So, you've just come home from a heavy night stomping around like a Yeti on the dancefloor. You've had one too many Snakebite's and you've found your clothes drenched with someone else's pint of bitter and to top it off you've got a thumping headache which pulsates greater than Stressed Eric's forehead.

But you're sick of the traditional R&B *cough* Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross to chill you out and instead, although you want to remain in the mood for some romance and loving (or just some nooky), you're in need of some more ambient tones. Or you might just want to put on some nice music to uplift you, if say you're ill? Who said anything about sex?

Well, hopefully these 10 artists' tracks might do the trick. Or if not, just buy one of those ever-present Ministry Of Sound Chillout albums.

Tracks: PACIFIC STATE, OLYMPIC, LIFT

Artist:   808 STATE

"Ambient Techno" tracks which provide the perfect transition between dancefloor highs and couch-potato contentment. 808 State were renowned for their ability to construct tracks which contain elegance, whilst not removing the necessity for a vivacious rhythm. The Manchester group's Pacific State (although sounds very 1989, which is exactly when it was released) became a #10 club and chillout hit single in the UK and catapulted these knob-twiddling masters to fame, through their sustained atmospheric synth pads, saxophone (played by the group's Graham Massey) and very-pacific sounding tropical bird tweeting wild-tracks resonating in the background. Olympic and Lift follow on a similar vein with the stereotypical techno sound - often reminiscent of proceeding computer game soundtracks including Super Mario, Crash Bandicoot or Gran Turismo - awash with synth-hooked and subtle piano textures bound to enlighten you. Beautifully crafted, not too fast and not too slow, 808 State had an imperious aptitude for pleasing their audiences.

 

Tracks: BELFAST, HALCYON

Artist:   ORBITAL

Orbital's Chime and Lush presented the rave-able antidote for the dancefloor, but Belfast and Halcyon bore the fruits of intelligently composed work by brothers from Sevenoaks; Kent's very own Paul and Phil Hartnoll. Ambience is in subtle and tinkling supply on Belfast - with the track becoming a classic at the Hacienda club in Manchester during the 1990s after the obligatory e-popping had ended - with choral reverb driven vocals hoisted along by lapping wave-like synth passages and flickering robotic bass melodies, ensuring Belfast remains one of Orbital's finest efforts. Its gradual tempo decline at the end also helps the listener "come-down" even greater from the high which preceded it. Halcyon meanwhile is slightly faster and bounds along on a greater bass beat but begins in another equally elegant choral pose, with the listener being forgiven for thinking some sort of glowing dawn sunrise has just appeared. Both equally brilliant in their mixture of subtlety and poignancy, Orbital struck gold with the 1990s album market scene here and are just the ticket for a smooch or for "putting your feet up".

 

Tracks: ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART, WE'RE IN THE CITY

Artist:   SAINT ETIENNE

Often remembered for taking their name from the French city and football team - European Cup runners-up in 1970 - and being one of the founder groups part of the "Indie dance" market when "Indie" meant independent record label, Saint Etienne, became a dreamily sophisticated example of dance-pop in the '90s. Their debut UK single Only Love Can Break Your Heart which charted just inside the Top 40 at #39 in 1989, registered highly with music critics and dancers alike and through muscians' Bob Stanley (who is also a journalist for The Guardian) and Pete Wiggs' production alongside the sweet, airy vocals of Moira Wainwright and the then figurehead vocalist, Sarah Cracknell on We're In The City, Saint Etienne delivered the scented potpourri of '60's sounding pop intertwined with the relevant electronic textures. Both tracks contain realistic lyricism - of which the group gained sufficiently positive attention for - and remain pure examples of the ambient, chillout genre without sounding too frenetic and over-worked. Their simplicity and luscious layers will certainly help you relax.

