Chill out music (can also be spelled “chill-out” or “chillout”) is a style of music that normally can be defined as relaxing, chilling, calm or with a dreamy atmosphere, inviting you into a journey of positive feelings.
The genres associated to chill-out music include, among others: Ambient, Nu-Jazz, Trip-Hop, Ambient House, New Age, Lounge.
All these can be classified as sub-genres of the so called downtempo style (for it’s beats-per-minute being between slow and moderate), and one can also include other genres like Bossa Nova and Smooth Jazz, as long as they fulfill the requirement of relaxation.
It comprises electronic music aswell as acoustic or combinations and often includes loops and dubs, being frequently fully instrumental but may also feature smooth vocals.
Chill-out music was invented in the dance clubs in mid-1990s, where relaxing music was played in a separate section of the club to allow people to sit down, have a drink and “chill-out” while recovering from the action and emotion of the faster and energetic music played on the dance floor.
Later on it started to become popular and so called “chill out bars” were opened, they would exclusively play this kind of music and basically invited people to relax from a hard day of work or just “chill out” with their friends.
It was probably at the same time that it also became popular on CD or in digital format for people listening at home and many different sub-genres and styles emerged.
Historically it could be said that Ambient music is to be found as the musical origin of chill-out music, ranging from Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre and especially Brian Eno, over classical contemporary composers like John Cage or Philip Glass, way back to visionary creators like Erik Satie with his “Furniture music”.
Some of the most important producers, DJs and collections of chill-out music include:
José Padilla (Café del Mar), Pete Lawrence (Big Chill Festival), The Orb, Chris Coco, St.Germain-des-Près Café, Ninja Tune Records, Music For Dreams, Water Music Records.
Some bands that have made tracks that can be called chill-out, despite not mainly focusing on it:
Portishead, Moby, 4 Hero, Kenneth Bager, Dzihan and Kamien, Revolution Void.
Check out my here for some more listening suggestions (it is planned to make regular posts related to chill-out music, one is already there)