Inspired by the 6th annual “Best of Fringe Toast” radio show, I selected ten of my favorite chill-out songs to highlight here. Of the 500 or so tracks I discovered within the past year, two groups—Young Galaxy and Younger Brother—merited two songs each on this list. Even if you’re not sure that electro-acoustic music is for you, I challenge you to download this list of rarely heard and exquisitely produced tracks.
1. “Obedear” (2012), by Purity Ring. Formed in 2010, the Montreal-based electronic duo Purity Ring consists of Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (instrumentation). The 20-something duo seems heavily influenced by Scandinavian groups such as the Knife (“Marble House”). Their music has been labeled variously as indietronica, post-dub-step, and dream pop. In “Obedear,” the chorus lyrics about seamen rigging rudders reveals the duo’s poetic flair: “Obedear the sky is low / Gathered up its harm in gauze with grateful arms.” This song rings true with pure magic.
2. “Calling” (2011), by Bliss with Sophie Barker. Formerly of the UK band Zero 7, singer-songwriter Sophie Barker leads the vocals on this track from the Best of Bliss collection. The song begins with a long instrumental of acoustic guitar, mandolin, and subtle electronic wash, providing the perfect setting for Sophie’s vocals: “search for silence deep within… whispers from the past, echo in my soul.” Between each verse, mandolin and violin weave us back toward Sophie’s calling.
3. “Fatal Shore” (2012), by Andrew Bird. The indie-folk, Chicago-based, classically trained violinist sings about the fatal journey of sound waves, which die when they meet the ears. Bird’s recurrent theme addresses the meeting of the sender and receiver (of music) that dispels fear. This polished musical experience lifts the song well beyond its lyrical interpretations.
4. “Sleep” (2002), by Conjure One. Headed by Rhys Fulber and joined by the dreamy vocals of Germany’s Sandra Cretu, Conjure One is a spin-off group from Canadian electronic-music band Delerium, which made Sarah McLachlan’s 1999 “Silence” such an amazing hit. In “Sleep,” gentle electronics and ghostly piano add lush layers to a woman’s yearning for a companion who will “drown out the machinery in my head.”
5. “Someday the Wind” (2007), by Fauxliage. Their one-CD project consisted of members of Delerium, plus Leigh Nash on vocals, who previously sang with Sixpence None the Richer. This is a perfect blend of electronic elements and acoustic guitar and a good companion piece to “Sleep.”
6. Peripheral Visionaries” (2011), by Young Galaxy. Formed in 2005, the Vancouver band features the keyboard and vocal talents of Catherine McCandless and guitar and vocals of Stephen Ramsey. This uplifting song reminds us that “We exist in more than time and space, keeping a written mythology… We have seen tears from the eyes of God, and God loves and God loves.” The music assures us that all is right with the world.
7. “Embers” (2007), by Young Galaxy. A melancholy acoustic Stephen Ramsey honors his parents: “Father Mother I burn so true / My blaze is brighter when near to you / I smoke and spark without your fuel / An ember from the heart of you.”
8. “Crystalline” (2011), by Younger Brother. Formed in 2003, the UK electronic duo of Simon Posford and Benji Vaughn have honed a special formula called down-tempo psybient music. This track begins with beautiful Nick Drake-flavored vocals about meeting someone in another time “with the worlds colliding under our feet.” The pace quickens and then relaxes back into a dream-like swoon drifting into silence—as if it may have been a dream.
9. “Ribbon on a Branch” (2007), by Younger Brother. Although recorded four years earlier, this track seems like an extension of Crystalline. However, on this track, the journey benefits by the company of friends, “Here in the woods, now my friends / See you there now, hang a ribbon on a branch / Feel my feet on the soil / Free from trouble from it all.” And all along reminding us of Nick Drake again and again.
10.“The World is an Illusion” (2009), by Magic Sound Fabric. “There’s no reality in duality” sets the tone of this unusual vocal-instrumental composition by Virginia-based Cameron Limbrick, who’s dedicated to developing new electronic music experiences. A composer, graphic artist, software developer, and mixing engineer, Cameron has a portfolio of music that is deep and satisfying. If you like this track, visit his website cameronlimbrick.com.
After downloading these fabulous tracks, share them with your friends and enjoy the warm glow of music from “off the beaten track.”
Hear Fringe Toast every Wednesday, 8-10 p.m., CST, on KRUU FM 100.1 in Fairfield, Iowa.