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Nura Selects — Music for Mindfulness

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Martin Roberts. I’m a musician, producer, musical director, and playback tech, and have had the pleasure of working with artists such as M83, Dua Lipa, Shawn Mendes, Schiller, and many more. Having been working in live music consistently since 2013, I constantly find myself touring and travelling from A to B, and therefore trying to find new ways to enjoy music and make my travels a bit more bearable.

I first discovered Nura in 2018 and quickly snapped up a Nuraphone — I loved the idea of personalised listening. Fast forward to 2020, and I’m still loving my Nuraphone! I’m forever making playlists on Spotify for different moods, and over the years I’ve become increasingly fond of ambient and instrumental music. Whether it’s late at night on a tour bus, silly-o’clock in the morning on a flight, or just backstage before a show, I constantly feel myself drawn to music that enables me to get out of my own head and not be stuck on a metronome like I am throughout the day.

For this months Nura Selects, I’ve created what I feel to be “Music for Mindfulness” — 90 minutes of instrumental, ambient music that emphasises tone and texture over traditional musical structure or rhythm. While mindfulness itself is a fairly new concept for me (I only recently started practicing and enjoying the benefits of meditation), I feel my musical taste really leans into the message behind it. Below I’ll go into why I’ve chosen these songs, why they’re special to me, and how they’ve helped with my journey so far as a touring musician.

M83 — Colonies

M83 have long been one of my favourite bands. In 2019 they released a surprising yet totally indulgent follow up to their 2007 ambient album, “Digital Shades Volume 1”. I’ve always had a soft spot for this album - it’s one of the most emotive and moving albums I’ve ever come across. While this follow up album is very different, Colonies is a real hark back to its predecessor. The slow, almost unpredictable movement of this track is the perfect setup for a moment of mindfulness.

I find it pretty difficult to let go of my thoughts a lot of the time - sometimes due to anxiety, sometimes just a flurry of creativity - so a track like this really helps get me out of the day to day and focus on myself.

M83 — Waves, Waves, Waves

Another favourite of mine by M83. This is not only a great track to get lost in, but it also reminds me of a trip I took with my wife to Hawaii in 2018. I listened to it a lot while sitting on Waikiki Beach, watching the waves come in and out. Listening to it now allows me to go back there and focus on the energy of such a magic island.

I also love the theming behind this song. In the background throughout are waves crashing against a beach, and behind them come chords progressively moving up the keyboard, like the chords themselves are waves moving toward your feet. I just love that image, and the thought process behind it.

Schiller — In Paradisum

My first tour back in 2013 was playing keyboards for German electronic act, Schiller. I’d grown up knowing Schiller for his 1999 trance hit “Das Glockenspiel”, but 2013 Schiller was very different. The album we were touring, “Opus”, combines electronic with classical, and explores the similarities between the two polarising genres.

In Paradisum was my favourite track from the album while preparing for the tour, and while we never played it live it still remains one of my go-to tracks when I need to unwind.

Roger Eno & Brian Eno — Wintergreen

Brian Eno is one of those names I’ve heard throughout my musical journey but never really known too much about. I’m slowly starting to get more familiar with his work as I delve more into music for meditation and mindfulness. “Wintergreen” is a collaboration between Brian and his brother Roger, and with a back catalog going all the way back to 1974 and 1983 respectively, there’s a whole load of amazing work to discover from them.

Jon Hopkins — Abandon Window

This is one of those tracks that just leaves me speechless and wanting more. It’s arrangement perfect - being long enough to immerse yourself in, but just that tiny bit too short that you want to listen to it again. Every time.

I also love the intimacy that comes from the room recording. The sound of the key strokes and the damper pedal really make you feel like you’re in the room, and once again enables me to fully immerse myself in the song.

Ólafur Arnalds & Arnór Dan — For Now I Am Winter (Nils Frahm Rework)

I saw an Ólafur Arnalds open air show in Madrid in 2018 - totally on a whim - and loved every moment of it. I’ve also been a big fan of Nils Frahm for a number of years, and love the way he blurs the lines between his solo piano compositions and his synth-heavier work. This track is no exception, and a recent discovery of mine. A perfect collaboration here from some incredible artists.

Corey Allen — Drip

From his 2020 album “Forever Hum”, “Drip” is the perfect addition to this playlist. The simplicity of this piece is perfect for mindfulness, but the instruments and effects used give it something a little different - something to focus on and pique your interest. That’s important for me with mindfulness. There’s a sweet spot somewhere between knowing a song (and all its nuances) off by heart, and hearing a song for the first time and trying to guess where it’s going to go. Right in the middle there is a place for a track like this. Not quite structured enough to be able to follow beat for beat, but interesting enough to keep my focus without wondering where it’s going next.

