Thursday, March 26, 2015

Music For Meditation

     I am so excited to introduce my better half to you!  I know I've written about him many times, because, let's face it, he either starred in, or had a hand in making all of these "tales from our cottage." You probably feel like you know him already! Jared will be sharing posts along with me, and I can't wait for you to hear all of his expertise, not to mention his perfectly timely sense of humor.  He is pretty much a music guru, garden master, beer connoisseur, and a professional at dealing with most of the struggles that come along with taking care of a young, chronically ill person.  He has an enthusiasm for life that will envelop your noggin as you read, and will inspire you and knock your socks off all at the same time! Join me in welcoming Mr. Storm to "Tales from a Cottage," in first person!!!  Take it away, Jared.....


During the past year my wife Lindsay has gone through a hellish struggle with her health.  One of the main culprits she’s been diagnosed with is fibromyalgia.  At first, she began attending physical therapy which seemed to help in the beginning, but over time it began to feel like the therapy had screeched to a halt and wasn’t helping as much as it should.  We decided to take matters in our own hands and just about everyday now we do yoga together.  We came across a practice instructed by Rodney Yee that uses gentle, restorative yoga and focuses on healing any pain from fibromyalgia.  Yee always has an amusing way of speaking that makes us chuckle every time, he’s become quite quotable around the house.  He’s really great.  Anyways, there’s several different styles of yoga, but one thing a lot of them share in common is that they focus on relaxation and meditation.   

While we’ve been pretty successful with keeping up with our yoga practices, I’ve had trouble with allowing myself enough time to look inward and meditate.  I know, we’re all busy with our family, work, hobbies, and other obligations, but if you can close the rest of the world out and meditate for at least five to ten minutes a day then that’s a perfect way to start.  I’m currently working on that to  relieve some of my stress.  Another thing I’ve found that has helped relieve stress over the years is music.  I’m a huge music fan.  Lindsay and I like a lot of the same stuff, but there’s plenty of my music that she could tell you is just atrocious. (See: Swans, Death Grips, John Maus...)  These albums do not fall into that category.  I’ve selected these albums because they are calming and have allowed me to find peace and the right amount of quiet when I’ve needed it.  I hope to use these albums more in an effort to find clarity and to help me meditate on whatever I'm struggling with.  You may prefer to meditate in silence and that’s great, do what works best for you.  I’ve found my mind begins to wonder and worry about minor or major problems of the upcoming day when there’s absolute silence.  Its hard to clear the clutter.  These albums give my mind something to return to and focus on as I recognize that clutter and let it drift away. If you think that yoga or meditation is too new age, or witchy, it’s 2015 and you need to check yourself.  So, here they are in no particular order:

Stars Of The Lid “The Tired Sounds Of...” 
This album is what initially peaked my interest into ambient music.  I first heard it while I was living in Chicago, working at a record distributor.  It was like nothing I had ever heard before, it blew my mind!  And now, Stars Of The Lid is probably one of my favorite bands of all time.  The title of the album describes the music perfectly, droned out-heavily treated guitar, horn, flute, piano, and other classical instruments make simple sounds and creates maximum opuses!  If you only listen to one of these, make it this one.  Or probably the next album, that’s a tough one...

Brian Eno “Ambient 1: Music For Airports”
One of the first, if not the first “ambient” album, this was recorded during 1978.  The idea for this album was "intended to induce calm and a space to think.", which is exactly what I find it does for me.  The music consists of tape loops of different lengths consisting of acoustic piano, electric piano, synthesizers and vocals.  I’ve heard Eno came up with the idea while laying in a hospital bed and hearing muffled, silenced classical music for several hours.  It’s also been said he came up with the idea while being stranded at well, an airport.  This man has to have at least 20+ ambient albums under his belt and I'd recommend them all!

The Caretaker “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World”
This album is a bunch of 78 records sampled and rearranged and edited, mostly old time ballroom style records.  Sometimes the scratches on the vinyl are amplified to the point where they make up the majority of some songs.  The ballroom scene in “The Shining” is the perfect description for this album, which I have read from somewhere else and I’m sure has been referenced many other times.

