Ambient

VIDEO PREMIERE

Best Fern - When I Die

Gerard Marcus

I first encountered Best Fern last September when ThrdCoast went up to the 2017 POP Montreal festival and filmed a live session with them (if you dig their vibes, check out the video here). The dream-pop duo, consisting of Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield, immediately intrigued me with their ethereal sound and use of ambiance. Their music had a real since of place, albeit a place comfortably nestled between the realms of reality and fantasy. 

The new video for their latest single, ‘When I Die,’ is a fitting visual counterpart to Best Fern’s sound. Filmed and edited by Luke Orlando, the collection of super8 footage flickers like the last images of someone fading away into a peaceful eternity. It's a contemplative setting perfect for pondering the track's themes of longing and existence. The video also enhances a certain element of timelessness that’s present in the song. At two minutes and 32 seconds it's certainly not the longest song in the world, but watching the video I feel almost suspended in time, like I suddenly found myself walking from a gaseous environment into a liquid. This might be my favorite part about both the track and the video–they offer a brief respite from the world around me.

PREMIERE: Two Meters - Captive Audience

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Will Shenton

"Captive Audience," the second single from Florida artist Two Meters' forthcoming self-titled EP, is a song that resolves itself out of a hazy mist. Lost in an ambient wash, an acoustic guitar strums lazily along, distant and defeated. In a nod to its own construction, Tyler Costolo's vocals enter with understated anguish, "Waking up in a daze / With my head throbbing / Eyes covered and blind / I feel my hands are bound," setting the stage for the increasingly grisly tableau to come.

The track is Costolo's take on the end of a relationship, as unsaid words and regrets linger long after the romance has died, manifesting here as a brutal kidnapping: "I was your hostage / But I had no idea," he sings alongside labelmate and producer Pastel (aka Gabriel Brenner). It's both lyrically and instrumentally raw, blending scenes of physical violence (or, more accurately, their aftermath) with a sound that is simultaneously pleading and exhausted.

Two Meters pulls no punches here. "Captive Audience" is a beautiful song, and one that leaves a lasting impression, but it never shies from its own wounds.

Two Meters' debut EP is out June 15 on Very Jazzed. Pre-order it here.

PREMIERE: Space Cubs - Gnaw

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Phillipe Roberts

Building from a billowing cloud of voices into a hypnotic trek towards the unknown, Space Cubs’ “Gnaw” is picturesque, scene-setting ambient pop. The first track from the Buffalo-based band's latest EP, What iff, it’s a fantastic showcase of the group’s knack for weightless melodies and darkly soothing atmospheres.

True to its title, there’s an unmistakable dread piercing the heart of this song; beneath the swirling piano figure that loosely tethers the more ethereal elements, a thick layer of dissonance gleams like a knife. The sounds detune as an eerily organic yet metallic chorus swims in and out of prominence, playing anxious call and response with main vocalist Suzanne Bonifacio, her voice surging as these audible strands of doubt crowd around her.

When a beat does come in, it sinks “Gnaw” deeper into quicksand. Bass and drums seem to run in reverse. The soundscape pulls in tighter, sucking in a deep breath before the plunge. A digitized ride skips along and Bonifacio waxes about leaving it all behind and starting again, telling herself, trapped in the immense gravitational whirl of the now-dense instrumentals, that “The past is the past.” “Gnaw” eventually coasts to the finish, but at the close Space Cubs have broken through to rich and mysterious new territory.

PREMIERE: Indira Valey - No Me Tengas Miedo

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Will Shenton

No Me Tengas Miedo. Do not fear me. The title of Portland artist Indira Valey's new EP is an admonition that might seem unnecessary given its quiet, mesmerizing character. Yet, in progressing like a dream, it exposes the listener to the subtle anxieties of introspection, inviting us to see ourselves reflected in its fluid soundscapes—and in the end, imploring us not to shy away from what we discover.

The first three tracks on the EP are primarily impressionistic, each taking its time to build layered textures that undulate and sprawl. Indira Valey's voice phases in and out of earshot throughout, at times melding with the instrumentals entirely as the mantra-like lyrics unfold. The sparse percussion and washed-out guitars give the sound an organic warmth, especially on "Wideopen," which evokes images of sunset plains and endless skies.

On the fourth and final track, "No Me Tengas Miedo No Me," the vocals come to the forefront, slightly modulated, speaking from a place of seemingly mystical power. "Watch as the islands of my eyes ride waves / Of hiding the whole body," the artist chants, further erasing the lines between nature and self that have been blurred by the preceding songs. We are beseeched yet again, in Spanish and English: "No me tengas miedo / No me ... Do not fear me / Do not / I come from higher places."

No Me Tengas Miedo feels in many ways like an exercise in surrender. It lulls us into an uncertain serenity, not tranquilized but clear-headed, before pulling us into a strange world with unfamiliar boundaries. It's a transportive work, and one that you'll find calling you back when you least expect it.

Pre-order No Me Tengas Miedo, out tomorrow (3/28) on Antiquated Future and Spirit House.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Prism House - Waiting

Phillipe Roberts

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.