To cap off the few remaining weeks of winter, the collective curated a playlist of moody songs to accompany cloudy, overcast days. These songs range from brooding piano compositions to atmospheric musique concrète soundscapes, all suited to reflect the contemplative qualities of a grey day.
Song: "Pockets of Light" (excerpt)
Artist: Lubomyr Melnyk
Album: Melnyk: Corollaries
Melnyk is a wildly unique pianist -- he plays huge arpeggios very very quickly and with the sustain pedal always open. The overtones and resonances shift and morph into one another. This is an excerpt from a nearly twenty minute song, which is entirely worth the listen. Melnyk’s music is soft and striking and perfect for the rain (or snow!)
Artist: Masayoshi Fujita
Fujita is a Japanese vibraphonist who plays with what feels like lots of tenderness to me. He’s also on Erased Tapes (where Melnyk has released music, along with Nils Frahm and others). Fujita has also released a more avant garde album, “Bird, Lake, Objects” with Jan Jelinek which is superb. Quiet and contemplative.
Song: “The Sentiments”
Artist: Heather Woods Broderick
I stumbled onto this album by chance, never having heard of Broderick. I loved it all the way through, but the spacious sadness of this song in particular reminds me of Grouper, and others. This song takes up space, and revels in it. Want to mope and watch the rain slide down a window? Me too, always.
Song: "A New Theory of Eclipse"
Artist: Laura Cannell
Album: Simultaneous Flight Movement
Laura Cannell plays the fiddle like I’ve never seen before - literally. She strings a bow over all four strings, allowing her to play them all at once. The result is magical, sounding somewhere between a violin and a hurdy-gurdy. Paired with her study and inspiration from early English music and plainchant, her music evokes mists, peat, moss, green and gray, the cold. I can hear the hooves in the background, I am soaked through and I love it.
Song: "Purpose (Is No Country)"
Artist: Ian William Craig
Album: Slow Vessels
Slow Vessels is an album of acoustic covers of William’s 2016 Centres, one of my favorite albums of that year and still heavy in my rotation of sadgirl music. This simple cover highlights William’s incredible voice, and the simplicity of the composition. On Centres this track is a dense layer of multi-tracked vocals. Here, the quiet guitar and fuzz conjure images of being holed up and waiting for the drizzle to stop. It’s beautiful.
In the Pacific Northwest, walking around and listening to moody tunes on gray rainy days is basically a local pastime. Here are a few tracks that have been setting the mood everyday while I walk around the dark, wet streets of Seattle.
Song: “Echo’s Answer”
Album: The Noise Made by People
Few things pair as well with a dreary, damp Seattle day as “Echo’s Answer” does. If I'm feeling extra sulky, throwing this track on my headphones during my morning walk to the bus stop slows down time and makes me feel like I've stepped into a black and white movie. Broadcast gained popularity in the early 2000's for injecting pop-electronica songwriting into 1960's-style psychedelic soundscapes that totally envelop the listener. "Echo's Answer" is no exception, and has a bizarre ability to make me feel both melancholic and somehow hopeful.
Song: “No Justice”
Artist: Astronauts, etc.
Album: Mind Out Wandering
This song, and much of this album, screams gray rainy day. Wavy keyboards, staccato guitar riffs and a shuffling, laid-back drumbeat carry Anthony Ferraro's moody falsetto as he meditates on the injustices suffered by those in love. Whether you can relate or not, just lay back and let this one take you places.
Song: “Silhouettes I, II and III”
Artist: Floating Points
I don't have enough good things to say about Floating Points. In 10 minutes, this track builds from an ominous, slow-boiling groove to an operatic climax that makes you feel like the sky is falling, trampling genre boundaries between jazz, chill-rock and electronic music in the process. For any 70’s-80’s jazz fusion nerds out there, it sounds like Chick Corea and the Mahavishnu Orchestra landed in 2015 and fell in love with electronic music. For lesser producers, a song like this might be the peak of their abilities. But for Floating Points, it's par for the course. The entire Elaenia album, and the rest of Floating Points' catalogue, is full of rich, challenging tunes that span jazz, house, and straight soundscapes. As if this weren't enough, the dude is also a neuroscientist.
Artist: Nina Simone
Album: Late Night Tales: Bonobo
Ah, Miss Simone. Although this song is likely meant as a bit of social commentary, on its surface it basically describes walking through a seaside city on a miserable, rainy day. What could be more perfect for this list? Like everything Nina Simone did, her cover of this Randy Newman song oozes beautifully with melancholy, power and soul, and like a lot of the other songs above, feels absolutely cinematic. I also picked this because it's a highlight of Bonobo's Late Night Tales compilation, which I've linked here. I didn't want to do a write up on the whole album, but the continuous mix is an absolutely perfect listen for gray, cloudy days. As soon as you've gotten through the rest of this list, go listen for yourself.
Song: “Just a Cloud”
As much as all that slow stuff is great, sometimes you still need something with a beat to put a little pep in your step and get you through your day. "Just a Cloud" fits the bill with a hypnotic, mysterious vibe that makes you wanna move your feet. The robotic refrain should resonate if you're into this list: "I wish that I was just a cloud/In the sky, above the land/I wish that I was just a cloud/Take less shape and disappear." Until the sun comes out, throw on some Lusine, stare up at the clouds and imagine how awesome it would be if you could join them.
Song: “Heart of Stillness”
Album: Artificial Dance
My absolute favorite part about working at a record store is being there on a cloudy day, sorting through records to pick a soundtrack for the shop and create a moody vibe. One of those days I came across this reissue of an ‘83 ambient musique concrète record from Savant, a moniker for Seattle-based artist Kerry Leimer. The album is reminiscent of a Delia Derbyshire work - samples recorded to reel-to-reel tapes, cut into pieces, looped, layered, and reassembled. The sounds are scattered and choppy. The space between the samples is filled with hallucinogenic-like dub echoes, dizzying polyrhythmic looping, and dissonant synth lines. The overall effect is very cold and strange…I imagine it to be the musical equivalent of walking into a room in a modern art museum that’s all white and sterile, with just one plain black canvas on a wall.
While this whole album has now become my stand-by cloudy day album for the record store due to its brooding landscapes, “Heart of Stillness” is the highlight track for a lightly drizzling day. It’s the more lush sounding track on this album, the instruments pitter-pattering like raindrops atop tribal drum beats to create a heady, rainforest-kinda feel. An ideal song for watching the skies and going into a daze.
Artist: Aphex Twin
Album: Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
This song is a lucid dream. It’s the song you put on for the overcast days that call for deep introspection and withdrawal from the outside world. It’s the kind of song that makes you so intensely nostalgic for something you’re not even quite sure of. The unidentifiable noises and vocal sample give off this very distant feeling that can make you feel so hollow, until the beautiful cascading melody falls in about half-way through to carry the ethereal nature of the song into something more tangible and comforting. Any Aphex Twin song (or really most any IDM song from producers like Four Tet, Boards of Canada, etc.) would be fitting for a waking dream-type overcast day, but this song defines that mood unlike the rest of ‘em.
Artist: Coldcut & Hexstatic
Another heady one from the UK. While this track also contains those ethereal qualities fit for an overcast day (mostly once the vocal sample drops in about halfway through), it’s more upbeat than what you’d get from the IDM producers mentioned above. Coldcut incorporates that sulky, moody feel from his trip-hop background while Hexstatic brings in those essential breakbeat kicks to make this track strangely dance-able. I’d recommend this song for going on a drive on a freeway or empty street just before it gets dark out...still soaking in the overcast day vibes while you’re steady groovin’ to the rhythm from a coasting drive.
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