Feature / Revision sounds: Epigram Music's top picks

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Are you one of those lucky buggers who can work and listen to tunes? If you are, Epigram Music invite you to plug in, and browse their top revision picks during this pitiful exam period. If you're not, maybe you'll find the right sound to work to - right here...

Da Pacem Domine (Sung by Sigvards Klava and the Latvian Radio Choir) - Arvo Pärt

By Charlie Gearon, Film Editor

Arvo Pärt’s choral work is meditative, sombre, and achingly beautiful. Influenced heavily by medieval Gregorian counterpoint (see Leonin and Perotin), Pärt’s vocal pieces unfold slowly and deliberately as parts weave in and out with one another, creating a delicate, textural web of sound. Unlike his medieval predecessors though, Pärt’s choral work possesses the ability to build to fervent climaxes which fill the listener’s ear with resonant beauty. These climactic moments are tactfully chosen and avoid the melodrama and cheesiness which permeates some contemporary choral music, like that of Eric Whitacre.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, the seven-movement ‘Magnificat Anthiphons’ gives a good overview of what Pärt has to offer. The second movement exhibits some of the darker, more sinister moments that he’s capable of, while the jubilant final movement – ‘O Immanuel’ – ends the piece with a glorious optimism. The Latin lyrics make for perfect accompaniment for revision and don’t attract too much attention, while the music on the whole generally succeeds at inducing a meditative and contemplative state which Pärt intends to invoke. Whether you’re thinkin’ bout God, or boning up on your Chaucer, Pärt makes the perfect companion.

Ambient 1: Music For Airports - Brian Eno

By Alexia Kirov, Music Editor

It took me a while to accept that I just couldn’t work effectively listening to music with lyrics; as much as I love Hatful of Hollow, Morrissey questioning ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ was just a distraction from my from my GCSE Chemistry notes.

Enter Brian Eno’s sixth studio album, Ambient 1: Music For Airports, onto my iPod and into my life forever more – to this day, it’s still my go-to for revision/essay writing. In the sleeve notes, Eno describes the album as ‘ignorable as it is interesting’ that would ‘induce calm and a space to think.’ What more could you need to study to?

The tracks are titled as they appear on a vinyl copy of the album - the first two tracks, ‘1/1’ and ‘2/1’ are on side one, and the other two tracks, ‘1/2’ and ‘2/2’ are on side two. The album is 48 minutes long - each side lasts roughly 25 minutes. Therefore, the album can even help you plan out your study sessions.

Developed in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management system in which you work for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. So, you can listen to two tracks, press pause and take a break, and then get back to the next two tracks and your revision. No more tedious clock watching – plus, a bit of Eno is as good of an incentive to get down to work as any. Give it a go.

Black Focus - Yussef Kamaal

By Kate Hutchison, Deputy Music Editor

I’ll be honest: this record is not just a revision accompaniment for me, but its versatility is its beauty. I’ve plugged Black Focus in to bear sweltering national express buses; in full consciousness - and calm, I have grappled with its intricate neo-jazz interpretations, and I’ve continually flushed its sound into the background of my everyday tasks. Why? It’s difficult knowing where to begin.

Almost entirely an instrumental album, Black Focus inputs an unmistaken stamp on the jazz-funk genre, cultivating basslines which revolve your insides above complex percussion that scream drumming-expertise, while jumping analogue keys dominate and guide the tracks’ emulation of jazz-improv. The record winds around and stretches the genre, but unpretentiously embeds soul/hip-hop influences to its groove.

The album can be played at any volume: its sophisticated dealings in tempo and instrumental progression mean that whether you’re burying your head into difficult literature or preparing for date with relaxation, Black Focus can be your soundtrack. Of course, I’d be more pissed off that the pair are no longer collaborating if the record didn’t deliver as perfectly as it does. For me, concentration could eternally ensue from this track-listening, and I’m convinced it could for anyone who knows what’s good.

Selected Ambient Works 85-95 - Aphex Twin

By Mitchell May, Second Year English

Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 has been my go-to studying album for some time now. At one hour 15, it was the same length as timed essays in sixth form, but now that essays can stretch on for weeks, I still use this classic of 90s electronic music to bring me focus and calm.

Knowing Aphex Twin initially through the surreal maximalism of his later singles ‘Windowlicker’ and ‘Come to Daddy’, I was surprised to see an ‘ambient’ album of his held in such high regard. Perhaps ‘ambient’ is misleading; this is a rich and layered album built on repetition, somewhere between techno and ambient music, but Selected Downtempo Works doesn’t have the same ring to it. If you find Brian Eno’s ambient albums too sparse for noisier environments (I’m thinking of you, ground floor of the ASS!), then this is the album for you.

Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake

By Gruff Kennedy, First Year, English

It would be hyperbole to call Drake’s debut album perfect revision music, but it certainly comes incredibly close. Described by an Uncut reviewer in 2000 as “cool and shady amid the celebratory sunshine of the sixties”, the overall impression is of a pervading calm and beauty with little of the melancholy that can be seen in his later works.

An accomplished fusion of folk and jazz, tracks like ‘River Man’ and ‘Saturday Sun’ accomplish the tricky feat of remaining far enough in the background to enhance revision while maintaining enough character to be enjoyable, cut through with snappier deviations from the languid mood, such as ‘Cello Song’, to keep you from drifting away. Drake’s exceptional instrumentation - especially his beautiful guitar work- and soaring melodies are the perfect formula to soothe a mind addled by, in my case, Old English epic poetry, but they should work no matter what you study.


Featured image: Epigram / Kate Hutchison


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