Prog-rock for prog-rammers.
April 27, 2011 12:36 AM   Subscribe

Prog-rammer seeks prog-rock. Help me find some new coding music.

While writing code, music for me is the next best thing to benzedrine. Today I heard Yes on the stereo and thought that might be good code music... and realized I haven't added anything to my repertoire in a long time. Especially not anything like Yes.

Boring details: I like upbeat stuff with a lot going on, bass- and drums- wise. e.g., Girl Talk, Big Boi, Okkervil River, Deerhoof, Electrelane, Kate Nash, Modest Mouse. Stuff you can sort of sink into and stop paying attention, with a lot of rhythm.

Bad examples: Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, and anything that's too lyrically distracting (Jonathan Richman comes to mind).

Bonus points if it's prog, a genre I know fuck-all about. Your recommendations?
posted by zvs to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
The Mars Volta.
posted by neushoorn at 1:04 AM on April 27, 2011

You may begin an exploration of Frank zappa's catalog, beginning with the guitar albums, full of rhythm, ad-lib solos (there are guitar pieces on other albums too). You could also enjoy his songs.
posted by nicolin at 1:43 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Explosions In The Sky is great coding music for me. Plus, no vocals to distract you.
posted by tempythethird at 2:08 AM on April 27, 2011

Phideaux. They remind me of 70's era King Crimson & Gabriel-era Genesis. Start with Doomsday Afternoon (Yeah, that's a YT playlist of the whole album. It will blow you away. Enjoy.)

You might also like Porcupine Tree. I'm more partial to their later stuff myself (In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of Blank Planet) but their The Sky Moves Sideways album is hailed by many as a modern prog rock masterpiece.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:13 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of vocals, but very good: Sparks.
posted by beerbajay at 2:16 AM on April 27, 2011

Yes Fragile
King Crimson Discipline
posted by safetyfork at 3:02 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered prog metal bands like Opeth?
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:03 AM on April 27, 2011

I don't know whether their music really fits your requirements (it might) but come on, Add N To (X) ought to be a great coders band. :-)
posted by Decani at 3:25 AM on April 27, 2011

I'm listening to a lot of Orb and Amon Tobin while programming, lately. If you like d'n'b, Photek is also worth a listen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:52 AM on April 27, 2011

Long-winded krautrock/German prog, no small influence on Electrelane, I find quite nice for coding. A few GOTO basics:

Can - Tago Mago
A.R. & Machines - Die Grune Reise
Neu - Neu! and Neu! 75
Harmonia - Deluxe

The contemporary band Audionom works with the same ideas combining them with a punkier vibe.

Endless Boogie do what they put on the can, taking Stonesy bar band riffs and drawing them out to hypnotic lengths.

What I like about all these bands is that rather than a lot of time signature changes, which can break my train of thought, they take the prog rock ideal of inventive and exploratory playing and really lock into a groove.
posted by bendybendy at 4:04 AM on April 27, 2011

Later Stereolab, later Cocteau Twins, Cardiacs.

The ultimate extended prog madness, with no danger of lyrical distraction, would probably be Magma's Theusz Haamtakk trilogy.
posted by Grangousier at 4:15 AM on April 27, 2011

Lots of prog heads like Amon Duul and Gong. Some of the more grooving Zappa might be OK, try "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar" if you lean away from lyrics in general in your prog.
posted by rhizome at 4:44 AM on April 27, 2011

GXX DXXN IT I borked the links. Sorry. Maybe a mod will shoot my last post down?

Try some of this stuff I love:

Nigerian JUJU music like Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey.

Congolese SOKOUS like Pamelo Mounk'a.

Casino versus Japan is IDM

My friend swears by Ulrich Schnauss.

Boards of Canada.

Krautrock - e.g. Can.

Blade Runner, the soundtrack.

Does any of this stuff speak to you while not speaking too much?
posted by krilli at 4:55 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Many of the Old Skewl hackers I hang with have a thing for proto-industrial - KMFDM/MDFMK, Lords of Acid, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Butthole Surfers, The Cramps, Ministry. Something loud and dangerous with a driving beat.

Also, try acid jazz (I know, I know, it's like calling everything with sampling and drum machines techno, but still...) - Theivery Corporation is a good place to start. Relaxed, rhythm heavy jazz/electronica, real easy to get into a grove and stay there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:22 AM on April 27, 2011

I don't code (much) but when I'm at work I'm listening to something more often than not.
Some suggestions for aural background music*. Suggestions are all over the map, genre-wise, and I'm recommending entire albums with example tracks linked:

Battles - Mirrored. Atlas

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. Storm (2, 3)

We Followed Tigers - And Then We Were Killed. Forest Skyline / Lost in It

A Beautiful Machine - Home (entire band discography legally downloadable from, Home is their best album.)

Biosphere - Cirque. Too Fragile To Walk On (bonus info: this album was inspired by "Into The Wild")

Boris - Feedbacker. Feedbacker I

Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives Of Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn

Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun.

