1. Eluvium | New Animals From The Air
+ Taken... From the album Talk Amongst The Trees. Both these songs, in an incredible way, changed my life. I didn’t become a happier person after listening to these songs (or in fact, the album), nor did I all of a sudden realize I had to take control of my life or any other ridiculous spiel. What did happen, however, was that I was able to listen to Music differently now – I wasn’t just about guitar riffs and leads and solos and all that. I was able to hear and understand Texture and Sound better than I ever had. A lot of Ambient Music can vary – from drones to dark Ambient to some of Eno’s Music which is a lot more Background Music – but for me Eluvium’s approach to making emotive, incredible Music is the perfect template, and one which I try to follow. These two songs, for me, are perfect examples of Matthew Cooper’s musical identity. On a side note, I should also mention that Taken is technically incredible. It’s essentially a few chords looped over and over, with subtle chord (& voicing) changes. Yet, over its sixteen minute length, it has never bored me or ceased to hold my attention. I think alongside Philip Glass’ Piano Solos, this track helped me understand Minimalism far better than any Wikipedia entry or essay.
2. Rustie | Ultra Thizz
For some reason or another, Happy Music doesn’t tend to carry the same emotional weight for me as more Moody Music. I think the line between what constitutes Happy and what ends up being nauseatingly saccharine is a fine one, and often – for me anyway – songs tend to fall in the latter category. I think Ultra Thizz is probably saccharine as well, but this song manages to brighten up my day like no other. It’s just deliriously ecstatic and exhilarating.
3. Mount Kimbie | Maybes
Just as Eluvium is why I got that vital push to make Ambient Music, Mount Kimbie are a big reason why I make Electronic Music. Maybes has that perfect mix of chords drenched in a reverberant atmosphere while still maintaining a rhythm, one that is very unique to Mount Kimbie. I love that idea of Electronic Music being able to exist in Space, rather than the sort of aggressive interminable pounding of 4x4 House/Techno, or the weird overkill of layers that IDM producers often engage in.
4. The National | Mr. November
I’m not much of a singer-along, but I can’t help shouting along to Mr. November. The National are one of my favourite bands, and though it’s really hard to pick out my favourite songs of theirs, I think Mr. November wins the cake because of its pretty unparalleled ability to make me singalong to it – much to the chagrin of whoever is around me, of course.
5. Low | Lullaby
I think I had a hard time getting my bearings straight the first time I heard Low. They’re slow, they weave their instruments and voices amidst nothing but Space, and they’re just utterly breathtaking. I've never heard anyone not term Low’s Music as depressing and all that, but for me they’re just a band that makes some of the most outrageously gorgeous Music I've ever heard. Also, on a side note, Alan Sparhawk’s guitar work has influenced me a fair bit, particularly some of the tunings he uses and just the way he attacks his guitar at times, particularly on the marvel that is Do You Know How To Waltz?.
6. Burial | Fostercare
Though I fell in love with Burial after hearing Untrue, Fostercare with its call-and-response vocals is when I realized Burial exists on a completely different plane from every other producer out there. It’s a stunning piece of Music, and just shows how Electronic Music can have an incredible amount of atmosphere and Life, without so much as a hint of the synthetic.
7. Tim Hecker | Whitecaps Of White Noise I
Over the years, Tim Hecker has become a huge influence on my Music, especially with regards to how he treats Noise. He layers his Music in such a way that underneath the ostensibly superficial, slightly unnerving noise, lies some of the most beautiful Music you’ll ever hear. I've always been a fan of that – of making a listener pay that little bit more attention to the Music to find it, so to speak. In that sense, Hecker’s work has always been an influence – and it all started with this song. The second half, especially, is breathtaking, and I can’t not sit down and just let myself be absorbed whenever I listen to this track.
8. Sigur Rós | Untitled #8 (aka Popplagið aka The Pop Song)
The whole album, ( ), holds significance for me because I remember listening to it in between trips to Peshawar during 2004/2005. My family had just moved cities, so it was a period of transition in my life – in more ways than one. I was finding out more about Indie and Post-Rock, and one of the gateway bands was Sigur Rós. I remember hearing Untitled #8 the first time just as we were about to enter Peshawar, and by the time the song finished I was completely devastated. The crescendo in this song is still one of the best I have ever heard, and even now though I tend to listen to the song with rapt attention, I can’t help but bring out the air drums for the climax.
9. The For Carnation | Moonbeams
There are two broad approaches to Music that I've always been really interested in – sparse, glacially paced melancholy (like Low) and gorgeous Music that hides behind a veneer of grit and noise (like Tim Hecker). Moonbeams is a brilliant representation of the first idea; it’s breathtakingly beautiful and just lets lots of Space breathe within the song. It’s never instrumentally overpowering, and just feeds off the idea that letting sounds linger is never a bad idea. It’s not only a brilliant song but also a thorough manifestation of a unique means to approaching Music and Emotion.
10. The Microphones | The Glow Pt. 2
The Glow Pt. 2 is another example of how to mix two different sonic ideas – Folk, and Noise. Even though I shouldn’t have, I fell in love with the album the first time I heard it and I couldn’t, for the life of me, get over how it was abrasive at times, yet incredibly beautiful and revelatory. It’s hard to pick a song from an album that’s so perfect, but I think the title song would be my choice if I had a gun to my head. I love how it moves from a sombre mood to this noisy, jovial atmosphere without so much so as a nod to the change. It’s this sort of mood (and sonic) change that I also try to regularly recreate. There’s something about shifting perceptions of songs, of albums, of Music, that has always been intriguing for me. The Glow Pt. 2 did nothing to lessen my fascination with the idea.