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10 Ambient and Classical Records That Shaped CFCF and Jean-Michel Blais’ Music

From Alice Coltrane to a 70s Polish symphony, the Montreal artists share some of their favorite albums.
This post ran originally on THUMP Canada. Photo by Dan Wilton, courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy

If you've been reading THUMP for a minute, then you know we're huge fans of Michael Silver, the Montreal musician and producer best known as CFCF. Shortly after attending the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony, where he was nominated in the "Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical" category for his rework of Max Richter's "Berlin by Overnight," he released the Balearic-influenced mini-album On Vacation on Mark Barrott's label International Feel. Given his experimental tendencies, it made sense for Silver to team up with French-Canadian composer Jean-Michel Blais, who released his improvisation-heavy debut LP II on Arts & Crafts this year.


Following their recent debut collaborative performance at Montreal's Place des Arts as part of this year's Red Bull Music Academy, which saw Silver live remixing Blais' piano compositions, we asked the two artists to share some of their all-time favorite records with us. Not surprisingly, their picks were appropriately eclectic, ranging from Alice Coltrane's 1982 album Turiya to a symphony by Polish contemporary classical composer Henryk Górecki.

Check out their selections and accompanying words below.

CFCF's Picks

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. - Like a Duck to Water

"This album by the first all-synthesizer ensemble, which I discovered early thanks to its having been sampled by DJ Shadow on a track from Endtroducing…, was probably my introduction to minimal electronic music. I was obsessed with the song "Oleo Strut" for a very long time and it remains a huge touchstone for me when trying to accomplish a lot with very little."

Alice Coltrane - Turiya Sings

"This cassette album has had its share of the New Age resurgence shone upon it, and with good reason. There isn't much music out there as warmly enriching and spiritually transportive as this. As a sonic experience, this album deserves to be at the top of the canon."

Toshifumi Hinata - Reality in Love

"One of my happiest blind buys. This album's romantic, ephemeral was very influential on my [2013] record Music for Objects. A blend of ambient experiments and lush waltzes adorned with glittery synth shimmers."


Eberhard Weber - The Following Morning

"This lovely multifaceted record on ECM touches on a lot of my soft spots. Using a [Robert] Fripp-style live looping rig, Weber attains some really beautiful, cosmically pastoral sounds with his double bass."

David Cunningham - Water

"A really lovely overlooked album by the once leader of the Flying Lizards on the also still under-appreciated Made to Measure label. Very much in a similar mode to something like Music for Films by Eno, and including collaborations with Fripp and Peter Gordon to boot. Really enveloping music."

Jean-Michel Blais' Picks

The Hilliard Ensemble ‎– In Paradisum, Music of Victoria and Palestrina

"I acquired this album as a teenager, one of my first, moved by the curiosity of someone who wants to know the power of simplicity and distance. Alternating between plainsong and polyphony, this sacred music transpires and transcends outside of time, where we find ourselves sharing the visceral comprehension of a common mortality."

Henryk Górecki - Symphony 3

"As a student, when time permitted, I would lay down alone on the floor in the darkness of the Conservatory's [Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Trois-Rivière] listening room. I'd immerse myself in the immense humanity of this symphony, called the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, going from audible limits to bearable ones."

Arvo Pärt - Fratres

"In a car. At full speed. Probably late. I drive through the golden fields of the little corner of the country where I come from. I hear. I listen. Alternating between the exhilarating gasps of violin techniques and the infinite sublime of calm moments, Fratres perfectly encapsulates the relentless conflict between the present time and eternity, which occurs within us daily."


Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol. 2

"Second in a series of six, Xerrox Vol. 2 proceeds like a dense, immersive drone, monotonous and concrete, which certainly summons to my mind myriads of cinematography. The contributions of minimalists Michael Nyman and Ryuichi Sakamoto are as obvious as they are necessary. A long journey in itself."

Deru - 1979

"Shallow, modern, soft, round and far away from constraining rhythms,

sets itself free of cut up-time. 'And in these whereabouts of time that pant, here I am again, my camp pitched' - [Québec poet] Gaston Miron."

Check out Jean-Michel Blais' upcoming Canadian show dates here.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.