We all want to get away from time to time, but in the age of austerity it’s not always as easy as we’d like. There’s a further problem: the places some of us would like to see are just out of reach using currently available transport technologies - the sun, the moon, the far reaches of our galaxy and beyond - and while Virgin Intergalactic may promise future possibilities, I’ve travelled on their trains a few times, and I’m not so sure I’d trust them to take me out among the stars. Other realities are available, but depending on your country of residence travelling to them may not be completely legal.
This collection of 20 physically and spiritually transporting and transforming tracks, however, is 100% acceptable by your local law enforcement friends.
Eaux - Head
Typically, these playlists are sparked by the discovery of a new track, or an old song rediscovered. So it is with New Lands; our journey begins with Head by Eaux, from their album of the same name, and which I was alerted to when Woman’s Hour tweeted about it. It’s a perfect introduction to the playlist - slowly evolving from the background hum of the universe to full-on electro-groove.
Mogwai - I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
Second track I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead is taken from Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai’s 2008 album The Hawk is Howling. It’s very Mogwai, if you know what I mean. If not, you will in just under seven minutes’ time. Be aware, though, that parallel worlds open up at this point, since you can opt for the live version from Special Moves instead by watching this video right here:
The only time I’ve seen Mogwai live was on a stream of their recent Glastonbury performance, when they were headlining the “Fucking get yoursel’ over here” stage. Playing at the same time as either Metallica or Kasabian (whichever - not important), and while they were representing the heavier or stupider side of music respectively, Mogwai were busy showcasing its more epic alternate reality.
Jon Hopkins - Candles
Candles appears on Jon Hopkins’ atmospheric soundtrack to the low-budget non-monstery film Monsters. Of the beautiful musical incidentals through the film, this sticks in the mind more than most, helped by the scene that accompanies it, but about which I will say no more, other than that there’s some interesting detail on the scene to be found in director Gareth Edwards’ commentary.
Ulrich Schnauss - Far Away Trains Passing By
Since the release of the first album under his own name, 2001’s Far Away Trains Passing By, German musician, producer and remixer Ulrich Schnauss has been a key figure in shoegazing’s rebirth - helping to take the genre into brave new worlds.
Nils Frahm - Says
Taken from Nils Frahm’s live and stitched together album Spaces, Says was one of the most touchingly beautiful pieces I heard in 2013. It has a sound that if you give yourself over to it completely - just relax and float down stream, let the music work your brain - rewards you in its closing minutes with a rare euphoria.
The War on Drugs - An Ocean In Between The Waves
Naturally, to get to a new land you have to transport yourself there. Sometimes your imagination is not enough; sometimes what you need is a road and a car in which to storm down it. And a soundtrack with which to storm down that road in that car. I suggest An Ocean In Between The Waves by War on Drugs. Again, explore new worlds with either the studio version, down below on Spotify, or this live version, recorded for KEXP.
Caribou - Sun
Sometimes you don’t need so many words at all. In the case of Sun, one is sufficient.
Hookworms - Since We Had Changed
Drowned in Sound loved Pearl Mystic, naming it album of the year. I was more reserved, but have to admit that for this playlist it has certainly risen to the occasion, providing the marvellously stoned Since We Had Changed.
Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory - Spectral Split
Appearing on the 2012 collaboration Elements of Light, Spectral Split combines the nuanced drift of German producer Hendrik Weber with Norwegian percussion collective The Bell Laboratory, whose instruments include a 50-bell 3-tonne carillon. Tell me you don’t think that sounds intriguing. Again, headphones are your friend here, but if you happen to know a vast and empty cathedral in your neighbourhood with a stunning sound system, you might like to give that a go.
The Boo Radleys - Sparrow
It’s one of my oh-so-funny and oft-repeated playlist jokes to follow a very long track with a very short one, or something to switch up the mood in a moment. That’s why Sparrow follows Spectral Split. And it’s place at the half-way point of the playlist is symoblic - a throwback to a time when this was my go-to track for filling small spaces at the end of the first side of a mix-tape.
Pye Corner Audio - Into The Maze
Side two starts with tracks from two artists signed to Ghost Box, a label that seeks to explicitly tap into the otherworldly weirdness of British science fiction, of imaginary worlds and imaginary pasts. First up is the spooky Into The Maze - this is not a place you probably want to stay in for too long. Escape quickly, and next you’ll hear…
Ghost Box is a record label for a group of artists exploring the musical history of a parallel world.Ghost Box
The Belbury Poly - A Pilgrim’s Path
OK, so slightly less unsettling. What we need now, though, is the company of friends and a good old-fashioned local festival to calm the nerves.
Matt Berry - October Sun
The festival is to take place in an impossible England of the past that might have vaguely existed, but even if it was real once it’s now a distant and strange land. We’ll have Matt Berry provide the soundtrack. Yes, that’s right, Matt Berry of The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd, and Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. The same Matt Berry who released the surprising and very charming psychedelic folk album Kill The Wolf in 2013.
Wild Beasts - New Life
There’s long been something transporting about Wild Beasts. Here, on New Life, they use woozy synths and and an atmosphere of foreboding to create a time and a place that’s all in the mind.
Johann Johannsson - A Memorial Garden on Enghavevej
COPENHAGEN DREAMS is director Max Kestner’s documentary film portrait of Denmark’s capital. It’s a film about the physical surroundings that are part of shaping our lives. About the buildings we wake up in, the front doors we walk out of, the streets we traverse. It is also a film about how the way we live our lives affects our physical surroundings. About the places we dream of and the walls onto which we scratch the names of our loved ones, before it’s too late.Johann Johannson
Olafur Arnalds - Tunglio
Tunglio means “Moon”: a land that everyone sees, but so few have seen. Other profound-sounding thoughts are available for the relevant fee.
Tycho - Awake
Tycho (real name Scott Hansen) is a graphic designer, photographer and musician: all these are aspects of a whole to him. The album cover for Awake shows a stylised image of the sun, colour-graded for each track on the album.
Any kind of physical space that the music is evocative of is not necessarily intentional, but themes keep recurring and there’s obviously something built in there. I definitely spend a lot time outdoors. It’s inspiring to me, but it’s more how I relax, how I focus, and meditate. Those environments are going to find their way into the musicInterview, Flaunt Magazine
Explosions in the Sky - Let Me Back In
Casting your mind back to The War on Drugs earlier, if you don’t have a car, but you do have a bicycle, then you might like to try Let Me Back In. Surprising as it might sound, it’s a tremendous track for when you’re out on the road, watching the tarmac fly past under your wheels.
Eluvium - Prelude for Time Feelers
The cover artowrk for Eluvium’s 2007 album Copia is a piece called In Search of a View, by Jeannie Lynn Paske. I strongly urge you to lose yourself in her past and present works over on her web site - https://obsoleteworld.com/ - particularly if you are the designers of the board game Dixit. That would make for an interesting combination, I’m sure.
Stars of the Lid - Don’t Bother They’re Here
Coming over like an ambient Brian Eno in a particularly relaxed moment, Don’t Bother They’re Here has been used in trailers for the recent Godzilla movie, which makes this the second Gareth Edwards-related entry on the playlist. If the symbolism of Godzilla as bringer of nuclear destruction, apocalypse and armageddon should ever be realised, we really will need new lands, and this could be the soundtrack to the end of the world.
The end! Get out now before it’s too late!