The Dead Texan “The Dead Texan”
This is Adam Wiltzie of Stars Of The Lid, and unlike SOTL there’s more instrumentation throughout this album and even some soft vocals!  Wiltzie said these songs were supposed to be on a SOTL album, but were “too aggressive”.  Aggressive is the last word that would come to mind thinking of this album, it is definitely soothing, dreamy and calming.  The final song on the album, “The Struggle” is one of my favorites.

Brian McBride “The Effective Disconnect”
The other half of Stars Of The Lid (are you beginning to notice a common theme here?), McBride conducted this music for a documentary called “The Vanishing Of The Bees”.  No surprise the sounds on this album are along the same vein as those on any of the Stars Of The Lid albums, smooth and dulcet as always.

Tim Hecker “Dropped Pianos”
Tim Hecker, another ambient artist I discovered while working in Chicago, usually puts out more abrasive albums full of electronic glitches and echoes of white noise. (see: “Mirages”, “Ravedeath, 1972”)  However, this album has a softer sound than most of his other ones.  Essentially, it’s just a bunch of simple sketches that he made to dissect for a future album.  The instrumentation of that album is mostly, believe it or not, pianos.

William Basinski “The Disintegration Loops”
Via Dusted Magazine, “In transferring 20-year-old loops from analogue to digital format, the tapes decayed, and Basinski captured the phenomenon in its rawest state as the oxide literally flaked, fell off and became dust.”  Basinki was living in New York City at the time, and has said he was completing the tapes during September 11th while the Twin Towers were attacked, hints the album covers.  It’s amazing to listen to the sounds slowly deteriorate.

Aix Em Klemm “Aix Em Klemm”
Yet, another release from Adam Wiltzie of Stars Of The Lid.  Last one, I swear.  He teamed up with one of the guys from Labradford for this release.  Still as calm as ever.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen “A Winged Victory for the Sullen”

Ok, so I lied.  This is the latest output from Wiltzie of SOTL.  It’s probably my least favorite release from any of the projects that he’s been involved in, but it’s still good.  Perfect for just sitting back or laying down and unwinding.

Aphex Twin “Selected Ambient Works 85-92”

Wait, I thought this was a list of ambient music, not techno?  Well, it says ambient right there in the album title!  This is basically ambient music with some beats layered in.  Definitely worth checking out if you’ve never given Aphex Twin a listen.  The next couple of albums listed aren’t exactly ambient and have a “rhythm section”, but they still maintain a sound that you can really decompress to.

Boards Of Canada “Music Has The Right To Children”
I really don’t know what to say to describe this one, thick layers of melodies from different synthesizers, laid back beats and the occasional eerie vocal samples.  No other bands have touched on the sounds these guys have been able to come up with.  You just need to go and listen to this if you haven’t already.

Polmo Polpo “Like Hearts Swelling”
This is another one of those albums that I was lucky to uncover while working in that Chicago warehouse.  Polmo Polpo translates to “octopus lung” in italian.  Sandro Perri is the man behind the name, I think the translation is probably a good description of the music, but then again it sounds so much prettier than the image those words draw up.  The rhythm within the music sounds like being underneath waves, hell, most of the sounds on the album sound like they were recorded underneath water, or at least in an aquarium-like surrounding.  This album still remains one of my favorites after all of these years, and I suppose there are a few moments where it could get maybe just a little noisey, but I still find the album to be mostly tranquilizing.

Gas “Nah Und Fern”

I don’t think I can beat the description for this one that Wikipedia has: “Gas is a music project of Wolfgang Voigt (born 1961), a Cologne, Germany-based electronic musician. Voigt cites his youthful LSD experiences in the Königsforst, a German forest situated near his hometown of Köln, as the inspiration behind his work under the name Gas.  He has claimed that the intention of the project is to "bring the forest to the disco, or vice-versa".


Honorable Mentions:

Loscil "Submers"
Eluvium "Copia"
Tarentel "Big Black Square EP"
Keith Fullerton Whitman "Playthroughs"

My hope is that while listening to these, you heard something that brought you some peace and composure.  If any of these strike a chord with you,  then I would recommend downloading that album, or finding a physical copy to enjoy the best possible audio experience you can.  In the future, whenever you’re listening to music, or experiencing any art for that matter (television, film, theatre, visual arts, etc...) always ask yourself, “How does this make me feel?"  

Inhale, exhale and pause.


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