from the film The Indestructible Man, including the threat ‘I’m going to kill you’, which I imagine may not be suitable for very small children.

POTW (2019/16): Nighttime Ambient Textures

Our Playlist of the Week (#POTW) this week is Nighttime Ambient Textures from Matt C White, a guitar-wielding, drumming, piano-tinkling multi-instrumentalist from North Carolina, now living in New York.

The range of creative projects Matt is involved with is impressive, from graphic design and photography through to multiple musical identities, to assisting running the Sonder House record label. Matt’s musical range spans hard rock (in his bands Dead Seconds and Grandpa Jack), tranquil piano instrumentals (under the moniker Blue Fold), ambient electronica and classical guitar (as Realizer) and bluesy folk (under his own name). Several of those projects – I think you can guess which ones – can be heard on this exquisite playlist full of gentle ambient textures, acoustic sounds and calm electronica.

The full name of this playlist is Nighttime Ambient Textures (Reading, Sleeping, Driving). Now, I’d thoroughly recommend listening to this while reading or for falling asleep to, but under no circumstances would I play this in a moving car! Within a few bars, I could feel my eyelids starting to droop. This is beautiful, slow music for doing slow things – or not doing anything at all, but not for anything that requires 100% alertness. Pray, meditate, write, craft or just doze off, but please don’t play this if you’re behind the wheel or operating any other kind of hazardous machinery!

Rating: U – suitable for all listeners.

POTW (2019/15): Electronic Kaleidoscope Lounge

This week’s Playlist of the Week is one I’ve been meaning to cover for ages, but somehow didn’t get round to. (I had to triple-check I hadn’t already written about it and still can’t quite believe I hadn’t already made it a POTW, it’s that good.)

The playlist in question is Electronic Kaleidoscope Lounge, from New Element Music, aka Manu Salamanca, an independent musician originally from France, who has also trained in Cuba. Manu works as a professional drummer and percussionist, but since 2017 he has been releasing classically influenced electronica under the name of New Element Music and gathering a steadily growing audience for this project. You can hear a couple of his tracks, The Crossing and Duo Apart in this list.

If I had to use one word to describe this playlist, it would be ‘cool’: it’s full of quirky, jazzy electronica with a club vibe. It’s reasonably uptempo, and the tracks tend to be rhythmically strong, but the playlist could still be used as a background to working or in a waiting room, because of its chilled-out loungy flavour. The ‘kaleidoscope’ in the title seems to be a reference to how the playlist gathers together music with influences from anywhere and everywhere in the world. It’s also almost exclusively comprised of tracks from independent musicians.

There’s really not a great deal more to say about this list, apart from pointing out Manu Salamanca’s great taste in the track selection, how well it flows and how current it sounds. This one really is a must-listen, so I’ll shut up now and let you get on with it!

NB: One or two tracks in this list are labelled ‘explicit’. To avoid these, you can set your Spotify account preferences via a mobile device. (You can’t set this on the desktop app, but contrary to the published advice from Spotify, my experience is that the setting applies to your account when you use other devices after it’s set on the mobile app).

POTW (2019/13): Ryan's Roadtrip

Ryan’s Roadtrip, this week’s Playlist of the Week, is the personal favourite tracks of Ryan Doherty, an independent artist who lives in Birmingham, England. Ryan is a fantastic guitarist and you can hear several of his recordings in the playlist, notably For Another Way with its haunting gravelly vocal and beautifully layered guitars.

Ryan’s Roadtrip mostly comprises classic tracks from the mainstream, however, and covers grunge, rock, blues, britpop, triphop, electronica and pop (with the odd curveball thrown in). The emphasis is firmly towards guitar-oriented rock music (noting that Marillion occupies approximately 10% of this playlist’s tracks) but there are also tracks from Enigma, Massive Attack and Gabrielle Aplin, which balance out the mix. It’s a good list for playing in the car, as the name suggests!

Rating: 15 (there are a couple of tracks designated ‘explicit’ in this list).

POTW (2019/12): The Four Seasons

This week’s Playlist of the Week is another one of those playlists that ‘does what it says on the label’. That is to say, that Dmitry Golubovsky has compiled a selection of tunes about weather and the seasons, which kicks off with three of his own minimal electronica pieces, which, if I’m not mistaken, are all variations on a theme.

Genre wise, the playlist leans mainly towards classical, neo-classical and gentle electronica instrumentals (as you might expect from an artist who produces this sort of music himself) but there are exceptions, including a few songs with lyrics. It’s the kind of playlist you could easily listen to in your office or while reading a book without the music distracting too much of your attention.

POTW (2019/11): Deep Indie

This week, our Playlist of the Week is ‘Deep Indie’, curated by Ezequiel Cagnoli. Ezequiel is a systems analyst by day, and a musician by night (as well as being a husband and a dad). Previously the singer and rhythm guitarist of “Ninos Vimos”, he quit the band to focus exclusively on his solo project as there wasn’t enough time for both. In 2018 he released his first single, Schadenfreude and at the end of the year a four song EP, No Se Puede Vivir de la Idee de Vivir, which translates as ‘You cannot live off just the idea of living’. Another, instrumental EP is in the works.

Ezequiel’s playlist Deep Indie is a pleasant collection of songs with an independent, rootsy and sensitive flavour. That is not to say that all of them are by independent artists, though: there are some world-renowned bands in this playlist, such as Radiohead, Beck and Bon Iver. But regardless of who made them and whether a label was involved, these songs feel like the artist wasn’t being told what to produce in order to be ‘commercial’. There is a broad range of ‘indie-ness’ (or otherwise) represented, from artists followed by only a dozen or so people, right up to the aforementioned mega-stars with millions of fans. The emphasis is more towards guitars than electronic sounds and it’s worth noting too that while most of the songs are in English, there is a sprinkling of tracks in Spanish or German.

I’ve been impressed by the detailed attention that has been paid to making this playlist flow. Sometimes the way that the tracks fit together is almost uncanny, such as the transition from Kodaline’s All I Want into Beck’s Lost Cause. Providing that Spotify doesn’t throw an advert inbetween, of course, which is what happened when I went back to do a double-check of what I just heard.