Drawling study sessions, often extending late into the night, are almost a defining characteristic of A-Level. We here at The LACAS Chronicles understand how unnerving it can be having to understand complex equations or memorizing references for your sociology class when it’s 3 in the morning and everything starts sounding way too quiet. Thus, I took the liberty to compile a few of my favourite, (mostly) instrumental albums which can help you get through some tough times.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000)
Genre: Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
GYBE’s 2000 opus has been hailed as not only a staple in post-rock, but one of the best instrumental albums of all time. Featuring just four deeply atmospheric and immaculately arranged tracks, Lift your Skinny Fists is one and a half hours of rumbling guitars, distorted drums, moving violins and sparse pianos that are continuously evolving through its run-time. Best described as a post-apocalyptic take on classical music, this desolate yet intense record is perfect to soundtrack your late-night cramming.
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children (1998)
Genre: Intelligent Dance Music, Downtempo
There is a certain magic in the way Music Has the Right to Children is able to evoke such a strong feeling of nostalgia with almost exclusively digital instrumentation and samples. It’s an absorbing record, both for people new to the genre and for long-time IDM fans, due to how mind-mindbogglingly complex yet infectiously catchy it is. Let the warm synthesizers and glitchy percussion envelop you as you’re solving past papers or revising formulae and definitions.
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops I-IV (2002)
Genre: Drone, Experimental
I very strongly believe that The Disintegration Loops is right up there with Trout Mask Replica and The Shape of Jazz to Come as a milestone in Avant-Garde music. The story behind the album is simple yet intriguing: in the early 80s, William Basinski produced a few ambient recordings that he discovered two decades later in 2001. When he attempted to shift the tapes to a digital format, he discovered that the ferrite layer would deteriorate every time it passed the tape head, and so these slowly disintegrating loops gave birth to a four-part album released the following year. It is a beautiful, sprawling record with an almost other-worldly sound to it. Plus, its 296-minute run-time means that the album will most likely last longer than your study session will.
Brian Eno – Ambient 1/Music for Airports (1978)
Genre: Ambient (duh)
Everyone knows ambient music is great for studying, so what better album to recommend here than the album that pioneered and popularized the genre. For those of you who might not know, Brian Eno has been in the business for well over four decades and having worked with everyone from U2 to David Bowie to James Blake, has been incredibly influential in a variety of genres. But throughout his career, few of his feats parallel the impact that this record has had. Even over 40 years later, Music for Airports – with its droning pads blossoming over plucky keyboards and smooth vocal harmonies – is not even close to losing its appeal. Put it on during a particularly stressful revision session and it’ll be sure to calm you down (and prevent potential breakdowns).
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)
Genre: Modal Jazz
Come on, everyone knows Kind of Blue is possibly the greatest jazz album of all time. I’ve spent countless evenings at my desk, wearing my best headphones and soaking in every detail from one of the most important records in modern music history. On the contrary, I’ve spent just as many summer mornings putting it on in the background as I read a book sitting besides the window in my room. Sure, it works as a great album for studying, but as a plus point it also serves as the perfect starting point for someone trying to get into jazz.