Freedom. Improvisation. Unpredictable. That’s the beauty of experimental music. I have to say, I was a little hesitant at first in listening to an experimental album recommended by my friend. You can’t blame me – the “Ultimate Care II” album of Matmos is mainly based on the sounds of a washing machine. After listening to all the tracks, I was honestly exhilarated that I got to immerse myself into a whole new music experience.
Are you getting curious now? Well, I’m giving you 11 experimental albums you can listen to for a fresh perspective:
“Ultimate Care II” (Matmos)
Okay, let’s start to the beginning of my experimental music experience. I honestly laughed to the idea that one can make music with a washing machine. My friend was giving a mischievous smile, so I gave in and listened to the “Ultimate Care II” album. The whole album is filled with sloshing, drumming and beeping sounds from a washing machine. These sounds are accompanied by an electronic beat. If this is not experimental, I don’t know what is. I was amused the whole time. It was like listening to a musical about doing laundry.
“Serpent Music” (Yves Tumor)
Strange artist name, strange music. But, this is actually one of my most favorite experimental albums. No wonder the tracks have different moods because the album is based on soul and relationships. The tracks are intelligently done due to the smart mix of nature sounds, percussion, guitars and some falsetto voices. The whole album has an exotic vibe. What got to me was the last two tracks. I recommend not listening to them at night. “Face of a Demon” and “Perdition” – go figure.
“Sunergy” (Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith/Suzanne Ciani)
The album has three tracks and every one of them has a nostalgic blend of electronic beat, drone and white noise. For me, listening to it was like basking underneath the sun while having a psychedelic experience near the beach. Seems I got the right mood because the composers met in a coastal town in California.
The album may seem chaotic for some people, but “blisters” has a certain beauty on its own. The idea of mixing a shaky R&B voice to orchestra instruments and electronic sounds is a brave move. I think this album captures emotional turmoil perfectly.
“Zelalem” (Mikael Seifu)
Mikael Seifu comes from Ethiopia. That’s why his “Zelalem” album evolves on local instruments such as masinko and krar. These instruments are combined with synthesizer sounds and an electronic vibe. Other than these sounds, the album also has a lot of dialogue and crowd noises. These additional noises probably came from real-life recordings while Seifu visited his hometown again.
“Fetish Bones” (Moor Mother)
When it comes to an album with purpose, “Fetish Bones” can certainly fit that type. All tracks have poetic lines, delivered through simple dialogue, rap or indefinite singing. The lines have powerful messages, some even go for angst. The theme of the album goes back to the composer behind it. Camae Ayewa is an activist. Naturally, she presented serious issues like mistreatment, sufferings of immigrants, discrimination and racism in her tracks. To capture the picture through sound, she used dissonant noise and sounds from recordings.
“On Behalf of Nature” (Meredith Monk)
Honestly, some parts of this album are humorous enough that you might laugh a bit. But, I think it is because of the element of surprise. For example, a relaxing ambient music emerges when suddenly, a loud human noise interrupts such as a hum, a laugh, a scream and other distracting sounds. I could even hear baby coos and chants. But overall, the message behind “On Behalf of Nature” is powerful. It celebrates the gift of human voice, which we sometimes take for granted.
“Varmints” (Anna Meredith)
Aside from “Serpent Music,” “Varmints” is another one of my favorite experimental albums. Like, Yves Tumor’s album, Anna Meredith composed tracks that have different moods. But, Meredith’s album is more on the optimistic and lighter side. Most of the tracks are upbeat and adorable to listen to. I can also hear a hint of classical music in the background. That’s because of Meredith’s experience in classical concert halls. When the composer wanted more spice in her music, she went through with it by creating this album.
“For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)” (Huerco S.)
For a unique yet relaxing music experience, listen to this album by Huerco. Listening to the tracks makes you feel that time is getting slower, and that the place is getting smoky or windy. The composer’s different moods of ambient music can make you trigger memories, good or bad. Some of the tracks are haunting while some are romantic. It is beautiful how the tracks lack any beat and percussion sounds.
“Love Streams” (Tim Hecker)
Sometimes, some instrumental tracks have texture. I can’t explain it exactly. Maybe it’s because of sounds that remind you of actual objects. Whenever I’m listening to “Love Streams,” I can imagine a chisel being rubbed on a surface or a knife being sharpened. The overall vibe of Tim Hecker’s album is dreamy, at least in my opinion. I can have good dreams with some obstacles and misfit objects along the way. The album’s tracks are similar to that as well. Smooth background music with sudden electronic noises. This album perfectly represents experimental music.
“Schaum” (Masayoshi Fujita/Jan Jelinek)
I love listening to “Schaum” when I want to feel relaxed or just simply sleep. Nature is the focal point of this album. You can imagine being surrounded by trees. I, for one, can imagine sleeping in the middle of the forest whenever I listen to the tracks. I love that the album has no ups and downs. The tracks flow into one harmonious and continuous album. Everything is relaxing and gentle to the ears.
Experimental music is definitely not for everyone. Not all of us are comfortable in trying new things. Listening to experimental music is like tasting exotic food – you can either hate it or love it. Since I love diving into new experiences, I have no regrets listening to music coming from the washing machine.