photo & text by nacrowe
i remember back in undergrad having papers galore to write every few weeks and the STRAIN that such put on me MENTALLY and EMOTIONALLY throughout my college experience. somewhere along the way during that period i came across the APHEX TWIN debut SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS 85-92 (R&S, 1992) and became completely TRANSFIXED by it. it became almost like an armor i put on that shielded me from the world when i was writing. i can remember listening to that specific album on headphones in places like the library, my dorm room, the cafeteria, the computer lab and even empty classrooms writing away on my laptop blissfully OBLIVIOUS and UNCONCERNED with the outside world. it helped me focus.
for me that experience of SENSORY TRANSMUTATION is what makes AMBIENT MUSIC so ENTHRALLING as a genre. it is an EXPERIMENTAL form that is not concerned with traditional sound structures as much as it is the flow between AURAL LANDSCAPES and the ALTERED MIND-STATES such projects over your senses. when done well it almost feels like music that is inextricably linked to your EMOTIONS and deeply felt MEMORIES that trigger such. there is also a disconnect between the music and your EXPERIENTIAL, routine appreciation of being awake and cognitively alert in a material world. the music almost forces you to be succumbed by an AMORPHOUS PSYCHIC REALM where geography and time-space have no meaning. APHEX TWIN would soothe and eventually calm me down into a RELAXED MIND-STATE that would thus allow me to just express in my writing devoid of an merciless superego that bashes away at my insecurities, which is my daily lived experience. i could move beyond that.
over the years ive come across many other NOTABLE AMBIENT artists including AUTECHRE, BOARDS OF CANADA, SEAFEEL and BRIAN ENO (whom i previously was aware of through his CELEBRATED production catalogue and initial work with ROXY MUSIC). that sense of music without precedent or signifiers or history or embedded meaning is something that still appeals to me. it is part of what makes AMBIENT music so REVOLUTIONARY and TRANSCENDENT in my opinion. it also became a vehicle for later appreciating other EXPERIMENTAL genres like POST ROCK / POST METAL and KRAUTROCK as well as DRONE METAL and MINIMALIST classical composers like PHILIP GLASS and STEVE REICH.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that originally aired about two and half years during the pandemic when the station first allowed DJs back in the studio. the ECLECTIC playlist showcases a whole host of DIVERSE AMBIENT artists. enjoy!