Songs to Zone Out to

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Sitting in the train listening to music can be a strange experience. Apart from a feeling of momentum and some vibrations you don’t really register your movement. For all you know, you’re sitting in this vehicle, and giant projections on either side of it create the illusion of transportation. You’re simply sitting there, immersed in some special songs. Or you’re somewhere else entirely, being slowly enchanted by music. It’s all about those tracks, though, carefully crafted by artists to help you “zone out” and actually “feel” it. Well, let me share with you a foursome that does just that.

Faunts – M4 Part I
Faunts is an American band from a small village that, almost ten years ago, produced an EP with songs that could be used for science fiction films. One of the songs from that EP, M4 Part II, was included in BioWare’s 2007 hit game Mass Effect. This rather ‘spacey’ sounding track drew many people to Faunts’ music, including me. And for me, the highlight of Faunts’ song library is M4 Part I. It’s a sonic expression of how it feels to be slowly lifted up and carried off into space. With a few quirky sound effects at the beginning and the end, and a carefully constructed electronic song in between, Faunts treats you to a dream that has you floating ever so pleasantly from the first note to the last.

Enshine – Adrift
In a similar vein as Faunts’ M4 Part I, Enshine steers you up into the stratosphere. This international two-man band, that started out as a project of multi-instrumentalist Jari Lindholm, weaves apocalyptic tapestries that are gorgeous to witness. Imagine standing on a crumbling precipice, staring into a vortex, and the voices of both an angel and a devil invite you to take a leap of faith. The music, described as ‘atmospheric melodic death/doom metal’, is otherworldly at its very core. Adrift is a perfect example of this.

Opening with mysterious keyboards, leading into a heavy and low-tuned base guitar and drums, playing in a ponderous rhythm, the song’s timbre is lifted by lightly played guitars and delicately sung vocals. Until the chorus. With feral roars, Enshine sings about leaving behind a world that is reaching its end. Curiously, the music retains the peaceful nature of the opening, and continues to play with this dynamic, only to conclude with an increasingly melancholic guitar solo. All instruments are doused in various effects, which gives the music this interesting quality.

Alcest – Autre Temps
Alcest is something very special. This French post-black metal band helmed by genius songwriter Neige is the very definition of ethereal. When Neige was young, he often felt in contact with a strange other world, which he called the “fairy world”. With Alcest, he sets his memories of that place to music, and the result is enchanting.

In 2012, Alcest released the aptly named Les Voyages de l’Âme, “The Journeys of the Soul”, which is opened by the brilliant Autre Temps. The intro, which takes well over a minute, consists of a soft choir and quiet, clean guitars. It slowly builds up until Neige starts to gently sing his poetry, exploring the concept of transience. Electric guitars give shape to the chorus, and with an audible hit they usher it out, only for them to linger and die down, into the most beautiful break. Delicate and sweetly melancholic notes on a guitar dance over subtle drums, and continue their enchantment while Neige resumes his singing. There are some traces from Neige’s earlier, more black metal-infused music near the song’s climax, but they are warm and soothing instead of cold and harsh.

Rez OST – Ending and Credits
To close this little article, I would like to take you into the world of a peculiar game called Rez. It first came out in 2001 for Sega’s Dreamcast, which sorely flopped as a console, and it later found its way to the PlayStation 2, where it was bundled with a ‘trance vibrator’, to “enhance the experience” of the game – when it came out on the Xbox 360, it was even possible to use up to four controllers for this task. The vibrations would follow the pulsations of the music and visuals of the game. Rez is an on-rails shooter, in which the player’s avatar can be a number of shapes traversing an abstract computer world in which he or she takes care of viruses and firewalls, in order to reach the system’s AI. This world’s visuals are inspired by the work of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, and the result is staggering.

When the player selects and shoots an enemy virus or firewall, musical noises are sounded, seamlessly blending into the underlying beat. This being an on-rails shooter, the levels are always the same, so the player can create fiddle around rhythms and tempos. There are five levels that increasingly ask more of your visual and aural faculties, culminating in a grand finale of images and sounds, only for the song to suddenly break down into a minimalist tune of breathtaking calm and serenity. And that seems a fitting piece of music to end this article with.

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