Searching for some music to chill out to – we’ve got you covered

Sometimes you just need some music to relax to so you can let your mind wander. Here we check out ten recent releases from the jazz, ambient and classical realm that are perfect for a late night or rainy afternoon.

Siblings & Siblings 2 
Alex Somers
★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

This pair of albums is Alex Somers first release, but he’s been making music for a long time. With former boyfriend Jónsi Birgisson he released the sublime album Riceboy Sleeps in 2009 and he also collaborated on the Sigur Ros singers solo projects. He’s also made a stack of film scores over the years. Siblings starts with the haunting sound of child singing on Weeping Willow before it moves into dark territory with orchestral sounds and glitchy electronics on Oh Willow I Die. Muted orchestral sounds and matched with distorted vocals and murky pianos, the listener is challenged to listen closely to melodies that lurk within. Whirlpool is comprised of deep melodic sighs while the closing track of the first album Looking After slowly builds a warm resonance before quietly fading away.     

Siblings 2, which was released at the same time is a harder sounding record with crushing distortion overlaid on some tracks, and warped music box sounds at the fore but amongst the challeging sounds are tracks of great beauty like Woven, Never Ending and Sooner. These are two companion albums that you can listen to repetitively and get lost in their sounds.

Max Richter
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the inspiration for Max Richter’s latest offering. Readings from Eleanor Roosevelt, actress Kiki Layne and other voices crowd sources from around the world are backed by gentle and soothing orchestral sounds. The album is also released with a version of the tunes which features just the music without the readings, and personally I found this version much more pleasing. Richter dives into a journey filled with mellow and melancholy melodies. Richter is a prolific composer but this one is definitely worth adding to your listening list.

You Look So Serious
Florian T M Zeisig
★ ★ ★ ½

Irish artist Enya has a new generation of fans, and here Florian T M Zeisig uses her Watermark album as the basis for his record. He cut her record into 426 four second tape loops and then reassembles them as new compositions. Does it sound like someone put Enya through a blender? Absolutely yes – but it’s a mesmerising result. Over eight tracks your drawn into this sliced and diced soundscape that is warped and mangled into something distorted, but ultimately still very beautiful.

Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Floating Points teams up with jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra for this epic new work. In the first movement a motif of a string of notes is introduced and over the next nine movements it remains the central focus of the work, slowly changing and evolving. A counterpoint to this is one of the world’s most acclaimed saxophonists, now in his 80th year, delivering a lazy hazy jazz story.  The music builds and develops track by track until in the 6th movement the full symphony orchestra breaks out in a rush of romanticism.

★ ★ ★ ★

This four track EP from the British musician Bradley Miller, who performs under the name cktrl, features saxophone lead soundscapes inspired by the feeling of heartbreak. The vinyl version of the EP promises two additional tracks not available digitally. The four tunes are distinctly different, but all teeter in the space between classical and jazz. While the first three tunes Lighthouse, Robyn, and Will The Feeling Leave sound downhearted and pining, the closing track As You Are hints at a brighter future with bird song, a steady beat and sing-a-long vocals.

Blank Gloss
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This Sacramento duo have been labeled Ambient Country, Cosmic Pastoral and Bootgaze, as music critics search for a term to describe the micro-genre that pulls on themes of Americana and seriously ambient chill-out sounds. Filled with delicately plucked strings, long drawn out notes from steel guitars and shimmering electronic sounds this is an exceptionally mellow record, the perfect soundtrack to being stuck in a desert on a blisteringly hot day. Six tracks into the album we hit Strewn All Over which wakes us from a hallucinogenic slumber, featuring a mix of beats and melody this slow vibe is the pinnacle of the album’s journey before we retreat back to peaceful tones.  

Nick Rhodes and Wendy Bevan
Astronomia I & II
★ ★ ★  

Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist from Duran Duran, has teamed up with musician Wendy Bevan to create four albums that are being released on the summer and winter solstice and autumnal and spring equinox. As they’re timed for the northern hemisphere, we’re getting them out of season. The concept is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s 2017 project Reflection which was released as a phone app that updated each season. Rhodes and Bevan’s celestial inspired project is filled with synthesizers sounds and almost operatic vocals.  At times it sounds like it could be the lost soundtrack to a 70’s sci-fi series . 

Modulations EP2
James Heather
★ ★ ★ ★

On this EP James Heather presents five short piano based works, recorded in home studio during lockdown as the artist dealt with the tragic death of his father. The sounds are intricate and complicated, powerful rolling melodies that are not sorrowful, but express a deep concentration and seriousness. Each track in the sequence takes along another step of an emotional journey. The closing piece Happy Tears evokes a feeling of hope, but maybe not in the immediate moment, perhaps in the future.

Graeme Watson

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