Did I ever tell you that I used to be an ambient DJ? No? Well I did. It was ages ago, back in the early 1990s. In those days, you might remember, every club worth its salt had a chill-out room, and because these chill-out rooms needed DJs there was lots of work for people like me, people who wore furry hats and were happy to play totally beatless records for hours on end.
Although I later learned to beatmix and would look back scornfully upon my ambient DJ days, I’ve been returning in recent years not just to ambient music but to the broader idea of the chill-out room, which we all liked to think of as a post-modern experimental multimedia playground. In practise this usually meant there was a VJ or “video jockey” projecting Akira on the wall while the DJ rinsed out the latest Pete Namlook banger. You get the picture. The point was that you needed an audio and a visual component to provide an authentic chill-out room experience.
So let’s fast forward to the present, in which I’m a parent of a toddler and so things like DJing or chilling out or even watching Akira are distant, alien concepts. But, to paraphrase a track from the KLF’s “Chill Out”, a memory from a past life keeps calling me back, so I’ve recently been recapturing some of the spirit of the chill-out room when watching videos with my son: videos that, bizarrely, have nothing in them but tractors.
It turns out that there’s a niche Youtube culture that revolves around ambient videos of tractors. By “ambient” I don’t mean that they’re soundtracked by The Orb or are dappled with glowing psychedelic light shows. I mean it in the sense that these videos have no voiceover, no music, no jump cuts: just the distant, droning, strangely soothing sound of the tractors’ engines as they potter around in the middle distance.
As an adult I find them quite soporific, but as a toddler my son absolutely loves them, and often demands to watch them – “picture tractor!” is his demand. I prefer to show him these ambient tractor videos than the Peppa Pig cartoons he’s also fixated on. While Peppa Pig gets him pumped up, usually for a conflict over the question of whether to watch another episode of Peppa Pig, the ambient tractor videos seem to calm him down.
So if you care for a toddler and you want to create a chill-out vibe in your house with ambient videos of tractors, here are four of the best. Feel free to stick some Brian Eno on in the background too.
This is from balmesh, who is the don of Youtube ambient tractor videos. Highlights include a tractor doing a three-point turn with a huge bulbous rusty container attached to its rear and a green tractor spraying water over a field.
If that title doesn’t compel you to click, I don’t know what will. This was filmed in America where farms are bigger and so tractors, naturally, are bigger too. In order to farm the whole of Illinois this tractor has been fitted with eight wheels. Don’t believe me? Count them.
Colour is an important attribute of tractors as far as my discerning son is concerned so it’s pleasing to see green, red, yellow and blue tractors all represented here. And as it was filmed at a tractor show you get to see some tractor enthusiasts too.
The production values on this one aren’t quite as high, with the strong winds ripping through the microphone, but you should stick with it as later on you’re treated to some in-tractor shots: a rarity in this genre.
While these videos are enough to get you going, there’s a veritable goldmine of ambient tractor videos out there which are guaranteed to satisfy the most restless baby. So if you ever get asked to do the visuals for a toddler chill-out room, now you know where to look.