Up until I started college I was never really one for “chillout” music, honestly. As a kid my mum owned a million albums with names like “Tranquil Destiny” or “Soothing Moonlight Songs” by “Some Bint with a Pan Pipe”, so my impression of chillout music was that it was boring as all hell and really annoying to a seven-year old.
And then I became an alleged “adult” and my sleeping pattern went right out the window and it’s stayed in shattered pieces in the back garden to this very day, and when that happens you really discover the value of dreamy, laid-back songs to help you drift off at a reasonable human hour.
Over the past year or so I’ve accrued a few songs that always help either lull me to sleep or make the actual experience of falling asleep a much more pleasant one than my usual “oh christ it’s 8AM I guess I’d better pass out now”, and I hope they have a similar effect on you guys.
“Make Me Real” – she
Once again proving himself adept at all sorts of styles, Lain Trzaska of she puts out a wonderful glitchy ambient track, with soft vocals of both genders, and even the introduction of pounding drums and electric guitars at the end don’t stop this being one of the easiest tracks to just lose yourself in.
“Sad Machine” – Porter Robinson
One of the few mainstream uses of a Vocaloid, this song has a great vocal hook and a wonderfully dreamy sound. Using organic vocals alongside the synthetic singer stops the track feeling too robotic and injects a bit of emotion to contrast against the stilted robotic sound.
“Little Sister” – Miracle of Sound
Gavin Dunne, the only producer behind Miracle of Sound, admits to a certain level of Nine Inch Nails influence on this track, but fear not – the influence here is from the Trent Reznor who put out Ghosts I-IV, not the ball of industrial anger behind “Wish” and “March of the Pigs”. The result is a song which takes a huge cue from its source material, Bioshock, and goes for a distant, watery sound, which it achieves very well. The push and pull of the background music flowing like the waves and the quiet vocals always help me drift away, and it even manages to humanise the Big Daddies, no mere feat.
“w a t c h i n g t v” – $heWon’t
I was actually only introduced to this a few days ago by a friend and it’s been open in a tab in my browser ever since. Whenever I need something to just help me chill, whether it’s winding down after hours of chores or calming my nerves after losing to the final boss of Bravely Default yet again, this has been my go-to. It has a real nice dreamy, twinkly sound, and its slight repetitiveness actually works in its favour.
“A Fine Place To Live” – halc & “In Your Prime” – Big Giant Circles
I couldn’t decide on which of these OC Remixes I wanted to include on the list, since they’re both so good for different reasons, so I’m cheating and including them both (after all, you can never argue with more music – especially when both tracks are totally free). “A Fine Place to Live” is a take on the Besaid Island theme from Final Fantasy X, and perfectly encapsulates the happy, laidback attitude of that idyllic tropical island with some chiptune flourishes blended with more modern production. “In Your Prime” is the polar opposite, creating a cold, chilled atmosphere in more than one way (polar, cold, chilled…yeah, I’m sorry).
It’s based off of the title theme from Metroid Prime and the Brinstar Red theme from Super Metroid, and even segues into trance partway through. It blends a lot of elements, using choral voices, chiming leads, and synthesised piano notes amongst others. The part where all the other music fades out besides a single hymn-like voice and a woman’s (presumably Samus, given the source) heavy breathing brings an extra level of chill to this track and never fails to make the hairs on my neck stand up slightly.
“Icarus” – Kartmaze
Yes, it’s another video game remix, and yes, it’s also free to download, but this one isn’t on OC Remix so that’s what makes it different! …Or I just wanted an excuse to get more tracks and shoehorn Deus Ex in somewhere, one of the two. It’s a cover of Human Revolution’s main theme, “Icarus” by Michael McCann, in a dark, synthpop-esque 80’s style. It definitely brings to mind Vangelis’ work on the Blade Runner soundtrack, which is always a good thing.
The original piece is fantastic as well, and just as relaxing, with some tribal percussion and chanting over strings and low-key electronics, but I chose this for the list to give props for a job well-done. Both versions absolutely deserve a place on your “go the fuck to bed” playlist.
“Pinch Me” – Barenaked Ladies
I realised this list was overwhelmingly stacked in favour of electronic music thus far, and wanted to include a more traditional piece for my last song. My first thought was “In Amber” by maybeshewill, but Anto already used that on a previous list (which is also full of great chillout tracks you should listen to in addition to these). So I landed on this one. Despite mocking her taste in the opening paragraph, my mum was the one who introduced to this band when I was about five years old, sitting in the car listening to this on cassette tape. The minimalist music and melancholy lyrics really create a relaxing mood, and the gradual fadeout adds to that effect as well.
It’s a surprisingly poignant track from a band more well-known for fast, goofy songs, and deserves a listen just to see what they create when they’re not busy rhyming with “australipithecus”.