To help get yourself into the mood for the end of the world as we know it, you can’t go far wrong with some of these albums – the very best post-apocalyptic music. These provided the soundtrack within my work bubble whilst researching and writing The Knowledge and I hope you enjoy them too…
By far the best post-apocalyptic folk album in existence (although I’ll concede it’s a fairly niche genre…) is Songs from the Flood Plain by Jon Boden [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]. This is his second solo album and the tracks describe a world after industrialised civilisation has receded and the remaining communities have reverted to a rural lifestyle. The lyrics are poignant, the melodies beautiful, and Boden has a wonderful, resonant voice (he also heads the better-known eleven-piece band Bellowhead). Here, for example is an excerpt from the track ‘Under their breath’.
The old walls of the factory came tumbling down today
And the children in the valley went to see
And old men stood pondering and folks began to talk
Of what had been, and is, and is to be
And the sun through the ruins was golden
And all the people of the valley were
Dreaming under their breath
Only modest dreams
But dreaming nonetheless they were
Dreaming under their breath
Dreams they had forgotten long ago
Listen to the fascinating BBC Radio 3 interview with Boden on his influences and motivations for this unique album. And as part of his A Folk Song A Day project, Boden has also re-recorded a song originally by Nic Jones, called Ruins by the Shore [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify].
I also find Max Richter’s compositions achingly beautiful, and much of The Knowledge was researched and written with his opus on my headphones. If you’re not familiar with Richter’s music, I’d recommend you start with Memory House (it’s one of my favourite albums and is hauntingly atmospheric): so follow one of these links and explore his many other albums from there. [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]
I’ve always thought that much of Tom Wait’s music is faintly apocalyptic, but especially two albums he released in the 90s, Bone Machine (and in particular the track ‘Earth Died Screaming’) [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify] and Mule Variations [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify], as well as the compilation album Beautiful Maladies [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]. I think it’s the combination of the ragtag instrumentation and his inimitable raspy, gravelly voice (and indeed, Waits appeared as “The Engineer” in the post-apocalyptic film The Book of Eli).
‘Godspeed You! Black Emperor’ have also produced some wonderful soundscapes. East Hastings on their debut album ‘F♯ A♯ ∞’ [Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify], for example, is irresistibly compelling and features on the soundtrack of the post-apocalyptic film 28 Days Later.