Tracks: UNFINISHED SYMPATHY, SAFE FROM HARM

Artist:   MASSIVE ATTACK

"Trip-hop" had just begun in the early 1990s, with the backwaters of Bristol a hub for the genre at the time and alongside peers Portishead, Massive Attack championed the genre for the city. This was largely due to their superb track, Unfinished Sympathy, a #13 hit in the UK in 1991. A mixture of orchestral hits and synthesized string chords, elegantly accompanied by Shara Nelson's dazzling vocals, the single would mesmerise those used to '80s synthpop, metal and acid house and provide a refreshingly soulful reminder of how R&B-esque foundations merged with scratchier turntable electronics could result in a winning formula. Unfinished Sympathy contains the gentle string and piano melodies that groups like Goldfapp would later adopt in the current decade, whilst using the staple soft kick drum and hi-hat rhythms to surround the vocal and embrace its ethereal quality. Safe From Harm is equally refined and through Nelson's unparralled quality, helps define "Trip-hop" as the genre of "beautiful R&B" with chanted rap offerings from Tricky over bubbly bass synth and growling guitar, whilst not straying too far from its soulful roots. Massive Attack are certainly a must-have for any music collection.

 

Tracks: ADVICE FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART, LISTEN, PHAROAHS

Artist:   TEARS FOR FEARS

Dabbling in mainstream synthpop and rock during the 1980s, owing greatly to their 1985 monstrously hit-packed album, Songs From The Big Chair, Tears For Fears could be thought of as just a one-trick pony. But despite founder members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith's renowned ability to construct hook-driven hits including the UK and US Top 4 hits, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Shout - the latter a US #1 hit - the band from Bath managed to cutely amalgamate the rock tendencies of their heroic influences, The Beatles, Moody Blues and Pink Floyd and develop them in to a modern equivalent. This is no more evident here on Advice For The Young At Heart which shimmers with its electronic drum intro, ambient synth chords and jangling piano and its homage to the Fab Four's vocal sound and John Lennon's lyrics, and their prog-rock heroes subtle hammond organ and synthesized balance. The only surprise with the track is that it only reached #36 in the UK charts in 1990 on the group's album The Seeds Of Love, but amongst the acid house and bubblegum Stock, Aitken & Waterman pop hits, it is perhaps less surprising. Listen and Pharaohs - the latter an instrumental with a rasping marching drum intro, atmospheric piano and vocal samples of a shipping forecast - exemplify the beauty that Tears For Fears could be so accomplished at, rather than the commercial-driven hits they are more heartily remembered for. All in all, perfectly relaxing hits.

 

Tracks: RUINED IN A DAY, AVALANCHE

Artist:   NEW ORDER

Like Tears For Fears, New Order retreated to more spiritual and carefully intuitive and composed roots in the early 1990s, with their 1993 UK #1 album, Republic. The Manchester rock and dance group, produced a catalogue of subtle synthpop melodic masterpieces - in amongst their mainstream staple guitar-jangling hit, Regret, a #4 UK single - and these can be found no more so than in the UK Top 30 success, Ruined In A Day. The track was later remixed by K-Klass and transformed in to a dance hit New Order would be proud of, but the original shimmers in its "New Age" likenesses, with chimes and cow-bells aplenty alongside striking synths and tender drum rhythms. A calm track not piercing beyond House music tempos of around 110 beats per minute, Ruined In A Day is recognised for its video, with comedian Keith Allen - father of troublesome pop singer, Lily Allen - and the group collaborating in a game of charades in a buddhist monk temple. Its calming influence, like fellow instrumental track, Avalanche, help to soothe but don't stray in to such avenues Magic FM would welcome. Generally, Republic, is a forgotten masterpiece of synthpop up and downtempo wonders, with Regret, perhaps regrettably remembered too greatly despite other chiming and tinklingly ambient efforts like Times Change and Special remaining equally brilliant.

 

Tracks: GO, SIGNS OF LOVE, LOOK BACK IN

Artist:   MOBY

A maverick producer infamous for his verbal battles with rapper Eminem and vegetarian tendencies, Richard Melville Hall - better known as Moby, for his ancestral relation to Moby Dick author, Herman Melville - knows how to craft ambience and danceable rhythms simultaneously. From his early beginnings towards fame in 1990, with his debut self-titled album Moby, the multi-instrumentalist and producer renowned for using a plethora of vocal samples, forged house music melodies with chillout textures, verging on "Trip-hop" and "New Age". An early exquisite example of a dancefloor delight, with initial signs of his later development towards a refined ambient artist, is the UK #10 track Go which despite its robotic, electronic shifting bleeps and squeaks placing it more on the dancefloor than in the bedroom, remains a relaxing alternative for its synth voice chords, choral keyboard background, shimmering piano and synth and repetitive "Yeah" vocal sample. Go is almost a bizarre mixture of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Rhythim Is Rhythim, with its danceable quality but upliftingly relaxing synthetic ambience. Signs Of Love and Look Back In can be found on Moby's second successive UK and US hit album after 1998's Play, on his 2002 album, 18, which contains the trademark world music vocal samples, sustained synth pads, raucous distorted guitar riffs and gentile piano in everlasting supply. To this day, Moby remains a master in originality and eclecticism, able to produce successively beautiful records. It would be unfair to single out certain tracks of Moby's and instead pointing music lovers towards his albums, Moby, Ambient, Play and 18, gives a much better picture of Moby's grandiose.

