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October 9, 2005 10:55 PM   Subscribe

What is your favorite mellow instrumental music?

I'm going to be managing a student-run restaurant for a few weeks and I'm allowed to bring in music to play during business hours. It can't have vocals and needs to be mellow and subtle enough to not distract customers too much. I'd really like something better than the normal Kenny G/soft modern jazz stuff that is in the cd player unless I bring something else in. I'm thinking some Miles Davis, Dirty Three, Mogwai type things, but specific album ideas from them and others are very welcome. And yes, I know there have been a bunch of "sleep music" threads, but most responses in those threads don't specify whether or not the recommendations are instrumental or not.
posted by evilbeck to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First thing that comes to mind is anything by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra... the self-titled album in particular.
posted by xil at 11:02 PM on October 9, 2005

Stars of the Lid (per aspara ad astra is my fave but they're all good)
The Dead Texan
Philip Glass (The Hours Soundtrack)
Gas (Koenigsforst is my fave)
Jackie-O Motherfucker
Kammerflimmer Kollectiev (Cicadidae)
Matthew Shipp (I like Nu Bop)
Thelonious Monk (Brilliant Corners or Standards)
Gotan Project
So Percussion (Steve Reich - Drumming)
posted by dobbs at 11:10 PM on October 9, 2005

I just remembered the Dead Texan album has a vocal on a track, but it's almost like someone talking in a whisper.
posted by dobbs at 11:11 PM on October 9, 2005

Oh, and Pop is also an excellent Gas album and far easier to find.

Paulene Oliveros' Deep Listening is also very good.

This thread, also, though I wasn't asking for vocal-free, will be of help and has some samples of my own reccomendations.
posted by dobbs at 11:17 PM on October 9, 2005

I recommend "Blues Dream" by Bill Frisell. "Good Dog, Happy Man" is also quite good.
posted by headlessagnew at 11:19 PM on October 9, 2005

Christian Kleine
B. Fleischmann
Boards of Canada
Amon Tobin
Brian Eno
Keith Fullerton Whitman (the drone stuff, not the IDM)
Fennesz (specifically Endless Summer)
Julian Fane
The Album Leaf
Max Richter
Telefon Tel Aviv

And so on.
posted by rfordh at 11:24 PM on October 9, 2005

Nick Drake "Bryter Layter"
Django Reinhardt "Brazil"
Tommy Flanagan "With Malice Toward None"
Shuggie Otis "Freedom Flight"
posted by nicwolff at 11:35 PM on October 9, 2005

Yo-Yo Ma did a really neat album with Bobby McFerrin years ago. It's inoffensive, a little funky in places, but very easily becomes background music. As far as I can remember, McFerrin only used his voice as an instrument, no actual words.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:38 PM on October 9, 2005

Agree with Penguin Cafe Orchestra. In that same vein I offer:

Shadowfax (particularly "The Odd Get Even," which is just a fantastic instrumental album and not at all what you might think of when you hear the group's name, if you're familiar with their first albums)

Nightnoise (I like "At the End of the Evening")

Acoustic Alchemy, maybe? Checkfield? (Some of it does have vocals, but the early albums don't.) I'd recommend some Mannheim Steamroller or Chip Davis, except that that's leaning a little too far toward Kenny G territory, IMHO, though I do have to admit that Mannheim's "Classical Gas" CD is at the very least briskly and competently performed.

Patrick O'Hearn, maybe "River's Gonna Rise" or "Indigo" (I haven't really kept up with what he's done more recently).

In the jazz vein...

Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" will probably go over well, it's a real jazz album that almost everybody likes. Or a good recording of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Allan Holdsworth's "Atavachron" is kinda fun if you want to hear him wail on a Synthaxe, but it may be a little too dissonant.

Andy Summers' "The Golden Wire" or "Charming Snakes" may fit the bill... he's done some respectable jazz stuff that's pretty mellow.

Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert" maybe? Or his Vienna or Paris concerts... any of his solo piano stuff, really.

It's too bad it can't have vocals, I'd really like to recommend Koop's "Waltz for Koop."


The soundtrack for "Gattaca" perhaps? Actually almost anything by Michael Nyman is probably good.
posted by kindall at 11:43 PM on October 9, 2005

The album is Hush, dirtynumbangelboy- when I first saw the thread, I thought it was looking for mellow instrument, and was going to recommend the cello and offer Hush as an example of an approachable CD.

