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Amplified Observations: If a band sounds like a government agency or entity, it probably makes great ambient music

Making the transition from working on one project to another is fun for no one. I posit that now, after most of my creativity has already been spent on an essay and I’m running on fumes toward the next deadline.

The human will is weak and prone to surrender. But thankfully, listening to ambient music in the midst of brain-draining work offers a sense of continuity and calm that blends everything into one extensive task rather than several imposing small ones.

In the past week, I have cycled through many playlists with the words “ambient,” “outer space,” “calm” and “atmospheric” present in the titles, containing a wealth of artists who do not mind only one long chord progression per song. However, scanning all of these creators, I recently discovered that many of my favorite ambient bands and musicians share an authoritative quality in their names.

It forced me to ask the question: Why did so many top notch ambient artists such as Boards of Canada, Global Communication and Forest Management adopt names that sound like government agencies? 

Perhaps it is to ease the listener into a zen inspired by bureaucratic dullness or inaction. Ambient music is, for the most part, slow-paced and passive-sounding. Aggressive names like Napalm Death or Slayer would fail to convey the sense of precise control that ambient musicians use to form and shape compositions.

In some ways, long ambient tracks resemble the red tape that civilians must wade through in order to accomplish something with the government. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of listening, a lot of surprise turns, a lot of strong emotion and, in my case, a lot of writing.

Aside from specific agencies, ambient artists also commonly name themselves after things that sound like government functions or positions. Bands such as the American Dollar and the Orb could easily fit into the political discourse of the past year. MGMT, which delves into ambience from time to time and even has a song called “Brian Eno,” evokes an authoritative ethos by using a shortening of the term “the management.” Portland-based musician Emancipator could easily be mistaken for a position in the criminal justice system. And the Necks sound almost like some paramilitary group like “The Black Shirts” or some covert illegal operation like Nixon’s “Plumbers.”

But if there were some sort of governmental body made up of ambient musicians, I would undoubtedly cast my ballot for President Brian Eno and Vice President Tim Hecker. With their sharp attention to detail, masterful visions of course and careful execution, I would trust ambient musician to progress the country into another age of reason and spiritual enlightenment. Politics slowing down and becoming more meditative would be a nice change.

At least that’s how I feel when ambient musicians are conducting my homework sessions.

Now, I think I’ve gotten my point across here, so on to the next project.

Luke Furman is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you think? Let Luke know by tweeting him @LukeFurmanLog or emailing him at 

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