At the beginning of the year when time lost its structure and the days melted into a long, anxiety fuelled mess, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole. I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last, but this particular rabbit hole introduced me to the fantastic channel should be asleep, dedicated solely to comforting, minimal music that many followers use to drift off.
I, however, found the music on there far too exciting to simply press play and switch off. I obsessed over the artists, many of whom had no official releases on formats such as Spotify, having fallen into obscurity in the days preceding the Internet. One artist I discovered through this channel, who I cannot claim as obscure but certainly adore, was Hiroshi Yoshimura. In fact, this year also saw Light in the Attic seize the popularity of the recent Japanese ambient resurgence and reissue a number of Yoshimura’s releases, including his much beloved Green album, which had become so pricey on Discogs it seemed out of the question to ever dream of owning a copy.
The genius of Green is in its overlap between the minimal aspects of ambient, using empty space just as skilfully as placement of sound, but mimicking the sounds you usually hear solely in nature. The result is a profoundly comforting, all-consuming soundscape that for me established the same grounded feeling I only previously achieved through actually being outdoors surrounded by nature for a long time, something increasingly difficult to do as we were confined to our houses for extended periods.
However, this article isn’t about Hiroshi Yoshimura exclusively, rather about the feeling his music creates and perpetuates. This experience is something that the recently established radio channel Ambient Flo has managed to capture and extend. Ambient Flo creates and maintains a mesmerising ambient atmosphere of calm in the form of a 24-hour, constantly accessible site of musical relief.
Ambient Flo was established during the first lockdown by cult electronic musician Auntie Flo, and began as a live-stream from his back garden. In recent months, the live stream has been adapted to a 24-hour radio station. The station’s core values are those of Music, Health and Fair economy; and it was founded in the hopes of being “a sustainable venture that can provide an oasis of calm amidst the madness and a new source of income for artists during this difficult time.”
Each month, Auntie Flo and his “high calibre guests” curate around three hundred tracks that are played across the day, which is split into periods for the moods of Morning, Daytime and Night. Alongside this, there is a ‘birdsong’ option, which can be played alongside the ambient selection to make the listen a more organic, immersive experience. Importantly, the music is not supposed to be predictable or fall into the background. The station’s website states “we are not musical wallpaper or just another mood based ‘chill out playlist’” the songs are curated “in a way that an algorithm could never do and most of the music doesn’t appear on Spotify.”
Ambient Flo is the kind of positive force the world needs right now, centring upon values of mental, physical and spiritual health, raising funds to support the struggling arts to create a “new musical ecosystem” and placing music at the forefront, not in the background. In their own words, Ambient Flo intend to “induce a sense of calm, to reduce heart rates, to lower brainwaves and to bring a deep sense of meditative relaxation or focus.” That is something I think we can all fairly say we would greatly benefit from right now.
Tune in to Ambient Flo here, and tune out.