►The Alternative Music Lounge: John Surman

Sometimes, it just strikes you: how come I’ve never heard anything at all about this great musician until now? Have I been living hiding somewhere on a deserted musical island or what? But then again, I don’t consider myself that ignorant, I mean, I know quite a few musicians, bands and composers from lots of different genres, even way back in musical history. And still, if it wasn’t for my mom suggesting me to have a listen, I might as well never have discovered the music of John Surman.

So, let’s talk a little more about this John Surman. He actually is from the same generation as my mother (little coincidence hehe), so has been a musician for a long time and achieved great things, another reason I’m so “upset” about not having heard of him before. I mean, how is it possible, some south korean girls band launches a video that you can’t even listen to until the end for being so impossibly bad (this didn’t even happen to me with Lady Gaga, so go figure…), but it has 16 million views in a week and everyone talks about it. And who talks about real great musicians like John Surman? Anyway, back to focus: he especially plays saxophone and bass clarinet and has been playing in lots of different projects with many other great musicians (just to name a few: Dave Holland, Richard Galliano, John McLaughlin, John Taylor, Jack DeJohnette) and although his main genre is located somewhere between Jazz and Ambient / Fusion, he does not limit himself to this, his compositions and performances cover a large spectrum of inspiration, from English folk music, Choral and church music to songs of John Dowland. He also has written music for quite a few movies and dance performances.

But well, if you want to know more about his biography, read on over here.

Wait, while you’re reading, have a listen to some of his tracks:

Winter Wish

 

Portrait of Romantic!

 

Whistman’s Wood

 

Enjoy! :)

 


About this series:

One of the ideas I have for this blog is to start periodic post series about a few interesting topics. Like one post a week or a month, about the same topic but always bringing you new (or classic but little known) musical discoveries.
This series that I gave the name “The Alternative Music Lounge” is about presenting you bands and projects that I like a lot or respect much because of the quality of their music although they haven’t made it into the so called “main stream” and therefore probably will remain unknown for many people.
Whatever might be the reasons for this (sometimes their creations are just too good, too unique, lacking any “commercial characteristics”, othertimes it’s just another case of being disregarded by the music industry, we all know what’s usual to happen…), I think the’re more people out there who might like their music but just didn’t have a chance to discover it yet, so I hope these publications of mine might be helpful.
By the way, if you’re a musician and think I might like your music and would like to propose your creations for being featured in a post of this series, you’re welcome to comment this post or any other future post of this series, stating your project’s name, a link to where I can listen to some tracks and a way to contact you.
I promise to try and listen to everyone’s tracks and respond, even if I happen to not accept the proposal.

 

 

►The Alternative Music Lounge: Chill Out special edition

It’s been a while that I have been thinking of doing a special edition dedicated to Chill Out music, after all, it’s one of the main objectives of this site / blog, to specialize on Chill Out music. So, here are several listening suggestions, from the classics to some less well known projects, I didn’t organize them in any particular order. I hope it gives you a starting point for further exploring the world of Chill Out.

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Moby – Porcelain

 

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Massive Attack – Teardrop

 

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Zero7 – In the Waiting Line

 

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Air – Universal Traveler

 

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Nightmares On Wax – Passion

 

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Chris Coco – Starlight

 

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St. Germain – Rose Rouge

 

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Mr Scruff – Music Takes Me Up  (Ft. Alice Russel)

 

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Triangle Sun – Buddha

 

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Groove Armada – At The River

 

 


About this series:

One of the ideas I have for this blog is to start periodic post series about a few interesting topics. Like one post a week or a month, about the same topic but always bringing you new (or classic but little known) musical discoveries.
This series that I gave the name “The Alternative Music Lounge” is about presenting you bands and projects that I like a lot or respect much because of the quality of their music although they haven’t made it into the so called “main stream” and therefore probably will remain unknown for many people.
Whatever might be the reasons for this (sometimes their creations are just too good, too unique, lacking any “commercial characteristics”, othertimes it’s just another case of being disregarded by the music industry, we all know what’s usual to happen…), I think the’re more people out there who might like their music but just didn’t have a chance to discover it yet, so I hope these publications of mine might be helpful.
By the way, if you’re a musician and think I might like your music and would like to propose your creations for being featured in a post of this series, you’re welcome to comment this post or any other future post of this series, stating your project’s name, a link to where I can listen to some tracks and a way to contact you.
I promise to try and listen to everyone’s tracks and respond, even if I happen to not accept the proposal.

