New Longform Ambient Journey Out Today – Embrace of Familiarity

‘Embrace of Familiarity’ A longform ambient journey with two variations is out today. This is part of my ongoing bi-weekly longform series exclusive to Bandcamp. Give it a listen.

Matt Borghi Ambient Guitar Longform Tracks

 

Ambient Soundbath Podcast #124 – Rebirth

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Ambient Soundbath Podcast, Episode #124

“You are the music, while the music lasts…”

  -TS Eliot

Ambient Soundbath Podcast Redux

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I was listening to Altus’ Sleep Theory, Volume 1 and I felt like I was floating. This isn’t an uncommon experience when listening to the best of what the drone ambient genre has to offer; when the artist has resolved to focus on artistry and experience, letting the compositions be rather than shoe-horning knob twiddling and strange incompatible dissonances into a work to just to showcase some antique synthesizer or obscure vintage noisemaker. Why did Jackson Pollack add a faint white smudge to Lavender Mist? Was he in the rapture of the muse, or felt that it needed that just to shift the focus a bit or perhaps it was just an errant paint drop left for time immemorial. Who can know why an artist does what they do? Often, we ourselves don’t know but when we run the creative gauntlet and come out the other side with a work that endures, well the heavens part and universe becomes a bit brighter than it was moments before.

I feel like this gets to the mission of the Ambient Soundbath Podcast. This thing was never meant to be a money-making endeavor, like some would-be silicon valley entrepreneur, at best or some myopic tech bro, at worst, trying to build the next big something or other. No, this was always supposed to be more like a public service, freely available for those who needed it, subsidized by a handful of generous souls who believed in it, too. I ran things as lean and as efficiently as I could to ensure availability and accessibility, but at the same time I was still an artist, working, living and being buffeted by the muse to and fro.

At the same time, when I started the Ambient Soundbath, podcasts were novel and fringe, so too was streaming as a mechanism for delivering music; two fringe areas that have now become front line earning channels for artists such as myself and Bruce Springsteen, alike, to say nothing of billion dollar pay days to podcast producers; an idea that seemed preposterous only a few years before and now was making podcasting a bit of a gold rush.

One name has come to truly dominate music streaming and podcasting – Spotify.

Ahh, Spotify and their insidious approach to being available everywhere, being dead-easy to use and having a veritable monopoly on the streaming market. Sure, there are others, just like there are alternatives to Google (wink,wink, nod, nod) but their market share is so vast that, well…why bother going anywhere else. Spotify’s availability, free or premium, on your phone, desktop, smart TV or in your car has absolutely changed listening habits, first with music and then more recently with podcasts. Things aren’t going well for them on that front, but having a monopoly gives them some latitude to play around with things, throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. 

Spotify, initially, was great for the Ambient Soundbath – It acted as an aggregator getting the podcast episodes in the Spotify app, where folks were already listening to music, but then they changed their policies and music-only podcasts started getting kicked out; that’s what happened with the Ambient Soundbath. This wasn’t great for the podcast or the listener’s on that platform, but another change that was occurring simultaneously, albeit quietly, was the glut of new Spotify-created editorial playlists for sleep, meditation, relaxation, study, reading etc. that started showing up and even being featured on non-customizable frontpage of Spotify. These thinking/being-related playlists became an immediate threat to the podcast since pods like ours had been kicked off/excluded from the platform, those users intent on sticking with the ease of Spotify just did a quick search and found some other playlist that fit the bill. To be fair, Spotify is killing it and giving folks what they want, but, and this is probably why I’m drafting this long screed. Spotify is marginalizing artists and podcasts like the Ambient Soundbath out of existence by pulling listeners in en masse, altering the service offerings and then changing things up just enough, almost imperceptibly, to keep listeners engaging with the platform. 

It’s this last bit that’s the kind of evil genius that Henry Ford, J.D. Rockefeller or Thomas Edison would have been pleased with because it wasn’t enough to marginalize and significantly undermine and under pay these artists and players, but then seeing the issue of scale they decided to create their own music that sounded like popular ambient, downtempo, jazz, you name it. Spotify then used these ‘works for hire’, a copyright term for a music composition or recording that’s purchased outright vs. licensing, which is pay per use. The producers who created this music have become colloquially known as ‘fake artists’ and Spotify uses these ‘fake artist’ created tracks to populate their big exclusive editorial playlists with these ‘wholly owned ‘works for hire’ so that they didn’t have to pay royalties for the streams. These ‘fake artist’ tracks were then just slid into a playlist (no surprise Spotify often suggests using shuffle mode) next to your favorite Moby or Brian Eno track. Even the best of us were none the wiser to this and many of these tracks are great, such is the case with the sometimes generic nature of the Ambient genre. 

Fake artists have created a lot of ethical issues, but more concerning still is the major investments Spotify has made in AI and machine learning. A time will come when a  $.0001 royalty per stream is too much and they’d like to get it closer to $.0000001, or maybe why are we even bothering with humans? We can pay zero $$$’. Spotify has worked to kick some AI-generated music off, but they’re heavily invested in AI and I believe it’s only a matter of time before they begin investing in the fledgling AI music generation industry, investing in and purchasing companies that could generate tracks to fill these exclusive editorial playlists, something I’ve heard rumors that they’re actively experimenting with and I believe, they’re close to beginning to implement. 

