One word that seems to induce eye rolling in certain parts these days, is ambient.
Much of the latter day derision of the term is possibly due to making music that’s often-highlighted primary function, is to merge into the background or even be ignored. Whilst it is an interesting conceptual angle, it’s also easy to pick holes in the approach. It’s a tricky balance, and countless fluffy hours of music under the banner, have suffered from all sorts of laziness and generic new ageisms.
More often, ambient now seems to cover music that’s just textural, and slow moving. Patterns more the rhythm, and atmospheres rather than events. So, hitting play on this vast new album by New York based OHYUNG was somehow either going to slip into forgetfulness or open into something incredible.
Thankfully it is spectacularly the latter. Less than a minute into the opening track, my torn cuticles, we are already checking how long this beauty stretches toward the infinite for…
The answer, thankfully is almost 16 zero gravity minutes. As watery impressionistic pulses roll in, muffled waves of energy rapidly magnifying like some deep space event. There appears to be very little development, just some knowing sweet spot between nothing and something, but it triangulates with the listeners brain into something nearing bliss.
The album is based on a short poem vegetalscape by the artist, which collects tiny moments of beauty, and then converts these instances, into expanded smudged dreamlike structures. OHYUNG also reveals that the music was all made over a 72-hour period that slowly starts to materialise like a hallucinatory virtual tour of the artists home, body and mind, over a focussed few days.
yes my weeping frame! tumbles in animated piano keys hanging in space. imagine naked! is a 6-minute pan through a bank of energy, symphonies sweeping! details a slowly spinning carousel of light and shade. philodenendrons trail! draws a woozy expansion before rupturing into bizarre fragments and percussive debris.
In fact, the entire album gradually plots a path through tracks that all could be expanded into full CD length durations. Whilst the shortest track collected here is over 4 minutes long, we are simply given a thoughtful glimpse into the patterned infinite ecstasy at each tracks core.
The digital only bonus track releases like gloves! and it’s almost 40-minute life interlocks globules of orchestral mist into an endless quilt. Here is the music somehow relates back to Eno’s 2/2 from Music for Airports, a track that similarly sits removed from the rest of that album. In the same way that track introduces the sense of solidity forming in the ether, here again OHYUNG gives the listeners a sense of slowly arriving back home encased by more robust forms, after pleasantly baked psychedelic dreams.
After countless listens, the first track still does something peculiarly pleasant to our brain, that renders the rest of that album in its wake somehow. It’s an album best approached slowly and in parts. Pick your moment careful and dive in at any of its 11 tracks as starting points.
imagine naked! has had a strange but very positive effect at OBLADADA since its arrival, an oasis of beauty, a step away from our bruised 2022 edition of the world. It’s an album that has all the sounds and forms you would expect from an ambient album. But somehow in OHYUNG’s hands, the whole project is superbly active and animated, the effect is greater than the cause.
It’s amongst the most potent and beautiful music we have heard in a while.
imagine naked! is available to pre-order now on NNA Tapes.
The album is released on 22 April, and available on cassette, CD and digital