Klimek

Portals: Music For Mindfulness

 
Mindfulness3.png

Mindfulness, is undoubtedly subjective and situational. But one thing I’ve noticed, is that most of the material you hear on this topic often has a stereotypical sound; normally new-age, and often yoga or meditation focused with buddhist chanting, or crashing waves. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to find a sweet-spot with Brian Eno, and with it, you draw a sigh of relief. 

I've often wondered how (or why) hotels and spa's choose their music and how this 'background style' has become so mistakenly synonymous with ambient music. Ask anyone who isn't familiar with ambient music is and they’ll likely say "spa music" or "meditation/yoga stuff". No digs on that type of music, I mean some elements even find their way in here - it's the root to many ambient concepts, and I could sit and listen to the sound of the sea and waves crashing for years on end. But as with all of these Portals series, I try to find and explore a different perspective where possible. 

The goal of this feature and accompanying mix was to create a journey of escapism and comfort. Whereas the previous Portals feature, ‘Music For Sleeping’ could be deemed very similar, the approach here focused on keeping an attentive layer/s that ended up being more pure to Brian Eno’s definition of ambient music: “As ignorable as it is interesting”, which aligns very well with the definition of what it means to be mindful; "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”

There’s a lot of ambient music that fulfills this goal, so what’s different here? As I was curating tracks for this mix, I found common themes that resonated with me personally when it came to mindfulness, which I tried to reflect throughout, and ultimately formed a filter for what should be included. Perhaps you’ll identify with one or more and can descend into a rabbit-hole of exploration, or hopefully you'll enjoy it as a whole. 

Nature
Field recordings and the pure sound of the outdoors is undoubtedly calming and reassuring. It’s an escape from our busy lives, and a reminder of what’s good in our world. The mix opens with my favorite field recording from Biosphere that somehow encapsulates the exact sound I used to hear from the field behind my childhood house. Nature sounds are a common theme throughout this mix, whether on purpose or inadvertently as an intro or ending to certain tracks. 

Submersion
The warm, blanket-like approach to ambient music is a favorite of mine, often created through analog equipment, or layers of undulating synthesizers that build, wrap and immerse. Markus Guentner, Donnacha Costello, Marcus Fischer, Heathered Pearls, bvdub, and Billow Observatory are just some of the many moments in here that keep you warm and comforted. 

Subtle/subliminal layers
The KLF’s ‘Chill-out’ album is one of ambient music’s most pioneering pieces, and on paper, it really shouldn’t be. The sound of trains, sheep and Elvis Presley are not the first ingredients that come to mind for relaxation, but the key here, is how they’re interwoven into a moving piece of musical art - an undercurrent of subtle moments that on their own would be distracting, but together form a story. They provide moments of interest and escapism - enough to keep one foot in the door, and one foot in a world of your own. I’ve tried to replicate this approach in this mix, by lowering volumes of certain tracks into the background, or including something a little unexpected in a few places, so if you see something you like in the track-list, don’t assume it will feature prominently. 

Choral sounds
Beautiful, emotional choir singing is pretty cliche, but who can argue against it when it comes to feeling good? Whether it’s the religious connotations, or just the simple realization that the sound you're hearing is coming from a person, is as stunning as it is comforting. Moments from Hammock and Jonsi & Alex provide the highs in this instance. 

String instruments
Whether it’s a slowly drawn cello, a harp, or a lone guitar pluck, there’s something about string instruments when it comes to reflecting positivity (and in the right context, ultimate sadness!) However, I often associate these sounds with light - I have no idea why - but perhaps thats why they feature in here so heavily. Be it the acoustic version of Aphex Twin’s ‘Rhubarb’, Mary Lattimore’s beautiful harp, or Kit’s portrayal of a walk on the beach as fireworks light the horizon. 

Strong-sounds can also go to the other end of the spectrum too, with reverb-laden guitar-haze forming complex palettes that you’d normally expect to come from synthesizers. Examples in here being Manual and to a simpler extent, Neozaïre. 

Repetition
We’re creatures of habits, and the beat of the drum is what makes all music so special. When it comes to ambient music, this often comes to life in loops, or slowly evolving textures that do just enough to keep you intrigued, yet are familiar enough to hypnotize and make you feel comfortable. Given its minimal nature, most ambient music is repetitive, but sometimes it can become more evident in its form, for example, a track here Klimek that anticipates each evolution and movement with a similar instrumental pluck of strings. 

Overall, I have tried to avoid anything that can be seen as daunting, intriguing or so vividly different that you switch into new worlds with every track. You may notice some distinct phases throughout the mix, where similar sounds are tied together, and you may prefer certain phases to others, but eventually I hope you finish on an extremely positive note. Just sat here listening back and writing this, I’m feeling better than I was a few hours back...