 

Tracks: GLORY BOX, ONLY YOU, ROADS.

Artist: PORTISHEAD

Similar to their "Trip-hop" rivals Massive Attack, Morcheeba and Tricky and the "breakbeat" qualities of Groove Armada's At The River, Portishead - taking their name from the small coastal town near Bristol - wowed music audiences with their steady soul and haunting melodies at a time when Amy Winehouse was only a Secondary school kid. The group's debut album, Dummy, hit the headlines in 1994 for its unique electronic and organ sounds, scratchy guitar and turntable licks and for the poignant lyrics and desperately entrapped sounding vocal by lead singer, Beth Gibbons. Glory Box, a #13 UK hit in 1995, demonstrated the raw talent of a group string-driven, sad, but equally relaxing and alert, ensuring the track would provide the perfect missing link between dancefloor "come-down" and comfy chair relaxation. Whilst their are great tinges of emotion in nearly every Portishead record, none more so than in the bassy, spookily constructed Roads and the subtle-horn drive and bass guitar line of Only You - the latter track on the group's self-titled 1997 album Portishead - there is enough here to present a blend between relaxation and fervent rhythmic happiness.

 

Tracks: HAPPINESS, TIME OUT FROM THE WORLD

Artist:   GOLDFRAPP

An "other-worldly" type experience, Grammy Award-nominated Goldfrapp capture the meeting of Kate Bush's ambient witchy Hounds of Love delivery and the greater pounding "Trip-hop" beat textures. Vocalist Alison Goldfrapp and producer Will Gregory would often listen to Bush's records in Goldfrapp's London flat whilst popping some drugs and in their drug-induced state would surely pluck the delicately curious visions their subsequent musical majestries have given UK audiences. The duo's 2008 album Seventh Tree witnesses Alison revel in her floaty, dreamy vocal offerings, harnessed by the bizarre folk riffs and liquid bass backgrounds commonly associated with Goldfrapp and heard on the uplifting-yet-curious track, Happiness. With peculiarly spacey synth sounds aplenty, gentle clap rhythms and reassuring vocals, the track deserved better than the #25 placing it received in the UK singles chart last February. But alongside Time Out From The World - a majestic track with soaring vocals by Alison, swirling hammond organ, synth strings and pattering of kick drums - Goldfrapp do not need to prove their quality to mainstream music crowds more happily accquainted with Leona Lewis or Lil' Wayne's latest record. Goldfrapp's mysterious orchestral warmth and soothing exhibition is a much better alternative.

 

Tracks: SADNESS PART 1, RETURN TO INNOCENCE, THE RIVERS OF BELIEF

Artist:   ENIGMA

Perhaps the best example of ambience, chillout and relaxing music fused with a dance tendency, German/Romanian group Enigma became famous for their "New Age and World Beat" sound in 1990 through the fluke success of their debut hit single, Sadness Part 1. The track, penned by talented producers Michael Cretu and Jens Gad, baffled the music world as it peaked at #1 in the UK singles chart and reached the same position in Germany, whilst climbing to #5 in the US. Unfortunately now largely forgotten by the public today, Enigma created an extraordinary mixture of Shakuhachi flute samples and Gregorian monk chants on their debut album, MCMXC a.D. - which went on to sell over 16 million copies worldwide - and effectively brought the past in line with the present through their electronic sensibilites. Filled with chiming melodies, dancey kick drums, incessant hi-hat cymbals and Eastern sounding vocals, Enigma through Sadness Part 1 enveloped the perfect Kraftwerk-like electronic industrial elements with the relaxingly uplifting and euphoric synthesized melodies. Indeed their debut album contains tracks which Enigma themselves title as tracks for meditation and lyrics which resound in telling the listener "to take a deep breath, relax" and on their fellow follow-up hits, Return To Innocence - a UK #3 hit in 1994 - and The Rivers Of Belief filled with swirling synth and space-age chords. Their second studio album, 1993's The Cross Of Changes which delivered the aforementioned Return To Innocence is a suitable follow-up to their surprisingly pleasant hit MCMXC a.D. and through beautiful melodies and calming lyricism, Enigma are a perfect formula.

