ISO Standard Work Music

The other evening/early morning I was up late coding – no grand surprise there.  While cursing quietly and achieving minor victory in equal measure, some familiar, soft electronica smoothed the path toward success.  In one of the few moments I noticed it was even there, I got to thinking about the same small stack of albums that have been doing this for the last ten years.  Glossing quickly past the disquieting realisation that I started university over a decade ago, this ISO Standard Work Music (to coin a phrase from those work-hard, play-hard halcyon days) was something I thought I’d share.

So turn back the clock, imagine you have an un-started 5,000-word essay/programming assignment to finish by morning, and enjoy a night out on the keyboard with DJ Rik Ward, circa 2001, at the helm…

10pm – 12:30am : Deep & Chilled Euphoria (mixed by Red Jerry)


A masterpiece of pensive synth, ambient wash and twinkle, this hefty double-CD soundtrack of being in for the long haul was notable for the significant number of unavailable-elsewhere dubbed-out remixes of popular euphoric trance of the era.  Deep & Chilled Euphoria took an expertly mixed journey from quiet, rumbling beginnings through the plainitive yearning of (a mis-labelled Irresistible Force mix of) Coldcut’s Autumn Leaves and a memorably sparkling, sparse version of BBE’s seminal Seven Days and One Week.

One Discogs reviewer describes it as an “incredible” release filled with “essential ambient gems” and I’d be inclined to agree.  As a double-bonus, one of the tracks has the excellently-named “Tim ‘Love’ Lee’s Semi-Bearded Remix” and the first CD contains something by Rui Da Silva that’s actually any good.

After 2 hours of ear-paddling, Moby brings the album to a close and you’re snapped out of your entranced concentration for a brief moment.  The silence lasts for as long as it takes for you to open your browser and go to…

12:30 – 4:30 : Soma FM’s Drone Zone & Beat Blender


Many are aware of soma.fm‘s perenially popular and undeniably funky Groove Salad which, although occasionally verging on the ambient, is just a little too groovesome for that special all-nighter mix of isolation and concentration.  Enter Drone Zone, which is still playing its trademark “atmospheric textures” as I write this, 11 years on.  Best described as sounding a little like you’re floating in space, the minimal soundscapes gently change as the midnight oil slowly burns away.

As the morning wears on and you inevitably begin to flag, up the tempo with Beat Blender, which lies somewhere in between the aforementioned two – slightly funkier beats lie alongside some deep, ponderous house to keep your brain ticking over as dawn approaches.

4:30 – 6:30 : Progressive Anthems


It’s getting serious now.  The sun is behind the horizon, as is the home stretch.  If only you could stay awake!  Quickly whipping out something to bludgeon your brain into paying attention, you whack Progressive Anthems on the stereo.  After briefly marvelling at the no-expense-spent cover art with its ground-breaking use of periods, your psyche latches once more onto vaguely-familiar mixes of then-recent trance floor-fillers.

This time, however, a variety of producers with even sillier names – Fred Numf feat. Five Point O for example – have been drafted in to make them longer and rather less interesting, which is exactly what you need.  Storm, Schiller, X-Press 2 and (god forbid) Tomba Vira thud past in an unremarkable yet not unenjoyable way that only early 90s progressive trance can.  Before you know it, 2 hours have gone by, and it’s half 6 in the morning.  How’s that assignment coming along?

6:30 – 8:00 : Chicane – Behind The Sun


The sky is orange, and the warm pads of Overture wash in your direction as you eye your word processor and realise you’re over the word limit and furthermore, you like what you see.  Somewhere nearby, a programmer surrounded by long-forgotten pizza has finally written something that works.

Your spirit lifts, and you hum along to the bittersweet melancholy of No Ordinary Morning.  By the time you’ve got to Saltwater the editing stage is two-thirds undereway and it’s looking cogent and coherent.  Confidence is rising and your warbling along to Clannad can be heard in the next room.  Bryan Adams’ appearance on the ropey Don’t Give Up goes unnoticed – the euphoria is building, you’ve cracked open a Coke and started on reformatting the headings.

The sun rises over the halls of residence to the final strains of Andromeda, bathing your room in colour as your enormous HP printer rambunctiously rattles out the finished article, waking up the rest of your corridor in the process.  Coat and trainers on, you stride purposefully out towards your department in the dozy morning sunshine.

Now, don’t spend all afternoon in the bar.  You remember what your mother told you about alcohol, don’t you?