* which is not to imply that these suggestions don't merit active listening - just that I find them particularly suited to being, as Cusack put it in High Fidelity "something I can ignore".
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:20 AM on April 27, 2011

This post on the blue is a great discussion on prog rock that would get you started on this genre.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 6:56 AM on April 27, 2011

There's always jazz fusion if you want to get away from all that annoying singing.
posted by freakazoid at 7:07 AM on April 27, 2011

Bands to check out: Opeth, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Ratatat, and, for some modern-day prog, Coheed and Cambria.
posted by General Malaise at 7:35 AM on April 27, 2011

Oh, and, well, Led Zepplin.
posted by General Malaise at 7:35 AM on April 27, 2011

Rush. I've listened to Grace Under Pressure every day for the past couple weeks just to get in the zone at work. Rush is a little hard to digest at first though. Start with Moving Pictures and then try Permanent Waves.

King Crimson is good stuff too. They're definitely on the jazzier side of things. I'd kinda neglected them until I heard Red.

If you're down with metal, try some Blind Guardian. A Night at the Opera is their proggiest album. I take BG over an actual prog metal band like Opeth, because I find growling vocals to be downright abrasive. I can get into them sometimes, but work is not one of those times. BG's cleaner vocals are less distracting.

Dream Theater is also consider good modern prog. I haven't been able to get into them enough to make an album recommendation though. Too much technicality without emotion for me.
posted by valadil at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding fusion: Return to Forever, Weather Report, Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, etc. I also have a Pandora station set up for the Sea and Cake that fulfills much of the same function I think you're talking about.
posted by Clustercuss at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2011

posted by hydrophonic at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2011

Here's the Pandora station I listen to when I'm coding. Think Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Tortoise, the Album Leaf, and early-70s Pink Floyd.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:42 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Avenger50 at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2011

...with a lot going on, bass- and drums- wise...

The National does some pretty interesting stuff, rhythm- and drum-wise. (I lose the extra prog points.)
posted by booth at 10:18 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by battleshipkropotkin at 10:22 AM on April 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. The only one here I know doesn't work for me is Explosions In The Sky, which I like but renders me completely unable to focus. Great stuff.
posted by zvs at 10:26 AM on April 27, 2011

I really like SomaFM for this type of thing.
posted by seesom at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try some 70s Italian prog too. Groups like Il Balletto di Bronzo, Le Orme, or PFM.
posted by medeine at 11:38 AM on April 27, 2011

Matt Stevens.
posted by motty at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2011

I enjoy listening to the latest Above & Beyond podcast. It's 2 hours of coding-friendly music with new material every week. While not all of the songs are to my taste, most of it is top-notch.
posted by NBJack at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2011

I can heartily recommend Thumpermonkey Lives!!! Gabriel era Genesis with some Melvins era Bowie & rawk pronk. Perfect for brain noodlings.

Their first 4 albums are free, but their latest one "We bake our bread under her holy fire" is just super and worth more than the asking price.

My favourite track is Abyssopelagic which can be heard here;
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2011

Brian Eno Get Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Before and After Science, and Another Green World for starters.

Gabriel-era Genesis has been mentioned, so I'll second that and also mention Gabriel's late 70s solo work. They're all self-titled, but referred to by the cover images: Car, Scratch, and Melt.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:32 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole and Brothers Gonna Work It Out.

The Avalanches, Since I Left You.

As a programmer, I tend to like ethereal music a lot, so I do a lot of coding to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works and stuff by The Orb, mainly Orbus Terrarum and Live 93. YMMV. As good a band as they are, I don't enjoy coding to Godspeed! You Black Emperor, because I find the rising and falling tension in so many of their songs to be distracting.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:12 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

+1 for BOC, Trying to remember the song I caught myself singing along to today... Not words, but you know nngnn gnnn nnn mmmm, all while bashing the keys in time with the beat. But then my office mate asks me to turn down my headphones. Techno/trance/triphop always works for me.

Not Prog, but my recs are:
Sneaker Pimps
posted by djpuddings at 6:29 PM on April 27, 2011

Jaga Jazzist, a rather nice jazz/post-rock/prog-rock band.

Camel, an actual prog-rock band. "The Snow Goose" is a great concept album.

Tortoise, somewhere in the prog/post/ambient vein, not too dissimilar from Jaga Jazzist melodically.

Shearwater - an Okkervil river side project. Might be distracting lyrically/vocally, but worth a listen.

The Album Leaf post-rock/electronic. Relaxed and melodic.

The Egg - almost like an updated Pink Floyd crossed with downtempo? Nice, though.

Battles - I'm really not sure what these guys are, but they're great, a kind of math-rock supergroup. Excellent drumming from Helmet's John Stanier, but the lyrics turn many off.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2011

Sorry "vocals", not lyrics. Battles' lyrics are incomprehensible-to-nonexistent, they use voice as an abstract instrument.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2011

If you find that you like Porcupine Tree, try Blackfield also.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:51 PM on April 27, 2011

Liquid Tension Experiment - some very awesome instrumental prog rock.
posted by matticulate at 2:32 AM on April 28, 2011

Oh, and don't forget to invest in a really gooooooood sound reproduction system. Lower the level of perceptually objectionable distortion, and you lower the level of distraction.
posted by krilli at 2:50 AM on April 29, 2011

Kevin Gilbert made the best prog rock you've never heard.

He has really great, amazing, wonderful lyrics - but the songs work just as well even if you ignore them.

There are some free downloads at the site, but I think his best stuff was on Thud, Toy Matinee, and The Shaming of The True, none of which are represented on that page.
posted by kristi at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2011

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