Ambient music has come to mean many things, and the definition is pretty open to interpretation. Some works are purely noise/glitch, using only electronics…and some are a fascinating use of traditional acoustic instruments and/or voices, and some are combinations of both.
On this edition of At Water’s Edge, we look at the creative ways that traditional sounds are incorporated into ambient music, featuring three different ambient artist projects: Red Planet Orchestra, Bryan Carrigan, and Tom Caufield.
The video broadcast features the paintings of Mumtaz Hussain, a Pakistani artist and filmmaker who has made his home in New York City for many years. His work combines traditional media and images of South Asian antiquity with a modern abstract approach, blending old and new, East and West.
Red Planet Orchestra – Illuminati (unreleased, 2012)
- Air Crossing
- Days of Rain
- The Eightfold Path
- Silent is the Key
Four of the tracks from their first unreleased album called Illuminati (which they weren’t quite happy with, so they went away and recorded Aurora Symphony, their first official album). Illuminati might see the light of day one day, and gives us a taste of Red Planet Orchestra’s music, available on iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.
Based in UK, Red Planet Orchestra is a collective of contemporary musicians and performance artists, with Vince Rees and Pete Smith at its core. Vince was asked by film producer Richard Cosgrove to contribute some music to his version of Bladerunner; in 2012 a long cut version was produced, and Vince called upon his old partner Pete Smith for assistance. Red Planet Orchestra was born from that effort, a reincarnation of a previous collaborative project called T30 Control.
The collective specializes in transforming traditional instruments and recognized hardware and software into something uniquely theirs, incorporating environmental sounds and even letting the recording studio itself become part of the finished product. The result is a unique, cinematic, expansive, rich orchestral drone experience.
Bryan Carrigan – Inspired (2014)
- Floating Above
- Fluffy Clouds
- Warm Embrace
Bryan Carrigan is based in Los Angeles, and is a producer, engineer, music editor, synth programmer, scoring sound designer, remixer and composer of electronic music. His career has spanned the gamut of genres working within the record, television and film industries lending his skills to hundreds of projects. Bryan has also released 5 albums of his own blend of electronic, ambient, downtempo, chill out and new age music – Passing Lights and Focus in 2011, Windows in 2012, Below Zero in 2013 and Inspired in 2014.
Described as a “soundtrack for Inspired life”, the tracks on this album all set a positive and joyful tone, using a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds to create atmospheres that are also cinematic in nature, transparent with a rhythmic approach that gives them motion and levity.
Tom Caufield – Nature and the Constant Illusion (2013)
- The Eidos
- Nature and the Constant Illusion
- Operation Wandering Soul
- Each Private Sorrow
- Frost on an Empty Field
Nature and the Constant Illusion is Los Angeles resident Tom Caufield’s third collection (he recently released his fourth effort, Tales from the Wine Dark Sea). While his first two albums centered on the nylon string guitar, this new collection, still very much guitar-based, has more expansive arrangements, with five of the ten tracks featuring cellist Mark Edward Lewis. Other tracks incorporate piano, organ and synthesizer, and all of the tracks are anchored by a warm, natural bass sound. The nylon string guitar is recorded in such a way as to almost sound like a lute, and gives the release a feeling of almost melancholy reminiscence, and the other acoustic instruments are treated with a kind of intimate sweetness that makes the release feel like a personal experience.
He writes of this release:
I aim for the lute characteristic, because a part of my aesthetic is to try and break down the time boundary – I try and make the music sound ancient and contemporary at the same time. As if – somehow an aspect of what one is hearing is being channeled from the 12th century or whereabouts. Last night, pulling sources for my collage art, I grabbed about 20 paintings of lutists, and it was really interesting and moving how many of them share visual characteristics with the young singer songwriters of our time – from the ’70s – till now. It’s a long tradition – the lone figure with the stringed instrument in hand – I’m proud to be part of a lineage of sorts…