If you’re craving splendid pedal effects and tranquil chords, look no further. The style is almost (but not quite) New Age, except that the texture enjoys shifting around in a more free-form way and allows a little room for mystery and shadows. Songs like this charmer make me especially happy that ambient piano is still alive and well in all corners of the world.
The tavern songs for Dragon Age: Inquisition made enough of a splash upon the game’s release that EA temporarily posted downloadable sheet music for them – a rare act indeed, since even the most famous themes from game music are seldom seen in sheet music form. While the vocal versions are palatable, I’m always interested to hear the instrumental versions of such songs, including this one. For me, it’s unique because the chipper tempo counters an ever-shifting melody with a distinctly wistful vibe, which is easy to talk about but tough to manage. Nick Stoubis plays here. It sounds especially good if you run it through Audacity in a lower pitch.
Some off-kilter (but polite) ambient/atmospheric for your consideration. This song has a much more “manufactured” flavor than the usual fare you’ll find here, but I felt that it was deserving enough to share because it always conjures up some kind of imagery for me when I listen to it – and what’s the point of music if it doesn’t make pictures in your head?
Cryo Chamber is an independent microlabel specializing in ambient and dark ambient artists, especially instrumental ones. Dark ambient music is typically bleak (and is basically goth culture’s meditative cousin or half-sibling), and yet – as I’ve mentioned before – it can be restorative for overall focus and concentration. (I don’t know about the rest of the writing world, but no matter how many foolproof habits and routines I piece together, I always need another backup plan)
Dark ambient music is often devoid of beats and shrill tones, so despite a heavy influence from various electronic sources, it can actually feel more organic than some live instruments. It’s rarely in a hurry to go anywhere and mainly cares about the journey and the saga therein. It is typically melodic, but in a wistful context. It’s often quiet (despite the frequent use of layering, sampling, and excerpting) and has a methodical tempo.
All of these factors add up to a cocktail with potentially infinite refills…especially if your writing leans in a melancholic or pensive direction.
Cryo Chamber periodically has free album-length mixes available, including this one. If you want something different, try this one.
This contemplative piano solo develops some kick as it progresses, including a driving rhythm and some daring chords (I suspect that this was an improvised song, but it is nonetheless coherent). If you need a song in a minor key that isn’t actually depressing, try this one on for size.
Considering the total population of the place, Iceland generates an astonishing variety of musicians. They boast a proud punk tradition, some bizarre in-between groups, neoclassical composers…and Emiliana Torrini. This sweet little song almost feels like a lullaby, but the lyrics’ sobriety will probably make you think twice about calling it sappy.
Cadfael was a quirky medieval murder mystery TV series. You wouldn’t think that the music for such a subject would be interesting or atmospheric, but you’d be wrong. Synthesizers and primitive instruments coexist beautifully. Even if you skip over the vocal portions, this album is worth flicking through.
The music from Fringe was as tense as the show itself, but here’s one of its exquisitely dreamy moments, more wistful than happy but nonetheless worth checking out for its calming vibes.
One of the most charming, exhilarating, and important moments in this classic movie was inexplicably shunned from the soundtrack release. In some ways, the mysteriousness oozing from this 2-minute track is better than the rest of the album combined. Just see for yourself…
Wallander began as a mystery novel series. It was later turned into a TV series in Sweden and was more recently re-interpreted by the BBC (both versions are worth watching, by the way). This song – sadly only a fragment – plays at the end credits of some BBC episodes. Emily Barker apparently received such a flood of requests for this version of the song (it was originally recorded with a full ensemble) that she decided to post it as a free download. While the original is enjoyable enough, there’s something downright haunting about this briefer snippet. I frequently use it to work through the broodier sections of my writing.
Miracle of Sound is a massive ongoing project primarily focused on game tributes and covers. “Winter Still” is a rare instrumental effort worth checking out (a bit upbeat for my tastes but nonetheless conducive to contemplation, therefore it gets a spot on the bog). And why not look at some lovely graphics while you’re at it?
A jaunty and percussive ditty for those of you who need to ponder on ideas about rustic villages or space cowboys. This music is 11 years old, but it doesn’t remotely show its age (that factor always amazes me when it comes to hybrid sampling/electronic/live music).
While the growling brass at the beginning is irksome, this song unfolds into a fine, rhythmic meditation with plenty of driving strings but no jarring “adrenaline buzz” moments. Sometimes, you need a song that literally pushes you forward, and this one might just do the trick.
A return to some comfortable light ambient territory…
This is formal, official soundtrack material, but it doesn’t have any stuffy ensemble touches and instead veers into tranquil electronic atmospheric…almost. It’s a bit cheerful compared to the usual fare I bring you, but variety is important sometimes.