 

►New track: Sunrise on Riva Centauris

Just published a new track on my page and the usual places (Reverbnation, Soundcloud, others to go) and wanted to share it on here aswell.

It’s called “Sunrise on Riva Centauris” and the idea behind it was to create a genuine Chill out track, totally based on samples, trying to create a special atmosphere in a soundscape that depicts the sun rising on a distant (imaginary) planet.

I’ve used quite a lot of samples, and many of them I modified prior to using, so that I managed to get exactly the sound I wanted.

It’s the most electronic track I’ve made yet and the one that is most Ambient, or better, Soundscape. It’s like a picture almost…

Take a listen for yourself and tell me what you think :)

Sunrise on Riva Centauris - Soundscape chill out ambient

►Chill-out music, episode 2

Even though summer is close to its ending, I thought it would be a good idea to make it last a little longer by writing a post about chill-out music, remembering all those long, warm nights, on a beach or some other nice place, just chilling out in good company.

Also, it might be interesting for those among you who’d like to start producing music in that genre.

About its origin and history, I’ve already written, you can find the article here on my site.

But I didn’t get into details of the music or present any listening examples, so that’s what I’m going to try this time.

First, one should mention that chill out music is meant to be listened to in an only half-active way, sort of what happens with ambient music, but maybe with a little more attention. That’s how it manages to have such a chilling and relaxing effect on the listener.

There are no fixed rules for what material can be used to write a chill out track, nor with what means.

It can as much consist of acoustic material, like some melody played on an exotic instrument on a strings background, that could almost be called world music, wouldn’t there be an electronic break-beat in the background, as it can be a fully electronic track, combining mysterious, slow melodies with synthesizer effects and drum samples.

You can find your inspiration in Latin American tunes, or music from Middle Orient or Asia, using some ethnic instrument, as well as you could prefer to create something totally free, played on some nice lead pad, for example.

Feel free to create whatever rhythms you like, also the structure of the track can be totally free, as well as the duration of the track might vary from 2 minutes to 30 minutes.

One thing to keep in mind, after you have your musical material done and are starting to mix and add plugins and effects, is that you’re looking for a warm, relaxing and “airy” sound, so allow instruments to have enough space between them (be it with delays and different reverbs, simple panning or equalizing), give the whole mix a slight cut between 1kHz and 2kHz aswell as make generous use of reverbs and “warming” plugins, like tape saturation, for example.

Even if you’re creating everything on your computer, think analogic, not digital.

If you want to use strings as your harmonic base, choose wisely which samples you’re going to use, they have to have little attack and sound warm, also be sure to compose in a way that chords have easy transitions (think common notes and always stay in legato). Stay within the natural register of each instrument and create physical space by panning the four of them (violin, viola, cello and contra-bass) in a logical way, forming a half circle: more treble to the left, more bass to the right.

If you’re looking for something exotic to use in your song or just for inspiration, here are some suggestions:

  • Indian music (from sitar to religious chant)
  • Gregorian chant and choral music (remember Enigma?)
  • Shakers and other acoustic percussion instruments from all around the world
  • Fusion with metal solos or classical music.
  • Effects and background sound recorded directly from our natural environment (like wind, rain, the sea, etc)
  • Vocal parts with poetic lyrics or at least enigmatic meaning (be sure to look for breathy and airy voice capture)
  • Be creative, think out of the box, don’t limit to your synthesizers or samples and effects or plugins, look for sounds all around you.
  • Combine electronic parts with live recordings of you or other musicians who you invite
  • Look for the essential, go after the idea of “less is more”, leave space for each instrument and don’t use too many at the same time, not more than five.

 

Now that we have talked about some basic ideas, here are some listening suggestions to further improve your inspiration or just chill out:

Vangelis – Conquest of Paradise (remember him from the film Blade Runner?):

 

Thomas Newman – Soundtrack American Beauty

 

Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygéne  (several parts, one album from 1977 the other from 1997)

 

Conjure One – Center of the Sun (Solar Stone’s Chilled Out Remix)

 

Morcheeba – The Sea

 

Chris Coco – Holiday

CHRIS COCO – HOLIDAY by chris coco