Thanks to everyone who commented on the original Facebook post with their own suggestions, a few of which made it into the final journey. 

Download.

Tracklist + links to buy/download:

01. Biosphere - As The Sun Kissed The Horizon [Biophon]
02. Ourson - Mountain, Calm Day, Birds, Saw [Self]
03. Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois - Deep Blue Day [EG / Polydor]
04. Parks - Forest [Self]
05. Kit - Girl Walking on The Beach Wearing A Skirt [A Strangely Isolated Place]
06. Sage Taylor - Raintime Ten [Cold Fiction Music]
07. Bjorn Rohde - Intentionally Gone [Self]
08. Billow Observatory - Calumet [Felte]
09. Hammock - Now And Not Yet [Hammock Music]
10. Heathered Pearls - Glass Routine [Self]
11. Donnacha Costello - This Way [Ursa/Self]
12. James Devane - Rhubarb (Acoustic) [na]
13. Aphex Twin - Rhubarb [Warp]
14. Marcus Fischer - Arctic 2 [Luxus-Arctica records International]
15. Helios - Halving The Compass [Type/Unseen]
16. Yeter - Dart 2 [A Strangely Isolated Place]
17. bvdub - 10 [Self]
18. Markus Guentner - Express Yourself [Kompakt]
19. Leyland Kirby - Polaroid [Ghostly]
20. Martin Glass - Welcome To The Four Seasons [Kit Records]
21. David Bowie & Brian Eno - Moss Garden [RCA]
22. Klimek - Sun Rise [Kompakt]
23. Mary Lattimore & Jefre Cantu Ledesma - Borrego Springs [Soap Library]
24. Brian Eno - Music For Airports 1/1 [Polydor]
25. Jonsi & Alex - Boy 1904 [XL/Parlophone]
26. Neozaïre - Blue Bell Treasure [Fauxpas]
27. Manual - Azure Vista [Darla]
28. Peter Broderick & Nils Frahm - Sketch 24 [Fugues]

If you enjoyed this, dive deeper into ambient music with our in-depth introduction 'Neither Scene Nor Heard: An Introduction to Ambient Music', or some of the other Portals series, below. 

 

isolatedmix 57 - Sam KDC

 
 

Sam KDC has been an integral part of ASC's, Auxiliary label over the past four years, with a series of EP's, remixes and collaborations. In 2012 Sam partnered with ASC on the haunting Decayed Societya release which marked a defining period for ASC as he ventured further into the dark ambient realm alongside notorious albums on Silent Season. It also solidified Sam as a strong-arm on the label when it came to ambient music - a style he had only dabbled with on previous releases alongside his many electronica, techno and drum'n bass productions.

A full-length album was always on the horizon, but none of us expected it to take five-years to come to fruition. As Sam goes on to mention below and where many producers often relate, it has to be the right moment, or you need to be in the right frame of mind to make this kind of music, especially the introspective, emotional side of ambient music. 

Sam KDC's new album, Late Night Innominate, is an ode to these very personal moments. Struggling to sleep, struggling to wake. Caught in a state of equilibrium, teetering on the edge of light, only to be pulled back into the shadows: "that feeling of recovery or those glimmers of hope"...

The album pans through heavy shaded textures with glimmers of color, slow burning melodies, haunting vocals and an ever present state of anxiety. Track (1) opens with warmth and optimism, before the more structured (and most relatable Auxiliary influence) on track (2) opens the floor for a more melodic expression. Each of the Untitled tracks are unquestionably yet subtly different, which is extremely hard to do across an ambient album - let alone your first. Pulling influences from his previous production techniques may have carved the way for more experimentation when it comes to the art of simplicity, but his play on loops and gradual builds is masterfully executed. My favorite track (5), concludes with the most energy out of the bunch, before a rumbling bass-driven, choral ending in (6), wraps up a stunning album that you'll find impossible to get lost in. 

Late Night Innominate, was released last week, but I've been following Sam for a while now, collecting his many colorful vinyl appearances and secretly wishing for a purely dedicated ambient album since his partnership with ASC on Decayed Society, so his isolatedmix comes at a perfect time. Sam has revisited the feelings that were invoked during the album's production process with a unique blend of emotional, soul-touching music. Some of the tracklist may look familiar, but in a similar vein to his album, the journey is encapsulating and entrancing, told through some of the purest and most heartfelt of producers and songwriters of our time. 