The Album Leaf — Window

I first saw The Album Leaf live at Bush Hall in London back in 2010, and it totally changed the way I approached live music. Suddenly, something that I’d always experienced as energy-filled and exciting took a totally different turn. The Album Leaf’s live show is intimate, enticing, and truly immersive. “Window”, from the album “In A Safe Place”, is an incredible journey of harmony, instrumentation and texture - a constantly evolving wash of ambient bliss.

Aelius — The Void Between

Aelius is my own project, which I started in 2012 with my long-time collaborator Lee Tyler. The whole premise of the project was to make music for ourselves - music that we wanted to hear. What came was an album full of experimental sounds and textures crossing genres like Post Rock, Ambient, and Electronica.

I wrote this song in 2014 after seeing Max Richter at The Royal Albert Hall in London. I hadn’t heard any of his music before, and was offered the tickets by a friend, so I went with a completely open mind. The first song he played was his recomposition of Vivaldi’s “Spring 1”, which left me speechless. I came away from that show with that chord progression going round and round in my head for days, but with different instrumentation and arrangement. What came of that is “The Void Between” - one of my favourite tracks from my album.

This track really helps me focus as I know it back to front. It also brings back some great, and some not-so-great memories of the early part of my career. It’s almost a great big piece of humble pie.

This Will Destroy You — Rooftop

Another amazing piece of texture here from This Will Destroy You. The way the guitars almost sound like synths, using the entire audio spectrum, is a total ear-gasm. Some of this bands material is wildly in your face and oppressive at times, but this is something really refreshing from them, and the perfect addition to this Mindfulness playlist.

Gareth Diskson — Ping Pong

I really love the melodies and dynamics in “Ping Pong”. Clearly recorded without a click, the guitar work here speaks for itself. I really love how lost I can get in this track, and the journey I’m taken on by the pace of the guitar. I almost wish this track was double it’s length...

Jon Hopkins — Open Eye Signal (Asleep Version)

Another great piece from Jon Hopkins here. His “Asleep Versions” EP saw him rework songs from his album “Immunity”. Honestly, all the tracks from this EP could be featured here, but “Open Eye Signal” has that real slow-build and unexpectedness that I love about ambient music.

Jon Hopkins also appears to practice mindfulness and recently released his track “Singing Bowl (Ascension)” - a 21 minute meditation piece using only a 100 year old singing bowl that he found in an antiques shop. Alongside this release, he also put together a mammoth 24-hour long ambient playlist that puts mine to shame. It’s of course saved and downloaded on my phone for whenever my next tour may be...

Helios — Vargtimme

I absolutely love the textures of this track. Its drawn-out, distorted and warped sustained notes and background noise, along with the slowly creeping-in synth makes this a really pleasurable journey. The way it moves so slowly and builds over 4 minutes leaves me anticipating and wanting more, begging for a chord change or a new instrument to appear, but it doesn’t ever quite get there and I think that’s a great creative decision.

Tycho — Plains

Tycho is one of my favourite electronic artists. His fusion of guitars, synths and heavily programmed drums are a marriage made in heaven for me. I listen to a lot of his work while travelling - there’s something very joyous and inspiring about his music that really helps me after a long day. I’ll often go to sleep on the tour bus listening to music, and Tycho is one of those artists I know I can rely on to lull me into a sense of security.

Hammock — I Can Almost See You

This song takes me back to my first tour with Schiller in 2013. I remember discussing Hammock with Christopher von Deylen (Schiller) one evening after a show, then getting on the tour bus later that night and sitting up front with the driver as we made our way to the next city. I sat there listening to Hammock for a few hours, watching the world go by, and drifting in and out of awareness of things around me. This song in particular takes me back there and allows me to remember that feeling of letting go of my thoughts for a moment.

This Will Destroy You — They Move on Tracks of Never-Ending Light

I love the arrangement of this song. The intro’s lonely guitar, panned left, willing you to wait for something to enter on the right, followed by the B-section that totally shifts the focus and energy of the song. I first heard this song in 2007, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It heavily inspired some of the writing of my album, and remains another one of those songs I know like the back of my hand, even after not hearing it for years.

M83 — Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun

This, for me, is a sonic masterpiece. The slow-build of the intro, followed by the steadiness of the drums, and it’s 10:37 run time, make this a journey I never want to end. After an hour of ambient music, the drums here may come as a little surprise, but I feel it ends the playlist on a really positive and inspiring note.

This song also brings back some amazing memories of my favourite tour to date. I had the pleasure of touring with M83 in 2016, and ending the show every night with this song was incredibly special to me. Not only did I love the song already, but now I had my own mix of it in my in-ears. It really cannot get more perfect than that.

Thats all from me, but you can find a few of my public playlists over on my Spotify page if you’re interested in more of the same. You can also find me on Instagram, and follow my journey around the world; doing what I love, and discovering amazing music along the way.

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