'shut down' ~ Ambiensce

An ambient soundscape from the streets of NYC

'shut down' ~ Ambiensce

Photo: Robert Hamada ~ Illustration: Paul De Konkoly Thege

The connection between musical expression and political might is often lost on listeners; until, of course, it isn't. This track encapsulates such an instance of awakening.

Ambiensce has spent much of their Brooklyn quarantine protesting racial injustice, while also producing ambient music that serves as a tome for our moment. In 'shut down', they harness the myriad sentiments of both isolation and solidarity in a brooding, progressive structure. Using entirely analog equipment and a considerable amount of patience, this track is an ambitious and equally humbling release. It's a privilege to premiere such a sincere representation of allyship. This is the type of work we take home with us…

Take a listen below:

Ambiensce offered a few words of their own on the track:

'shut down' is the mutant permutation of a homonymous song I wrote during the winter of 2013, as I languished through a climatology thesis and a dead-end, codependent romance. That this occasion prompted my first mental break is a privilege of sorts when I consider the persistent dehumanization of BIPOC communities throughout my short lifetime.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the concurrent blast of rage against structural racism and police brutality have brought on a similar sense of collapse that I felt back then. This time, the words of others marching toward justice have reshaped 'shut down' into an impression of Brooklyn’s protest movement in defense of Black and brown lives. Following the murder of George Floyd, I walked with a Sony TCM-323, encoding chants, cheers, screams, and names of the taken as they reverberated off of Barclay’s Center’s glass facade, between townhomes on Fulton Street, at Broadway and Chambers. 'shut down' features excerpts from weeks in the streets, from Bed-Stuy to FiDi.

I am aware that cassettes are not the most practical format, but between my voracious childhood consumption of books-on-tape and idle teenage musings on a Radioshack CTR-111, I have developed a deep fondness of the medium and its static pointillism. Astride the monotony of a months-long quarantine in the center of the global outbreak, I dug deep in my drawers. The shimmer of looped tape drew me like a magpie, thieving from documents of the past (whether spontaneous and purposeless to fully-fledged and filmic) to introspect at present.

I first experimented with what I call Ambiensce during a recording session in June 2018: I stacked an analog delay pedal on either side of a looper and found that I could warp the resultant textures into sometimes soft and often strange infinitudes of sound. At their best, they take on their own identity and conscience (hence “Ambiensce”), and guide me, more so than I do them, towards pure experience, towards understanding by feeling. Ambiensce is a dream: a long moment of something (un)stuck.

While 'shutdown' has a long, circuitous history, it is meant to annihilate timely distinctions, and to invite listeners to settle, immediately, in a distressed embrace.

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