Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chill Out, Dude...

It’s music that soothes and grooves.

Modern, earthy, beat oriented and sometimes ambient, the genre (or sub-genre, whatever) of downtempo is an eclectic one whose sound harkens back to the sunnier and more psychedelic times of the mid to late 1960’s. A friend of mine likes to say that “electronic music is inherently psychedelic“, focusing on mood rather than traditional song structure. He's right. Downtempo is hypnotic music, often using repetitive loops and keyboard driven melodies that can have the effect of putting the active listener in a state of “musical” trance, not unlike some of the better psychedelic records of the sixties (such as “Tomorrow Never knows” by the Beatles).

There’s a quote I remember that says these types of bands take drugs to make music to take drugs to (I love that!), and they’re partially right. In the best cases though, the music is the drug.

That being said, you have to be in the right frame of mind to really ‘get’ this music. If you don’t take the time to really listen you may think of it as monotonous or simply as background music. And some second or third tier downtempo bands can sound cheesy and lethargic, some bordering on bad lounge. There are many out there that fit that bill, let me assure you.

But the best ones can take you to another place and slow your heart rate back to healthy levels after a particularly stressful day. The good songs and albums in this genre are textbook examples of mellowness (but never boring), simple sounding but extremely complex compositions with a great, memorable melody. If all of this is sounding a little hippy-dippy, well…it is, really.
Downtempo is our generation's equivalent to Esquivel. Space age lounge pop updated for this century.
*Mixing Instructions: Take equal parts of Esquivel and Miles Davis, one part Amboy Dukes and one ounce of Massive Attack. Shake vigorously. Chill well before serving.*
I'm tellin' ya, it makes one heck of a great after hours cocktail. And, like some of the best cocktails it may sound silly at first, and it may not taste great at first either, but it will get you high and it will grow on ya.

Bands Of Note: Air, Thievery Corporation, Lemon Jelly, Royksopp, High Llamas, Stereolab, The Orb, Portishead, Caribou.

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