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.

POTW (2019/10): Lo-fi Triphop / Chill / Dubstep

This week, we have this gem of a Trip-hop playlist by Leg Puppy for your listening pleasure. Leg Puppy are a subversive British punktronica band with a lot to say about current western culture, including smartphones, selfies and the closure of smaller music venues. (That last one might just be a UK thing?)

Leg Puppy’s superpower is nailing exactly what is wrong with the world, and not holding back from telling us how it is, whilst injecting the message with a shot of raw humour. Being rather direct, they won’t be to everyone’s taste, but, as Left Bank Mag have said, they are ‘fascinatingly entrancing’. This gift of lifting the covers on Pandora’s empty box and giving us a run down on what went wrong perhaps explains their love of the triphop genre, itself often a healthy source of social commentary. Some of Leg Puppy’s electronic tracks do lean in towards the triphop genre and probably my favourite of these, Black Light, is included here. Silence 23, their recent collaboration with Ceiling Demons, is reminiscent of some of the more menacing sounding tracks that Massive Attack and Tricky have produced over the years.

This playlist avoids the most obvious triphop choices, often picking edgier tracks that fit their own band’s sound and songs from obscurer artists. (There are exceptions: Massive Attack’s gorgeous collaboration with Hope Sandoval, The Spoils, made the cut). There’s a distinctly dystopian flavour pervading much of the selection and, as its name suggests, it has been spiked with some dub and chill, which vary the mood, helping to avoid it getting overly heavy.

Rating: PG (Some tracks are labelled ‘explicit’).

POTW (2019/8): Classic Electronic Music

This week’s selection for Playlist of the Week is ‘Classic Electronic Music’ by Spotify user ‘lodolf’. It focusses in on the more melodic and cinematic side of electronica, which has roots in classical and orchestral music. In fact, some of the pieces included are actually classical orchestral music being played on synths, e.g. Synclassica’s renditions of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi and so on. Another notable piece is Arvo Pärt’s moving minimal work, Spiegel im Spiegel.

There is a lot to like here. This is a well thought out playlist of instrumental music, with selected pieces of electronica from the 1970s onwards. There were a few surprises – I didn’t expect to hear ABBA’s Arrival or, for that matter, any Bowie. (Benny Andersson of ABBA also snook in again with his cinematic Skallgång.)

That insistence on shying away from the obvious is one of the playlist’s major assets – it includes a generous smattering of emerging artists, examples being Easily Embarrassed, Bassic, Animobo, Firechild, Didymos, and the list goes on. This led me to discover at least a handful of artists who weren’t even near my radar, let alone on it.

If I’m going to be really picky, this playlist focusses a bit too heavily on certain artists, albeit with some heavy hitters fitting that category, such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. That has not taken away from this playlist being a thoroughly enjoyable listen, however, as the ‘over-represented’ artists are all fantastic.

POTW (2019/7): Anima 27 by RE Junesworth

This week’s Playlist Of The Week is RE Junesworth’s lovely Anima 27: Surreal / Cosmic / Lo Fi / Synth / Psychedelic / Atmospheric / Ambient which they describe as, “a selection of electronic music with industrial influences, downtempo and lo fi, and some ambient tracks for calm breaks”. With it being instrumental, it’s the kind of playlist you can put on and leave playing in the background, allowing you to dig into work that requires some fairly deep concentration. And at over 8 hours long, you’re not going to need to worry about what to play next in the middle of a tricky task. Tracks range from those from better-known artists like Alan Gogoll, Lemongrass, Seneca B and Shpongle, to some hidden gems from some underground acts.

Although they would sit well in this playlist, it doesn’t include any Flungundi tracks at the time of writing. Flugundi is the home of RE Junesworth’s own artistic endeavours, which are well worth checking out.

And, if you enjoy this playlist and would like to explore further, there are actually a whole load of other Anima playlists from the same curator, with emphasis on different genres each time, but staying within the realms of chillout music.

POTW (2019/6): Electronica by Independent Female Artists

This week’s POTW is another compiled by Line Munch-Petersen (ENILSounds). In this playlist, she features tunes by female electronic artists who are unsigned or with independent record labels.

The music ranges from ambient through to electro-country with various shades of electronica, pop and rock in between. Some of the tracks have a darker feel to them, like Brexistentialism and The Elders Secret and some have clubby vibes, e.g. Corazon de Lluvia and There’s a Place for You. There are a lot of tracks on this playlist from artists I’d never heard before, so it’s a really good one for new music discovery, too. And if I’m not mistaken there’s a European flavour pervading the list, Brexistentialism included.

Rating: PG – it has a song or two flagged ‘explicit’, but is mostly ‘clean’.

POTW (2019/5): Yoga Chill by Michelle Qureshi

This week’s playlist of the week is Yoga Chill, from Michelle Qureshi, and brings together a selection of beautiful pieces in the chill out, new age, ambient and acoustic genres. You don’t need to be doing yoga to enjoy this playlist – it makes great background music for reading, studying or other non-physical activities, which is great if you’re an unbendy couch-potato like me.

Michelle Qureshi is an acoustic artist in her own right, writing and recording almost classical style new age and ambient pieces, often guitar based. She has several tracks in the playlist, so you can get a feel for her style. (She’s also included a couple of tracks by Andy Salvanos, who I’ve mentioned before in the blog.) Michelle brings a great deal of feeling to everything I’ve heard her do, and pieces like Never Odd Or Even can leave you floating off into some imaginary sunset, so I think you’ll really enjoy listening.