2020 Instrumental Essentials
Hi. If you’re like me, you find solace in instrumental vibes: just getting lost, sinking into your chair, closing your eyes, and letting the soundscapes wash over you. Below are some selections from this year that I’ve found to be soothing, for different reasons.
JaySwifa – Timeless: Alright, so this isn’t completely instrumental. But this rising Columbus hip-hop star is an unlikely source of calming catharsis, even though some of the intermittent dialogue functioning more as one building block of the structure of the song is anything but peaceful. Really, this is the sort of thing you put on in a lounge with your friends while sipping a cocktail and smoking a cigar. Since you’re sitting in that lounge though, Jayswifa invites you to dive deep into the sounds—and ponder his reasoning for making them.
Glass Cassette – self titled: As I mentioned in a review earlier this year, Glass Cassette is the result of a very specific type of experimentation from composer Jonathan Hape. The sounds are in the same family as downtempo and lend themselves to the mood of the listener—whatever it may be. If I recall correctly I went on a night drive to absorb the record and tried to calm myself down from the angst I was feeling. However, as intrusive feelings of frustration occurred, they seemed to be amplified by the music. However, moments of calm were amplified as well.
CoastalDives – Sleepwalk: These days, there’s a stressful kind of fatigue and a content kind of sleepiness. While physically they might produce similar sensations, emotionally there’s a huge difference. Casey Cooper, the man behind CoastalDives, seems to realize this. As I type this I’m sitting in my office, and “I Dream You Dream of Me” is filling the room via my one Bose speaker (I really should upgrade my system). I am fighting the urge to just soak up the neon lights, lay down on my carpet with a pillow, and doze off to these soundscapes. And, BONUS COVERAGE: the new collaboration between CoastalDives and Henry Blaeser (one of our Ohio Bands to Watch this year), titled “Ghost II,” is out now via the Argentina-based No Prolema Tapes, and it is a new-agey, whimsical journey that would make Blue Man Group proud. All of the calming fun, none of the cheese (or clean up—no paint, get it?).
William Cashion – Postcard Music: When this was released, I latched onto it quickly. It was the middle of the summertime, and I was making use of my concert-free evenings for lots of walks. Near my house there was one one street in particular that went by a ravine, and I’d often see wildlife down there, lots of deer and occasionally a fox. Sometimes the brook would be tranquil; other times raging after a rainstorm. “Postcard Music” was my soundtrack for those walks. I highly recommend that combo.
Anna Von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly: I could just say this is an experimental pipe organ album recorded in a cathedral in Sweden and that would be enough reason to listen, am I right? If you are looking for something old school to validate your feelings of dread, or of calm, you’ll find both of those in spades here.
Julianna Barwick – Healing Is A Miracle: I’ll never forget my first time listening intentionally to a Julianna Barwick record. I was sitting at the kitchen table in my old apartment and staring at some old concert flyers I had on the wall. As the ambiance ramped up, I closed my eyes and tilted my head upward. Similarly to that album, “Healing is a Miracle” washes over me. It’s a bit less abstract in its delivery and more warm and organic, but delightfully ethereal all the same.