Along with that, some of the Yo-Yo Ma stuff like the 6 unaccompanied Cello Suites by Bach is good- the cello is a very soothing instrument in the sense that it's not harsh or percussive, or demanding of attention, but also not dull if played well.
posted by hincandenza at 11:45 PM on October 9, 2005

Vince Guaraldi
posted by borkencode at 12:34 AM on October 10, 2005

Tortoise, and its ThrillJockey sibling, Isotope 217.
posted by ldenneau at 1:43 AM on October 10, 2005

Some tracks by Lemon Jelly may be suitable - some of them don't have vocals. Charango by Morcheeba comes with a bonus CD which is instrumentals only. Go to ECM new series (record label) for solo piano / jazz quartet stuff by Keith Jarrett and friends. Michael Nyman has written some great quieter pieces but I don't know of any entire CDs of his work which *stay* quiet throughout. It's a tricky one.
posted by paperpete at 2:15 AM on October 10, 2005

A couple of esoteric items, all instrumental:

Bruce Becvar has a issued number of albums, and his The Nature of Things is one of the finest I have ever heard. A close second is his River of Gold.

Michael Jones is a pianist whose work is far better than George Winston. A couple of his albums, such as After the Rain and Magical Child, include background strings.

For the occasional uptempo beat, try Planet Drum or one of Mickey Hart's other offerings.
posted by megatherium at 4:21 AM on October 10, 2005

Beegie Adair
Marcus Roberts
posted by IndigoJones at 4:29 AM on October 10, 2005

Some Herb Alpert
and some Don Ellis
posted by bricoleur at 5:03 AM on October 10, 2005

posted by notsnot at 5:04 AM on October 10, 2005

I'm not usually a fan of mellow instrumental stuff, but I really enjoyed Belladonna by Daniel Lanois. (His other three albums are good too, but they also have vocals and are somewhat less mellow.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:40 AM on October 10, 2005

The Buddah Bar CDs are excellent, and some of them are actually 2 CD sets, with one disc for "dinner" music and the other for "party" music. It all has a "world music" feel to it, including the Middle East, Asia, European influences, etc. A few songs have lyrics but you could just weed them out. Plus - they're available very cheap on
posted by kdern at 6:03 AM on October 10, 2005

Any album from Eluvium is awesome, mellow and entirely instrumental.

Sonna is another great instrumental band, but the tempo may be a bit too fast for your purposes.
posted by cmonkey at 6:45 AM on October 10, 2005

do make say think!!
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:52 AM on October 10, 2005

If you don't dislike the trippy lounge/chillout style, there's some good stuff on these compilations.
posted by funambulist at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2005

For low volume listening I like classical guitar, like Segovia, but this might not set the right mood in a student run place. YoYo Ma has put out any number of interesting instrumental albums which are not traditional classical music, such as the Silk Road Project albums. I think these would fit in fine. As for Jazz, much of the good stuff suffers at very low volumes. Miles late 60's stuff, like Nefertiti, sounds decent at low volumes as does Chet Baker. Please do not subject your poor customers to Kenny G or other "smooth Jazz" nonsense. This pabulum is not jazz.
posted by caddis at 7:15 AM on October 10, 2005

Erik Satie's Trois Gymnop├ędies
thirding the Gas recommendations
Triosk meets Jan Jelenik - '1+3+1'
the first Twin Peaks soundtrack (some vocals)
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
Rabih Abou-Khalil
Pan American
Rhythm & Sound
Martin Denny
posted by hellbient at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2005

Nightmares on Wax. Smokers Delight is a stone cold classic.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2005

I also like Smoker's Delight but there are intermittent vocals.

If you have the time and inclination, Metallica and Black Sabbath have a number of instrumentals-only songs that are pretty mellow.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:36 AM on October 10, 2005

Mick Turner on guitar. There's just something about his style that's calming, and arresting. It's like listening to wind chimes....but guitar.

Lots of stuff on Thrill Jockey Records
Cliff Martinez (Solaris & Traffic soundtracks)
Savath & Savalas

posted by carsonb at 6:28 PM on October 10, 2005

woah, I should've read the "more inside" part. if you dig the dirty three, you should already know Turner's solo work. He's done some collab stuff, too, like bonnevill that's worth a listen.
posted by carsonb at 6:30 PM on October 10, 2005

'Pieces in a Modern Style" by William Orbit is one of my favorites.
posted by nekton at 7:30 PM on October 10, 2005

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