** (Update 8 December 2021 : I wrote a piece about recent events that have circulated about The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. Read it here.) **
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Ian Urbina, a New York Times journalist with an ambitious plan. He asked me to provide press coverage for his global initiative, ‘The Outlaw Ocean Music Project‘. I was delighted to receive the offer and immediately immersed myself in the vast library of musical compositions that have been created so far. Last week, I wrote an extensive piece outlining the whole ideology behind the project’s conception. You can read that here to get a full grasp of what it’s all about.
Over three hundred artists have contributed to create a bank of over 900 songs between them. I tasked myself with the job of listening through and curating my top twenty. This undertaking would be a daunting job for some, but became an enjoyable treasure hunt for me.
Sometimes the finest gems are the ones hardest to uncover. This has been a hugely enjoyable experience and quickly became the deepest crate dig of my blogging career.
20 // Ash – Dystopia
To set things in motion: I bring you the atmospheric and vibrant sounds of Egyptian multi-instrumentalist Ash. The Montreal-based electronic producer chimed in with a sensational single, titled ‘Dystopia‘. This tune features some snippets of dialogue from Urbina’s field work. He incorporates them subtly into the track which is littered with beautiful string arrangements and a wavy, wandering, downtempo bass-line.
Ash’s melancholic soundscape is a fitting way to start of this really exciting countdown. Dystopia is a tune of the highest quality and the list wouldn’t have felt right without it’s inclusion.
Listen to more from Ash – HERE
19 // Nu – Try Feeling
Berlin-based producer Nu is one of the most high profile contributors to have taken part. The eclectic beat-maker released a creative and thought-provoking three track EP on Friday – each tune riddled with really pleasing old-school radio transmissions. Nu’s 2011 single, ‘Who Loves The Sun‘, is one of my all-time favourite holiday songs, therefore it was a no-brainer to include his work here.
Seeing such high-class musicians jumping in to promote journalism is quite exciting. Try Feeling is a slow, plodding production that is not dissimilar to the sound of Nicolas Jaar. Nu’s work is always intriguing, this little EP for ‘The Outlaw Ocean Music Project’ is no different.
Listen to more from NU – HERE
18 // Tom Day – Oceans
Australian ambient electronic artist Tom Day decided to get involved and his wonderfully whimsical, ‘Oceans‘, makes it into my list today. Day uses the softest of textures here – ordinarily, I’m not a huge fan of beat-less music, but my word, this one is a thing of beauty. Euphoric clinks and clanks seep through from the synths. This tune transports me right into a lovely uplifting zone – a mesmerizing piece of artistry.
This project lays claim to scores of hidden gems, Tom Day’s mix of ‘Oceans‘ is one of the most tranquil and quaint.
Listen to more from Tom Day – HERE
Hailing from Ukraine, Shanti People operate in the EDM sphere of things. Protection fuses Ian Urbina’s audio footage with brooding, intense and impactful beats. This track is one of the most experimentally creative of the whole collection. The band combine a couple of different styles – we hear heavy electronic elements, traditional vocals and the consistent integration of Ian’s footage, all rolled into one meandering, yet hard-hitting composition. Supreme work.
Listen to more from Shanti People – HERE
16 // Idealism – Only Forward
We fall deep into a state of trance and zen with Idealism’s beautifully cinematic Only forward. Once again, I get chills unearthing music like this, his work is moving and emotive. We can hear radio transmissions weaving in and out throughout this piece. The piano melodies are played softly and elegantly to ensure we are kept in a peaceful frame of mind. A nice contrast to the wild and rugged reality of life on the ocean.
As the radio transmission checks out with the words ‘Happy Birthday Everybody’, the tempo shifts and we are elevated even further into other-worldly melancholy.
Listen to more of Idealism‘s music – HERE
Munich-based producer Cap Kendricks really got into the mood whilst producing Fish Biscuits. This high octane piece of electronic/Trip-Hop was a nice change in genre, as I explored the collection. Plenty of the releases were based around ambient sounds and minimal production – Cap Kendricks’ interpretation was somewhat more heavy-handed.
Fish Biscuits is wild and rampant with snares and symbols crashing everywhere. It’s a literal adaptation of a storm out at sea.
I tip my hat to Cap for this one……I know, sorry.
Listen to more from Cap Kendricks – HERE
14 // Shook – The Void
Shook is a Dutch producer who’s music is often heard in the coolest of settings. A few years ago, a tune he produced called Milestones was featured in an episode of Better Call Saul. In 2016, he was diagnosed with Pancreatitis which required extensive periods of hospitalization. His illness made him really appreciate the purity of life itself. He vowed to continue making music whenever he could and agreed to take part in Outlaw Ocean.
This year, his five song EP for ‘The Outlaw Ocean Music Project’ was released and it was predictably enchanting. The Void is the stand-out – it’s slow, purposeful and chilling.
Check out more music from Shook – HERE
Crisp production from Los Angeles-based beat-maker Huez grabs the thirteenth spot. Metaphor For Infinity is a charming little instrumental – it feels quite minimal and sparse, yet packs a punch. It has enough force to stand out in a sea of 52 hours worth of music. This is a sleek production and well worthy of it’s addition into my top picks. There’s something very endearing about Huez’s production style.
Listen to more from Huez – HERE
12 // Tekkla – Resistance
The first of two heavy techno-styled tracks featured in the list – Swedish duo TEKKLA decided a marauding, intense take on the project would be ideal. Resistance is a powerful tune with loads of booming bass and wicked arpeggios rippling around. Add in a couple of snippets from Ian Urbina’s archive and you’ve got yourself a techno soundtrack to The Outlaw Ocean.
I love this adaptation – the lads really put a lot of work into it. Hellishly talented lads, it’s no wonder they are signed to Australian label Clipp.Art (one of my favourite electro labels)
Listen to more from TEKKLA – HERE
Following on from TEKKLA – here is the second techno track included in the feature. Chasing Thunder was only released this weekend and has managed to sneak it’s way in. Township Rebellion are a German collective who have been in operation since 2012.
Plain and simple, I was hooked in by the introductory piano chords and fully embroiled by the time the high-powered techno kick arrived. This is a warehouse friendly, darkly lit, techno tune – it has somehow found it’s way onto Ian Urbina’s project, gotta love that. Moody.
Listen to more from Township Rebellion – HERE
There you have my countdown all the way down from #20 to #11.
Observing the diverse, varied and innovative way that each musician tackled the project was eye-opening. Each one of them stamped their own mark on the sound effects at their disposal and made some truly inspiring songs. I hope this feature sheds light on the incredible work they have done.
I was blown away by the quality of the tracks and it gives me a great sense of pride to share this list with you all. Tune into part two to continue the countdown.
Playlist of entire top 20 tracks – Curated by The Sound Sniffer
Read more about The Outlaw Ocean Music Project here.
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a one-man music blog which is still only a baby – Founded and run by Kevin Coakley in early 2019. He is a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists I find in my submissions inbox.
Check out my Interviews HERE