Grounding Sounds #007: Peter Van Cooten


For the next Grounding Sounds show, we welcome Peter Van Cooten who runs the Ambient Blog ( The site offers regularly updated coverage of the modern ambient music scene, with a carefully curated selection of mixes and reviews. Peter, from Utrecht, Holland has an extremely diverse taste in music through ‘ambient’ and beyond – so naturally we were excited when he agreed to talk us through some of his all-time favourite records…

Peter, please introduce yourself to the world!

“I confess I hesitated at first when Harry asked me to join the Grounding Sounds Mixtapes series, for the same reason I never make any end-of-year list: there simply is too much to choose from! Ask me again next week and the list of “favourites” may be completely different!
But the idea stuck, and I thought it’d be nice to create a ‘classic’ (head/tail) mixtape once again instead of a complicated ambient mix-collage – just like back in the old days, creating compilation cassette tapes for friends.
I decided to stay away from ‘ambient/electronic’ music for this mix: there’s enough of that at  So this mix may be a bit of a surprise for the regular visitor!
It starts quiet, it ends quiet, but it has a lot of eclectic kind of party sounds inbetween – featuring some (SOME!)  of the tracks that never fail to enjoy me. … Hope you’ll enjoy them too! Have fun!” -Peter van Cooten (


Brian Eno – Spider and I (1977)
A bit of an unusual starter, perhaps, since this closing track of Eno’s landmark album Before and After Science album is more like an anthem to be played at the end of everything… celebrating total acquiescence (and faith) in the future and the unknown. Apart from that, it’s also a perfect blend of ambient and pop – so it may help cross from the ambientblog references to more pop-oriented material.

Agnes Obel – Close Watch (2010)
John Cale’s original track (1975) is one of his most remarkable songs, but when revisiting this I found it sounded somewhat dated. Which led me to this beautiful cover by Agnes Obel. Her striking voice and the beautiful wayward production demonstrates the fresh impulses scandinavian music has brought to the music scene.

Bersarin Quartett – St. Petersburg (2008)
Bersarin Quartett – which is not a quartett at all but just Thomas Bücker with his massive collection of orchestral samples– hit hard with his first release in 2008: crossing borders between classical music, cinematic soundtracks and electronic soundscapes. Completed with a somewhat mysterious album cover, this was 2008’s biggest unexpected surprise for me.

Ijahman – Whip that Tarantula (1981)
Time now to speed up the beat a bit and change the genre. Next to ambient/electronics, Reggae music may be the most dear to my heart – and certainly the most-played. This Ijahman track, the dub version of “Moulding”, is taken from the impressive “Raiders of the Lost Dub” album, showcasing the finest dub tracks from the early 80’s era – most of the tracks backed by the incredible Sly & Robbie rhythm tandem.

Jolly Brothers ft. Lee Perry – Conscious Man (1978)
All talks about reggae eventually lead to Lee Perry. He’s the giant of weird sounds and sonic experiments, even more so when considering the simple studio tools he was using. But among all the ‘weird scientist’ stuff, there are also a lot of classic vocal tracks that don’t feel ‘weird’ at all – until you start listening to what’s going on in the the background instrumentation. This is one of my all time favourites.

Little Axe – Ride On (1995)
Talk about “Crossing Borders” again. Here we have another legendary rhythm tandem (Keith Leblanc and Doug Wimbish – original members of the Sugarhill label house band), produced by the legendary Adrian Sherwood ( the european underground equivalent of Lee Perry), and sampling the blues to maximum effect.

Bernie Worrell – Insurance Man for the Funk (1978)
From there, it’s a small step to the funk. The UNCUT funk, that is. The conglomerate of bands led by George Clinton (Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins and a lot more), has dominated my players for the large part of the eighties (and some of the nineties). This is one of the finest tracks from keyboard player Bernie Worrell. If you have some funk left, you better have it insured right now!

Parliament – Dr. Funkenstein (1976)
Talking about ‘crossing all borders’ (again): George Clinton knew how to break down some walls. Rock-oriented folk obviously favourited Funkadelic for their ‘kiss my ass-let’s do Jimi Hendrix’ attitude. But personally, I always preferred the Parliament albums for their more jazzy (horn) arrangements and their sense of humour. Dr. Funkenstein is Clinton’s alter ego and all-time favourite: the big Pill to cure every big Headache.

Fela Kuti and the Africa ’70 ft. Ginger Baker – Let’s Start (1971)
Fela Anikulapo Kuti – I assume he too needs no further introduction. African non-conformist savageness coupled to a fierce funk background track…. I remember hearing this track for the first time and literally felt blown away by its power. A power that has not diminished for a bit even after 40+ years. I don’t think Fela’s impact on music (and local politics) can be easily overrated.

MC 900 Ft. Jesus – Shut Up (1989)
A bit of a strange interlude, maybe: the link is in the rhythm track which is obviously borrowed from Fela Kuti. As MC 900 Ft Jesus, classically trained Mark Griffin combined rap with experimental sounds, always depicting the darkest sides of big city life. “Shut Up” features recorded samples of a couple next-door argueing.

Deadbeat – Gimme a Little Dub (2007)
Canadian Scott ‘Deadbeat’ Monteith has presented many faces of rhythmic electronic music. On his “Journeyman’s Annual” album, he surprisingly incorporated some more tropical rhythms – to maximum effect.
Unintended sidenote: the time-span between the last three tracks is exactly 2 x 18 years. No idea what that may possibly mean.

Kip Hanrahan ft. Jack Bruce – Shadow Song (Mario’s In) (1986)
Shadow Song is one of the more accessible songs from this enigmatic band-leader. It may sound like a classic salsa track, but the powerful Jack Bruce vocals takes it to another level – not to mention the ecstatic sax solo!

African All Stars – Scandalo (2000)
This little gem has all a salsa tracks should have: sharp horn section, thriving percussion, stunning rhythm piano and great vocals. It may come as a surprise that this band consists of all-african musicians – hence the french vocals which are of course the translation of the original “Shame & Scandal” song: “Your Daddy ain’t your Daddy but your Daddy don’t know”…

The La’s – There She Goes (1990)
You may have guessed from the preceding playlist that I’m not really a fan of “white indie rock music”. But as Pop Tunes go, I think this track is one of the finest pop-songs ánd performances ever made. It is often said that this song might celebrate the use of heroin, but I prefer to hear a celebration of the feeling to be heavily in love. I don’t know any other song describing that feeling as well as this one.

Jilted John – Jilted John (1978)
I was a punk music addict in the late seventies, albeit for a short time. Just enough to clear my brain from the last remains of the progrock era (Genesis, Yes, ELP and such) and make room for other kinds of music. This particular single has remained one of my favourites, because of its bitter (and utterly english) humour. If the La’s single is about the start of a relationship and being in love, this one is about the and and being dumped. And let’s face it: Gordon ís a moron!

Catherine-Ann MacPhee – Nuair Bha Mi Ogg (1994)
This collection started out calm, so I felt that it had to end calm too. I don’t understand a single syllable from these lyrics and yet this song transcends a longing that clearly can be felt (the title means “When I was Young”). I guess it must be the classic melody of the song, and Catherine-Ann’s beautiful voice.
This conclusion may also lead the way back to my ‘ambient’ mixes: an instrumental version of this mix, performed by the Whistlebinkies (who’d guess they’d ever be featured in an ambient mix!?), is also featured in the september 2012 ambientblog mix “Gathering Clouds”.