Chillout, ambient, neo-classicaL – whatever kind of relaxing music, one thing’s for sure – we could all do with listening to some right about now. Here are ten of our favourite albums across the genres. Turn on, tune in and drop off.
1 Air – Moon Safari The debut album from French duo
Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin is an absolute masterpiece. The chilled vibes and slightly 1970s feel of these gently electronic songs really get you. The main singles All I Need and Kelly Watch the Stars are maybe the best known here, but across the whole album there’s an air of calm that washes over you. We’re now 22 years on from its release and it still sounds just as relevant as ever.
2 Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Many people will know Aphex Twin, AKA Richard D. James from the iconic (and frankly terrifying) Windowlicker single and accompanying video, but there’s a more ambient side to the rave and techno polymath, too. He claimed he wrote music in his sleep, something that’s believable when you listen to this. By the early 1990s the idea of ambient music was fairly lost in the ether, but alongside The KLF’s Chill Out and the Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, James reignited its gently ebbing flame.
3 Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
The second album from this Scottish duo, Geogaddi, is perhaps the darkest of the albums on this list so far, but the undertones of analogue nostalgia keep it fairly light, despite the use of drone across the tracks. Snippets of children’s TV shows crop up every now and then and most people will have heard some of these songs as soundtracks to shows on Channel 4 and the BBC. Let this bubble along while you’re relaxing and let it wash over you.
4 Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Former Roxy Music man Brian Eno gave ambient music its name with this release, which is never far away from the top of these kind of lists. He turned what was thought of as elevator music into art. This is background music, make no mistake but for something that was released in 1978, it still sounds futuristic even now.
5 Mark Peters – Ambient Innerland
Engineers guitarist Mark Peters released his solo debut Innerland in 2018. Unlike others in this list, it’s the guitar that really stands out on the record (if you like Manchester’s Vini Reilly of Durutti Column you’ll know what we mean), which makes for a great accompaniment to letting your mind wander. He released two more variations of the album, New Routes out of Innerland, which saw the tracks being reworked by like-minded musicans, and Ambient Innerland, which took the originals and made them even more blissed out.
6 Max Richter – Sleep
There’s no getting away from it, this piece of music is perfect for drifting off to neverneverland. The composer worked with a neuroscientist to make sure the music worked for getting people to sleep and it was created to ebb and flow as you drift in and out of sleep cycles. Wonderful.
7 Nils Frahm – Spaces
German composer Nils Frahm is an expert in creating gentle moods and suites of music that wash over you. With Spaces, a live album of patched together performances he draws on influences such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman to create a surprisingly satisfying whole.
8 Steve Roach – Structures from Silence
So-called new-age music gets a bad rap if you ask us, though there is some awful stuff out there that gets lumped into the genre. Steve Roach, a former motocross racer nonetheless, is perhaps the greatest example of how to do it right. There are dozens of albums to choose from, but this probably showcases what he’s all about best. Put it on and chill out.
9 Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air
Released in 1969 just as hippie culture was turning into something new and a bit darker, Terry Riley’s classic minimalist piece is hugely influential. This album is one of the earliest examples of using synths, and it does so to create a warm, optimistic suite of music that makes it feel like everything’s okay in the world.
10 Yann Tiersen – Amélie OST
The Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie that this soundtracks is one of the most pure and heartwarming films you could ever hope to come across. The piano-driven score is from French composer Yann Tiersen. Watch the movie, listen to the album, enjoy.