Ambient music thrives on a higher degree of vagueness than other genres—with nothing but time and texture to drive meaning home, ambient artists lean heavily on the listener injecting their own personal intrigue into a track. As Brian Eno’s initial pet project to create music that was "as ignorable as it is interesting" gained new disciples over the years, each wave of producers brought their own unique inner landscape, their own definition of a music that could be pleasant and utilitarian.
Almost counterintuitively, NY-based producer Prism House creates ambient music that is distinctly anxious. Most “songs” in the genre tend to aim for a sense of luxurious calm, evoking peaceful surroundings with cascading delays that stretch time ad infinitum. But with “Waiting,” Prism House drags the listener below that shimmering surface towards a hidden tension. Vocal samples and glitching waves jut out sharply, prickly thorns in the otherwise blissful aquatic hum bathing your eardrums. There’s an almost embryonic feel to the whole affair; the offending elements sound trapped behind a sleepy barrier, hushed until a heavy bass synth and a chattering drum sample burst the bubble. The tumult outside comes crashing in, spiraling into what sound like emergency radio samples and alarms, before vaporizing into the ether.
Matt O’Hare’s accompanying video for the project works with “Waiting” in a beautifully symbiotic way. Snippets of film, including processed samples from the movie Waterworld, blossom and dissolve in overlays that play against a backdrop of swimming footage from a body-mounted camera. Geometric shapes invade the frame, innocuously at first but gradually growing more violent and dominant as the panic takes over. Eventually, a rush of pure red and white tones overtakes the frame, stuttering and shaking to mirror the intense release of emotional pressure. Seen through O’Hare’s lens, “Waiting” is a mesmerizing refuge to dive into.