 

IF YOU LIKE THOSE, TRY THESE:

Tracks: HEAVEN GIVE ME WORDS, ONLY ONE WORD, HOW MUCH LOVE

Artist:   PROPAGANDA

Another German based group famous for synthpop ambience and robotic drive, Propaganda - who recruited Tears For Fears' former producers Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes and Simple Minds' Derek Forbes and Brian McGee - became a cult hit in the mid 1980s to early 1990s. Through relaxingly warm organ, piano and fluttering synths, with industrial records like the UK #27 hit Dr.Mabuse on the group's 1985 debut album, A Secret Wish, a thing of the past, Propaganda embarked on their reformed line up for 1990's 1,2,3,4 album with increased elegance and sophistication. Although not pure relaxation material, their tracks and most of the album contain hidden gems with chilled ambient potential often breaking out in to guitar and piano jangling masterpieces and can be found on the UK #36 hit Heaven Give Me Words, Only One Word and How Much Love - the latter home to a gorgeous synth instrumental passage. Through Betsi Miller's gravelly, but uplifting vocals, Propaganda became a minor hit in the UK and a renowned favourite in their homeland.

 

Tracks: HIGH HOPES, COMING BACK TO LIFE, WEARING THE INSIDE OUT

Artist:   PINK FLOYD

Years after their 1960s and 1970s prog-rock fame, Pink Floyd's cooler, spacier rock music provided a surprise hit in 1994 with their last recorded studio album, The Division Bell, which was extensively plugged on their UK P.U.L.S.E tour. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Dave Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright combined to send this album oriented group back to the forefront of British music, seven years after their previous effort, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987, had given the world the terrific single, Learning To Fly. However, that album lacked the same gentle atmospheric aesthetics which The Divison Bell encapsulated through its breathy vocals, rock organ and luscious synth keys and relaxed-but-rock driven songs. Although the album is not pure relaxation material, what it does offer is the gradual "come-down" from the dancefloor with its jangling guitar and drum patter and is perfect for anyone who wishes to listen to wonderfully constructed music, similar to the work of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells or ex-Pink Floyd collaborator, Alan Parsons. The album remains a nice alternative to dance anyhow and is the closest Pink Floyd got to ambience.

Comments

Now before this turns into a discussion about synthesizers again, let me just say that Glory Box by Portishead is one of my all-time favourites!

I prefer Massive Attack's Protection over Unfinished Sympathy though. Oh, and about Saint Etienne: Erica America is really good too, maybe better to listen to before going out rather than after coming back home. And do you know Air's La Femme d'Argent and A New Star in the Sky? And Playground Love (which is from the soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides)? 

Definitely choonage :) 

you like the tracks and don't worry I won't turn this in to a discussion on synthesizers (I bent my girlfriend's ear off enough with that when I was with her, perhaps that's why she got sick of me haha :)). But in all seriousness, Glory Box is good and at the time I think I remember my Dad hated it because it sounded different and because everybody else liked it. But even as a six year old kid, I liked the sound of it haha.

It is a good song and Portishead are a bit weird, but in a good way. They're a more raw version of between Radiohead and Texas and more spooky in my opinion. Dummy particularly is an album which perhaps didn't get enough credit for its vocals and its music.

Haha I'm also glad Laura that you worked out the name of the album in the end, when last week I kept drunkedly informing you (to my inane stupidity) that the album was called No Protection (which is cringily the name of a Starship song I like haha) and is in fact as you say called Protection. But Blue Lines (Massive Attack's debut album) was the big thing according to my folks at the time and from what I've gathered in my subsequent musical research and interest since. Unfinished Sympathy is a beautiful track, but I know what you mean about Protection - it actually as a single is quite a dancey one but not too fast.