"I wanted to put together something that gave a little insight into where my mind was while working on the LP. It was a very on and off project because for me to write this type of music, I have to be in a very particular mental state, and it's not a state that's easily induced. It's like that feeling of recovery or those glimmers of hope, almost. Those moments where you've not given yourself over to full blown depression, where you can still function enough to get out of bed and care enough to record something. It's a rare state for me to be in, which is why the LP spans 5 years of recordings.

All of the music in this mix are tracks that have been with me in that special state. Some stemming back a lot farther than others, such as the Deftones or Nina Simone pieces. Some more recently, even coming into my life after the completion of Volume 1 of LNI, but still both nurse and reflect that mental state."- Sam KDC.

Late Night Innominate is available now via Auxiliary on marbled vinyl.

 
 

Download.

Tracklist:

01. Klimek - For Zofia Klimek & Gregory Crewdson
02. Mogwai - Helps Both Ways
03. Deaf Center - Oblivion
04. Tropic Of Cancer - Temporal Vessels
05. The Verve - Beautiful Mind
06. Alessandro Cortini - Dell' Influenza
07. Isis & Aerogramme - Stolen
08. Deftones - Be Quiet & Drive (Acoustic Version)
09. Dadavistic Orchestra - Strung Valve Checkout
10. Jenny Hval - How Gentle
11. William Basinski - Melancholia II
12. Dark Dark Dark - Hear Me
13. Nina Simone - Plain Gold Ring
14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Tracknotes:

Klimek - For Zofia Klimek & Gregory Crewdson
I found this piece maybe 5 or so years ago, from a trailer for a film "Moon Lake" that my friend Gloria Petkova (who I worked with on vocals on Survive/Exist a couple of years ago)  was in. It haunted me and took some digging to find out what it was. I was aware of Klimek's work already from his Milk & Honey LP on Kompakt, and finding this piece lead to discovering his Dedications LP which is incredible. This particular piece really stayed with me though. 

Mogwai - Helps Both Ways
Come On Die Young has been in my life since those tender teenage years and I still reach for it regularly. One of those albums that you can just melt to. It was hard to pick just one track from it to play, they're all favourites. 

Deaf Center - Oblivion
A more recent recommendation from ASC. Haven't heard anything from Deaf Center which isn't instantly moving. 

Tropic Of Cancer - Temporal Vessels
When in the state that I spoke about earlier, Camella Lobo's work is perfect. Again, it was difficult to choose a piece of her's to include. "A Color" is probably the track I draw for the most, but I felt it's a little overplayed to include here, and this one fits the bill nicely.

The Verve - Beautiful Mind
It's just perfect. Goosebump inducing.

Alessandro Cortini - Dell' Influenza
Another recent one. I was never a NIN fan, and wasn't aware of Cortini's work until the release of this LP. 

Isis & Aerogramme - Stolen
One to sink into the floor with.

Deftones - Be Quiet & Drive (Acoustic Version)
I didn't listen to any form of electronic music until this side of the millennium, before that I was all about grunge, metal, punk etc, but always had a real fondness of the quieter moments. Nirvana's unplugged was my favourite LP of theirs from it's release and when Deftones released the Be Quiet & Drive single and this was on the flip, it's resonated with me on that very special level ever since then. One of those pieces I will have years between hearing, and then when I do, it's a moment to be fully submersed in nostalgia. 

Dadavistic Orchestra - Strung Valve Checkout
An ASC recommendation again. Bliss.

Jenny Hval - How Gentle
I think this is probably my soundtrack of regret. Not in a dark, remorseful or frustrated way, but in a curious almost playful sadness. A wondering of the possibilities of overcoming certain fears, for putting desire before preservation. That kind of thing. An almost lighthearted/dismissive contemplation of things that really cut to the bone, but pretending that perhaps they don't.

William Basinski - Melancholia II
Hearing Basinski's work for the first time all those years ago was a real turning point for me. I'd been a fan of ambient music for a while, enjoying albums by Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and the like of widely known artists, but The Disintegration Loops spoke to me on a level no other ambient had until that point. It was the first time a piece of music reduced me to tears upon the first time hearing it and opened up a whole new musical world for me. I don't know if I would have ever started writing ambient music if it wasn't for hearing Basinski. 

Dark Dark Dark - Hear Me
I really don't remember how this piece came into my life, but I'm very glad it did. One of those "Hanging on in quiet desperation" moments.

Nina Simone - Plain Gold Ring
I love Nina Simone, and Plain Gold Ring is the ultimate immortalization of longing for the unobtainable. 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
More truth from the man. There's few LP's by Nick than I can really enjoy all the way through, as they often have a moment within them that's either a little too saccharine or a little too abrasive. But this album is amazing from start to finish. I would say it's his most accomplished work. The whole album is moving, haunting and very real and this piece that closes the album rings through long after you've finished listening.