Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ambient Music: It’s not just New Age Fluff

Some play music to set a mood, but I usually prefer listening to music that reflects the mood I’m already in. Playing angry music when I’m angry or stressful music when I’m stressed calms me faster than trying to sway my mood into the happy zone by force-feeding it sweet fluffy “marshmallow music.”

Likewise, ambient music can either set a mood or reflect the mood you’re already in. Or simply provide background music so you can think or work.

As the mother of a four year-old, I really appreciate calm, peaceful stretches of time when I can get them, and ambient music is part of my current game plan to retain my sanity while feeding my soul. And for me, any music with a touch of melancholy is what’s for background.

Thanks to Victory Rose Music and, new sources of ambient music are coming my way faster than I can process them. Here are a few of my current favorites:

Ah, the beautiful slow drone sounds of Stars of the Lid, including their string trio. Don’t let “explicit” song titles likes “December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface” fool you into think this music is at all brash. I think if I ever saw this bad perform live I would cry.

David Beans is one of the few performers I’ve found who can utilize spoken word without it being too overbearing or annoying to me. Listen to “Dream” all the way through and give this man a job scoring your next epic movie.

Five years in the making, Jónsi & Alex created their music with found sounds from their house, as well as a choir, a string quartet, and animal sounds. It is perhaps not true ambient music since the sounds are all organically derived instead of electronic, but they manage to create a wash of sound and texture that’s not quite like anything else I’ve ever heard. And I mean that in a good way.

I'm also keeping my ear on Josh Varnadore, who is an up and coming musical artist with some lovely soundscapes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cooking Shows for a Brave New Audience

Most people enjoy eating, but not everyone enjoys cooking. Of the people who enjoy cooking, few manage to get filmed working their magic in the kitchen. To see yourself grace a TV screen or computer monitor you either have to be a celebrity chef or have some kind of shtick going for you. It also helps if you are the lead singer of a famous rock band.

Brand new today is installment 1 of the Jónsi and Alex Recipe Show. Jónsi is the lead singer of Sigur Rós, and Alex is his boyfriend and art partner. Meant as an accompaniment to their new cookbook (available in PDF format on their site), the first episode shows you how to make what they call Macadamia Monster Mash. I tried it and it's delicious. I can also vouch for their Thai Coconut Curry and Strawberry Pie recipes: top-notch.

If watching Jónsi and Alex look awkward and shy in front of the camera is too painful for you (and you’re not into raw vegan food), you might appreciate what has to be its polar opposite: Coupla Fat Guys Cooking Show. With their witty banter, devil-may-care attitude and mise en place in Ziploc bags, they are totally the Cartalk of cooking shows. They have numerous episodes taking you through the not-so-fine details of making everything from Tuna Casserole to Bananas Flambé.