Written by: Dave Cantrell
The mistake most of us make about ambient music is that it’s overridingly mellow and meant to soothe, that with all said and done there’s not really all that much going on. Your correspondent himself once subscribed to this belief even as the certainty nagged at him that, given the level of talent involved in that ever-broadening gyre of enigmatic sound and meditative composition – I mean just hearing Einstein on the Beach at the age of 23, while not strictly an ambient recording as currently defined, was enough to open my ears to the, shall we say, more esoteric possibilities – it had much much more going for it than initially meets the ear.
Now, naturally, back in yonder day, a drop or two of liquid acid would have significantly enhanced the path to acceptance but that would almost be cheating (almost; I emphasize ‘almost’) in that it amounts to something of a shortcut. I mean, even elevator music sounds better – one presumes, of course – on acid. The breaking of a dropped glass can sound amazing under those circumstances so it’s understandable that some skepticism would accompany that approach. Nonetheless, there is a thread worth following here, as what makes this gently mysterious genre so intriguing is the very fact that it can lead one places thought otherwise unattainable without a bit of a lysergic boost, a claim made especially clear in the context of today’s SEM premiere of “Ascension”, the final track to be premiered off Baptismal, the new, immersive, and seemingly boundless ambient album from two of modern music’s most fearless explorers, Kramer and the much lauded new age pioneer Laraaji, a pairing that, once you hear the record, will seem, somehow, spectrally pre-ordained.
As if to confirm in great looping, looming clouds of sound not just that point but the one made above regarding the shining abundance inherent in this music, “Ascension” rises gently into one’s consciousness then envelops it with an imperishable grace, generous with its gifts. There is, again, so much to listen to, so much to get engagingly and, yes, dreamily lost in, or found in, or both. Through its near 10-minute duration there’s this inescapable sense of being simultaneously risen and submerged, haunted enchanted drawn in and spun about in imagined circles of shadow and light with a tender insistence. Yes in its essence it’s mellow but allow us to reinforce the energy field fueling that ‘mellow’ by suggesting you count the verbs in that last sentence. While the means and the degree will shift with each listen it will nonetheless move you every time, not by pandering to the rhythmic tropes we’re all accustomed to (great and necessary as those are) but rather by pairing with those innate vibrations each of us has buzzing inside the pulse of both our hearts and consciousness. In that way, intrinsically, it’s as close as anything gets to being the soundtrack to what it feels like to be alive and we’ll be damned if that ain’t cool, if that is, in fact, anything less than quietly amazing. Ambient music, as it turns out, at least at this sublime level, rocks. [Baptismal available here]