As for Saint Etienne, I unfortunately haven't heard that track, although I think it's from the Good Humour album. I will have to listen to it soon, thanks for the recommendation. I don't know about you but I quite like the mixture between the dancier records by Saint Etienne and the steadier, more beautifully composed tracks they create.

Ah you see in my opinion I'd say that all of these tracks apart from perhaps 808 State and Orbital, are better to listen to once you've come home, but I appreciate what you're saying. They're still good ones to listen to before you go out it's true.

I do know Air - I especially like Sexy Boy (despite it's awfully gay title) Surfin' On A Rocket which was used on Fifa 05 (not that you'd care about that haha) and I do know Playground Love and I also do know of The Virgin Suicides (but I haven't seen it). I also know and like La Femme d'Argent, but I don't know A New Star In The Sky. If you like Air, then I'd think you'd like Mylo and Royksopp.

I do recommend the Enigma, Tears For Fears, New Order and Moby tracks particularly Laura, as I think they'd be your sort of thing....well hopefully anyway haha. If not, just give me a slap tomorrow for my troubles.

Ten points for Pink Floyd. This is much better than your last one about dance music, Stuart.

In regards to Snakebites... so last week. Let me introduce you all to Rattlesnakes on Monday. Prepare yourselves for a tiny headache in time for Tuesday's exam. 

I thought I'd catch your eye with Pink Floyd, but I'm also glad that both yourself and Laura had the patience to scroll down past the boring shite before Massive Attack, Portishead and Pink Floyd in my article and notice the artists you might actually like :). I think you should get 10 points for that to be honest haha :).

I appreciate the comments. But I'm sorry about the Snakebites, I didn't realise I was so out of touch. Perhaps I should have actually engaged in conversation with you down at Coopers last Thursday night to actually talk to you about it, rather than being in such a strangely subdued mood; that might have helped me work out that Rattlesnakes are now the "in" thing haha. But as much as I'd like to try one on Monday night, I think I'd rather pass the exam rather than become a complete and utter failure haha.

I only found out about them this weekend! I don't remember going to Cooper's last Thursday. Oh my. Yeah, I feel I should stay in and do something for the exam, but what exactly can you do?
I'm going out in the snow to take some pictures now. Enjoy your music. 

p.s. I'm not sure anyone uses the word "nooky" either these days! It did give me a giggle. 

You'll have to tell me more about them though. Don't you? You know, the night of Guitar Hero and Singstar...we spent about 10 minutes at Coopers haha.

True, I know what you mean, I've just got to avoid getting "sozzled" haha. Wow that sounds good, if only it wasn't so cold and more beautiful, then I'd take pictures...I'm a wimp haha.

Thanks.

Don't worry I used the word "nooky" as a piss take for the older people who still think the word is "in" haha and that doesn't include me :P haha.

Been hitting that DVD hard lately, Stu?

Oddly enough my Dad (and me) have been watching his copy more than usual recently. Started on Xmas Day as we thought we'd like it as a bit of background. My Dad went to one of those nights at Earls Court and says nothing has ever come close before or since.

As much a triumph for the stage crew as well as the band. 

I think next to Pink Floyd, instead of just having those 3 songs... just put (All) haha.

Nice blog Mr. Stuart.  

 

 

And it is true, but I have because it's an extremely good DVD.

But like you yes, my Dad (and me haha) have been watching his copy (my Dad's) quite a lot lately. Although I didn't watch his on xmas day (which would have been a lot better than sitting watching naff comedies with the other lot of the family) I have seen it recently and enjoyed it immensely. Wow, I didn't realise your Dad had been there, that must have been awesome?

I think Dave Gilmour is a legend particularly. On the PULSE DVD he just allows the music to go on rather than drivel on about thanking people and saying hello to the audience, by saying "Good evening, right well we'll get straight on with it, this one's called High Hopes" - haha brilliant. You're right too about the stage crew. Like Genesis' When In Rome concert, the amount of time spent on getting the lighting and rigging set-up must have been endless.

Haha Rob, in my opinion (other than writing for this "relaxing music" blog) I would say ALL too.

Thank you, Mr. Rob :).

Relaxing music