Friday Top 5: Meditative Albums

Happy Birthday to a real, badass dude: the Buddha. Without getting into a religious discussion, I feel that some albums are better at relaxing the listener and in some ways engage them at a deeper level. In these cases, the music serves as a map to guide the listener along a journey of self-discovery. In our modern, hectic lives, consumed by outside distractions and never-ending suffering around every corner, few of us can truly turn within and for just a moment, think deeply. As soon as we turn on our favorite album or mix-tape from someone special, we are transported to a meaningful place; there in that moment, enjoying it for what it is. So, in honor of the birth of one of the most influential people to ever grace the earth, here’s a list of the top 5 meditative albums to help get you in a thoughtful mood and let the world around you melt away.


5. Air – Moon Safari

In terms of this topic, the album title says it all. This is my go-to album if want to relax and escape from reality, if only for a moment. Tracks like ‘Le Femme D’Argent’ and ‘Talisman’ both utilize a soothing organ and bass line that at once relax the listener, while simultaneously takes them on a voyage through space and sound. This album is no secret within the music community, but it most certainly deserved a spot on the list.


4. múm – Finally We Are No One

There’s something very soothing, thought-provoking, and hauntingly beautiful about Iceland. It’s isolation from the rest of the world and the extra-terrestrial landscape, as seen in Sigur Ros’ Heima, certainly aids this idea. However, the fact that múm takes all that inspiration to create something equally peaceful and evocative is equally fascinating. With 2nd release, the band conceived the music in a lighthouse and not surprisingly, the isolation, mystery, and seriousness of that setting exudes through the music. It’s the ideal soundtrack for a watching the rain fall against a window pane.


3. Ulrich Schnauss- A Strangely Isolated Place

I stumbled upon this album while travelling through Europe and can’t think of a better soundtrack to the way I felt then. During the trip, I felt I needed to take a mental sabbatical from the stresses of life back home. When riding the rails throughout the foreign continent, this was the one album that was on repeat to help focus my energy and recharge. Well, almost exactly like this, actually. In some ways, music can help enhance your surroundings to help you focus on the details that are so often missed. Ulrich Schnauss’s ambience and unhurried yet pulsating tempos helps slow down your mind and take it all in.


2. Boards of Canada – Twoism

In tone and mood, BoC introduces more down-tempo and trip-hop to a heavy dose of ambience. I recently rediscovered this gem in my collection and on late night sketch sessions, the sounds of BoC completely fills my headphones and transforms my mood. These Scottish beat makers create sound-scapes that are at once beautiful and meditative, while at the same time fragile and tragic.


1. The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur

If there is one soundtrack to help me see through the haze and deeply gaze into my being, it’s this one. The all-encompassing string and piano arrangements, stark and deeply moving vocals, and the overall tempo and mood of Ma Fleur, open me up like a lotus flower; aware and accepting, yet vulnerable. What began as a soundtrack to an un-filmed movie, essentially speaks louder than any image ever could. The Buddha was no stranger to the haunting emotions of love, attachment, and inevitable mortality and neither are we. Sometimes the best way to lift the weight from the world around us is to breathe deeply and tackle these emotions head-on.


The one thing I noticed when writing this piece, was the timeframe for releases. Surely there must be other albums released pre-90’s that you readers chill-out to; let me hear ‘em.


One comment

  • Holy crap, I love this.

    So the early/mid nineties was my peak of zone out electronica. I found my happy place in compilations, some from labels like the 3AD series, some from magazines like the URB trance collections. Through them I found the beauty of IDM or trance or whatever we are supposed to call it and got selective about artists.

    The hit list for me:

    Autechre – Almost anything, especially a tune called “The Egg”

    Aphex Twin – “Selected Ambient Works”

    Fila Brazillia – “Maim That Tune” or “Luck Be a Wierdo Tonight”

    Any LTJ Bukem compilation – D&B done well puts holes in face, “Earth” the best (and the single most expensive CD I ever bought)

    3AD Compilation from ’96 – Higher Inteliigence Agency, Cold Cut and Space Time Continuum with serious supporting cast

    Nettwerk Compilation “Dead Time’s Exploding Dream” from 1991 – extended mix of Vox by Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy, Manufacture and MC 900 Ft Jesus provide the come down soundtrack.

    “mind the gap” a grooveattack compilation – Fila Brazillia (mentioned above), Tosca, Doppelganger and Mr. Scruff (way before Lincoln commercial fame).

    It’s all about chasing the moment in a song that makes your brain seep out one ear and eyes swim.

    Recently, Holy Other, Apparat, Album Leaf, Keep Shelly in Athens, The New Division, Johan Agebjorn, Austra are on “new” the mellow playlist…

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