Meditating Out Loud
Cover photo: from Dzang's video
Close your eyes, put away your phone and listen to some of the best new ambient and downtempo tracks we've handpicked for you.
Maddrigal – Alma

Maddrigal is a sound artist from Paris who began his journey in music by getting a classical training at a very young age and later producing for hip-hop artists, before switching to ambient electronic music.

Tom (Maddrigal): "Soon making music [for other artists] became very emotionally demanding. So I decided to focus on my music and put the production aside. I've always been fascinated by Alice Coltrane's spiritual albums, and it was when I discovered Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never that it clicked. I love to play with textures and sounds, I try to get to that stage between meditation and focus."

It's exactly this middle ground between meditation and focus perfectly expressed in Maddrigal's "Alma" that drew us to the track. "Alma" is part of Maddrigal's EP "Essence/Lack Thereof...".

Tom (Maddrigal): "On this album, I used field recording elements from my daily life. Conversations with relatives/family, and sounds that surround me. Like the street below my flat recorded from my window, the neighbors partying...

For "Alma" it's a recording of the street below where I used to live in Paris from my window. I then played the recording through a little bit damaged Monotron delay , so the jack cable disconnected from time to time.

[For the electronic sounds] I mainly use a Prophet Rev2 and a Moog Mother-32.
The Prophet Rev2 was a dream synth, I love its lush and deep sounds. I think the Mother-32 complements well the Prophet, with its powerful bass and more percussive sounds."
Transient Lines – Calm Unrest

Another expression for the borderline state between meditation and focus we've discussed earlier in this post would be "Calm Unrest", as Vienna-based producer Max Lanzinger (Transient Lines) ingeniously put it. The track is an artistic expression of "his drive as a musician that arises from a certain inner restlessness".
Borpis – pressed on a garment

"pressed on a garment" by New York artist Borpis, similarly to "Alma" and "Calm Unrest", seems to exist in the curious zone between calmness and frustration, leaning a bit more toward the latter. The composition is built around a drone sound and bird samples that were specifically manipulated to sound "anxious".

Robbie Liebold (Borpis):

"For that drone sound, I was playing with a sequencer, and I routed the midi back into the controller as I was live recording the sequence, so it ended up building this glitchy evolving cacophony of midi notes which were being fed into a synth that I actually re-recorded into a field recorder from my monitors and then doubled, stretched, pitch shifted, etc. The bird sounds were recorded from my window sill early one morning, like 5AM, and I sent those through effects that I was tinkering with to make them sound sort of artificial and derisive or anxious. These two different elements, recording stuff physically happening in my room, and stretching and manipulating sounds in such a way that they break or transform, were crucial for this album. For me it played into this idea of being stuck in one place (literally and figuratively), and searching for ways to grow and break away from those situations even if you feel completely immobilized."
Dzang – Retreat

"Retreat" by LA producer Adam Gunther a.k.a. Dzang works best with the video featuring a great parrot, "a talismanic bird flying through scenes of climate disruption only to arrive at an urban core, unable to escape humanity's influence". According to Adam's comment, the track is supposed to serve "as an aural acknowledgement of the need to find higher ground in the face of California's climate crisis". It's hard to be wise and stay calm when the world is burning, but Dzang's jam might help.
Almec – Homage

Almec is the moniker of London-based musician Alex Hall. On "Homage" he brings together dreamy synths, energetic 2-step beats and haunting vocals samples to create a perfect "after-rave" track. "Dreamy, soulful vocal samples take you back to warm evenings in places distant in both space and time. This track pours heavy summer vibes into you that would be hard to shake even on the best dance floor", says the artist.
Signal Bath & Witch Eyes – Dreaming Slow

"Dreaming Slow" is a collaboration between two Oregon-based artists – Signal Bath and Witch Eyes. The track is built around a haunting chopped-up vocal sample. Tohether with the hazy synths and slow but steady drums it creates a lulling, peaceful vibe.
Zach Palmer – Sadness in the Shape of You

"Sadness in the Shape of You" is very similar in vibe to other compositions in this feature, despite being less abstract. It actually has lyrics. However, the lyrics deal with complicated emotions of heartbreak and coming out of the closet presenting them as an abstract shape – hence the title.

Zach Palmer: "I wrote 'Sadness in the Shape of You' about the depression I went through after a break up with the first guy I'd ever been with. The sadness felt like it was a silhouette of the person I was with – it took his shape, and he was all I could see in my mind or think about. Coupled with literally coming out of the closet at the time, it really messed with my brain for a while because the shape of him in my sadness felt like a secret."