Midnight Meditations is an aptly titled new compilation of late night downbeat and ambient (predominantly) electronic music, supported by the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants. It comprises of 14 previously unreleased tracks from Australian based artists including the likes of Chapter honcho Guy Blackman, Sara Mary Chadwick, Dick Diver singer R. Edwards who channels Bowie on heavy downers, The Green Child (Mikey Young from Total Control with Raven Mahon from Grass Widow), and some contemplative solo piano from Fia Fell.
It’s an album steeped in peace, with a gentle melancholic mood, which is fitting as it has arrived just as the second wave of COVID-19 hit Melbourne, and we’re all in enforced lockdown. In a way it’s medicinal, as the music has an incredible calming effect, offering a tonic to soothe our existential dread, whilst still being diverse enough to maintain interest.
It’s an album designed to be listened to in its entirety and its first few listens just wash over you, aside from a few jarring moments, which are generally when the electronics or organ are replaced with more song based material.
Highlights include Ela Stiles haunting vocal and harmonium piece piece that sounds weirdly retro pop, like it could’ve come from the Drive soundtrack, Letraset’s quirky experimental electrics, the sad pop of Punko, and the album opener the sequenced patterns of Brisbane duo Yirinda, which features the whispered vocals of Butchulla songman Fred Leone.
But that’s probably not fair as most of this album is a highlight. Alex Macfarlane offers an epic meandering synth piece, whilst Gallery B’s gorgeous ambient new age electrics could soothe the most heightened mind, and Thomas Hardisty provides ‘A Calm Night on Larne,’ which is sweet, subtle and refined, almost electronic baroque. This collection is an embarrassment of riches, many of the artists I’d never heard before, but will continue to follow now. So in a sense it has dual roles, introducing us to new artists whilst simultaneously soothing us. Midnight Meditations closes with David Chesworth’s Greater Expectations, a sweet archival piece from the 80’s, an artist Chapter have continued to champion via re releases of 50 Synthesizer Greats and Layer on Layer as well as Essendon Airport material.
It’s a difficult time for everyone, and our lives have changed dramatically in the last few months. Midnight Mediations doesn’t necessarily solve any of our problems, but it does help us cope with them.