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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Virgin America, Underground

The name alone suggests a purposeful oxymoron, an Underground up in the air. “Underground” is the name of a music channel on the in-flight, touch-screen entertainment system of the new airline Virgin America, which I’ve flown twice, and both times I’ve been taken with surprises like hearing an excerpt of the late Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s choral work Stimmung at 30,000 feet. The programming for “Underground” is handled by a company named Spafax (, a representative of which forwarded me two recent playlists, following up some previous mentions I’ve made of the service.

The “Underground” playlists aren’t excellent just because of the individual selections (like a decade-old Photek drum’b’bass piece, before he veered into commercial remixes and indistinct hip-hop), or just because of the refreshing presence of numerous obscure acts unfamiliar to 99 percent of a given flight’s passengers and crew.

What’s also great is the freeform-radio technique of repeating artists within a given playlist. And for frequent flyers, it helps that month-to-month there’s some repetition, providing continuity. With music this good, your iPod battery may still be full by the time your plane lands.

Virgin America “Underground” Playlist Starting January 15, 2008

  • “Ping Island/Lighting Strike Rescue Op” by Mark Mothersbaugh
  • “Hilli (At the Top of the World)” by Amiina featuring Lee Hazlewood
  • “Tonto” by Battles
  • “Poison Dripping Cinco” by hhyScumclash vs. Badawi
  • “Forest on Fire” by Tiny Vipers
  • “Good to Be Alive (Album)” by Matthew Dear
  • “Nxjx” by Norman Howard
  • “I Knew You Were Gonna Go” by Prefuse 73
  • “Market Place” by Badawi Quintet
  • “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare” by Mr. Bungle
  • “Massage Situation” by Flying Lotus
  • “Sunnyland (Live) [Spafax]” by New Ghost
  • “Admiral Perry” by David Byrne
  • “One Nation” by Photek
  • “Freeze” by Madlib
  • “Stella Maris” by Einsturzende Neubauten
  • “It Must Be a Camel” by Frank Zappa
  • “Crazy in Love” by Antique Gold
  • “Temple Frog” by Kiln
  • “Time and Units” by Norman Howard
  • “Bbydhyonchord” by Aphex Twin
  • “Zissou Society Blue Star Cadets/Ned’s Theme Take 1” by Mark Mothersbaugh
Virgin America “Underground” Underground Playlist Starting October 15, 2007:
  • “Pray” by the Book of Knots
  • “Don’t Worry” by Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities
  • “Granny’s House” by Jennifer Gentle
  • “Dionysus” by Tin Hat Trio
  • “Go!!!!!” by Boredoms
  • “Hyakka Ryouran (Blooming)” by Yoshida Brothers
  • “District Line II” by Squarepusher
  • “Big Sur Moon” by Buckethead
  • “Eyewitness (Live)” by New Ghost
  • “Atlas” by Battles
  • “Little Umbrellas” by Frank Zappa
  • “Wash The Day” by TV on the Radio
  • “God-Music” by Kronos Quartet
  • “Surrealist Waltz, The” by Pearls Before Swine
  • “Cambridge 1969/2007” by Ono with the Flaming Lips
  • “Matta” by Brian Eno
  • “Neopolitan Suite: Dios and Diablo” by Don Cherry Quintet
  • “None of Them Knew They Were Robots” by Mr. Bungle

By Marc Weidenbaum

/ Comments: 2 ]


  1. Carlos
    [ Posted November 26, 2011, at 10:19 pm ]

    Is there any way to get the playlist from virgin inflight covers… There was a song I heard that I can’t figure out who sing it… Part of The lyrics go… “if they ask me where I’m from, I’ll just say that I’m your son” please I would really appreciate it. Thank you

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted November 26, 2011, at 10:38 pm ]

      That would be almost certainly Cee-Lo Green’s “Georgia” — maybe his version, or maybe the Band of Horses cover version.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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