The best contemporary ‘unclassified’ music for running and exercising
Radio 3’s Elizabeth Alker will be joining hundreds of others at MediaCity in Salford to run 5km to 'beat' the music of Beethoven's Fifth Sympony, which is performed live by BBC Philharmonic for Sport Relief. Ahead of the run, she's created a playlist of some of the best ambient and electronic tracks to hit the gym with
Martyn Heyne: Carry
Martyn Heyne is a Berlin-based guitarist and composer who builds echoing layers of sound upon each other. This track is a good warm-up, because it has a steady rhythm but it's also quite sparse. It’s a reverberating, immersive track to set your mind on the task ahead.
Robin Richards: Gefail Yr Ynys
Robin Richards is a Manchester-based composer, whose new album Castel was written during an artist residency in the Welsh town Caernarfon. The beats in this track were fashioned out of field recordings made in a blacksmith's forge – a fiery hearth used for heating metals. We're upping the tempo now....
Jlin: Carbon 12
Jlin's sound is so fresh and distinctive. This track was written as part of the soundtrack for a high-concept dance production by the choreographer Wayne McGregor. It was inspired by the rhythms and timbres of West African and Indian music, but it has been knitted together with Jlin's trademark irregular beats, so it's full of energy. It's time to start digging deep and finding that running groove.
Aphex Twin: T69 Collapse
This is one of Aphex Twin's weightless, airy numbers, which bounces along with gentle, steady beats, just like like a ping-pong ball. Or a person setting off on a 5K...
Afrodeutsch is one of Manchester's most exciting up-and-coming electronic musicians. Her music is born out of her love of trance, Afrofuturism and Detroit techno, so it's a rich mix of sounds and styles. Filandank is the perfect track to distract you when the going gets tough.
Rival Consoles: Persona
Ryan Lee West is a DJ, composer and producer who goes by the name Rival Consoles. He makes spacious, ambient music that’s both hypnotic and fit for the dance floor. Or, in this case, a treadmill.
Caribou: Never Come Back
Caribou's 2020 album Suddenly connects with the listener as instantly as the title suggests. It's superbly streamlined, but is also full of delightful melodic twists and turns that will lift your spirits and keep you moving.
Floating Points: LesAlpx
Floating Points AKA Sam Shepherd has followed the most unorthodox route to becoming one of the UK's most sought-after club DJs and headline acts. He studied at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester before going onto university and ultimately gaining a PhD in neuroscience at University College London. His music is complex and serene, but is also the banger you need to keep your legs moving and heart pumping.
Flying Lotus: Do the Astral Plane
This track is for that moment when the blood rushes to the head and you start to push through the pain barrier. It's a woozy combination of dubstep, jazz and RnB, but it also has a rhythm that will keep your heart rate up and your legs moving.
Margate's Raven is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His album Jeté was inspired by dance as an art form. The title is the French word for 'jump', so this track is one to keep you bouncing.
Tirzah: Make It Up (Hackman Remix)
Tirzah studied the pedal harp at the Purcell School of Music Music, before going on to work in the fashion industry. Her music has style and authenticity. This remix by Hackman will saunter up alongside you and set a cool and steady pace.
Koreless is the Welsh-born Glasgow based electronic producer Lewis Roberts and this track is a little two-step wonder.
Plaid have been making music since the early 90s, but their sound remains an unpretentious but well-crafted mix of glitchy beats and twisted synths. This track comes from their 2019 album Polymer. If they're still firing on all cylinders after all this time then we runners have no excuse.
Kiasmos is the side project of Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds, initially conceived because Olafur wanted to channel some of the spirit of the after-show parties he would perform at, alongside his more serious concert music. This track is so fun., and is just the lift we need at this stage of the workout.
Daniel Avery: Stereo L
This is the power-down part of the playlist now, but we're only slightly lowering the tempo with this gorgeous track by Daniel Avery. His music was once described by the late great techno producer Andrew Weatherall as ‘gimmick-free machine-funk of the highest order’. His latest album Song For Alpha has a slightly muted and more subdued vibe than we’re used to hearing from him the Bournemouth producer.
Colin Stetson: Spindrift
This track is the elation you feel at the end of a hard workout. It shimmers and soars and if the exhaustion hasn’t already make you feel like you're levitating, then this will.
Rafiq Bhatia: A Love That's True
Rafiq Bhatia describes his music as reaching for the emotional intensity of avant-garde jazz through sculptural electronic composition. This track is one to put on after you’ve crossed the finish line and need to do some deep breathing to.
Unclassified is on BBC Radio 3 on Thursdays at 11.30pm and then available to listen to at any time on the BBC Sounds App. Unclassified Live - a live concert series to accompany the radio show - is coming to Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall on 3 April. Daniel Avery, Caroline Shaw and Rafiq Bhatia will perform orchestrations of new works with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Buy tickets here.
Follow the playlist on Spotify so you can download it for your run!
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.