The philosopher in me says none of this matters and this race to the bottom will continue until user listeners get fed up or more likely move on to some other option that builds on what Spotify has created. At the same time, who could’ve imagined vinyl would make a comeback? In this period of late stage capitalism, nobody could have anticipated that so I believe Spotify and maybe even podcasts will run their course and be outmoded, that’s just the natural process. 

For me, however, I feel like there’s still something to do here. Do I act as a human arbiter and curator separating the wheat from the chaff, a lone citadel on the edge of a dying frontier being consumed by The Nothing? Perhaps. I won’t lie, I was ready to pack it in, sell the podcast off or just dump and run, but after so many thoughtful notes, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was throwing something away that didn’t make the world a little brighter, something that folks valued in their own individual ways. Maybe.

I need community, something I’ve talked about before, as working alone in a dark cellar, looking at stats and imagining somebody in Bulgaria enjoying the soothing tones of the most recent episode of the podcast isn’t nearly enough to keep me going. I need the exchange of energy that occurs in a positive interaction, hell, any critical interaction. 

At the same time: Where have all the music journalist’s gone? Why did I give up a moderately successful music journalism foothold? A question I’ve asked myself over and over. In a world with music journalists acting as way finders, ‘fake artists’ and AI-generated music doesn’t stand a chance. So, where are they? Here and there, but mostly lost in a sea of tweets, social media posts and so-called micro reviews. More and more is being said about how social media killed the Internet; this seemed an unlikely perspective, as social media is of the Internet, right? It was until stand-alone apps became exclusive channels unto themselves as apps on your phone, outside of the browser, divorced from the rest of the World Wide Web. Sadly, I think folks are right – Social media did kill the Internet. And with the death of the Internet came the death of the last stronghold of music journalism. 

Well, as a long time music journalist, it might just be time to pick up the pen again and get to work. I stopped because the ephemeral nature of my writing felt unimportant, lost to the winds of time and culture change, but anymore: What isn’t ephemeral and what doesn’t change? Hell, even much of Mark Twain’s writing has been lost to time… and cultural change. If his work can be lost to the ages then I guess I’m Ok with mine being lost too. The important thing is what we do now, in our particular place in time. So with that said, there will be more reviews and commentary popping up on the Ambient Soundbath Podcast and/or website, both the written word and audio voice posts that Spotify might even even let into their black box, but either way, as T.S. Elliott said: You are the music while the music lasts.

If the Ambient Soundbath is going to keep going, like anything, it needs to change, it needs to evolve. As artists, we’re always looking for someone or something that will showcase our work and put it in the best possible light? We want attention and we want recognition. I want those things. I don’t know an artist who doesn’t want those things, otherwise, why bother creating anything and putting it in the world. 

I’m going to stop short of saying the Ambient Soundbath is back, because every time I make such a declaration life interrupts the plan and I do something else; such is the mystery of unseen forces, what Alan Watts called the law of reversed effort, sometimes called the ‘backwards law’.. I can say, however, that I see the value in what has been built here and even if I work on it inconsistently that’s still a net positive that might make the world a little brighter. 

Thanks for reading and/or listening to all this.

 

Record Review – Thorny – Flood

Composed and performed on synthesizers and processed bass guitar, Thorny’s Flood is a tense wash of evocative soundscapes that pulses and writhes across the face of an unsuspecting landscape. Not surprising then that Flood is a sonic journey born from the depths of central Vermont’s devastating floods in July 2023.

JD Ryan says it best when he says that Flood reflects the duality of nature—its splendor and wrath—encapsulating the raw power, the ruin, the sorrow, and ultimately, the resilient spirit of hope. Flood manages to capture this sentiment perfectly without the use of a single sample of falling rain or rolling water, a literal aspect that takes away from the creativity too often, JD Ryan doesn’t indulge that tired ambient music trope. In fact, he took the hard road: Building that flow into the compositions from the ground up – You just listen and you can hear the unyielding fluidity, as sound is possibly the only thing that can move, with the flowing, forward-moving urgency of water.

Flood is a wholly original work and one where JD Ryan has created his own unique and moving sonic vocabulary. Never one to miss the opportunity for a pun, I dare say the floodgates are open on JD Ryan’s unique musical vocabulary. Fans of Steve Roach’s more earthy soundscapes and VidnaObmana’s early works will truly enjoy Flood. 

More info: 

https://witherwillow.bandcamp.com/album/flood-2
https://www.witherwillow.com/

Matt Borghi
Ambient Soundbath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record Review – Jeff Greinke – Oceanic

High praise for Jeff Greinke’s newest recording,Oceanic, a stand out gem in a world of music streaming services and YouTube channels overflowing with so-called “ambient music” choices. Oceanic has moved me, musically and as an artist, in a way that I haven’t been moved in years. I admit, I’ve become jaded. I’ve heard a lot, listened to a lot and forgotten a lot of what I’ve heard. The prominence of ambient and drone music on streaming services with playlists featuring ambient music for sleep, yoga, meditation, relaxation, study, reading and just about any other inert activity you can think of and some others you haven’t thought of yet, hasn’t helped the situation. So much of what’s being released these days is uninspired at best and forgettable at worst. With Oceanic, I’m reminded of Jeff’s early recording Cities In Fog, a sonic and artistic touchstone for me, personally; a recording that moved me to become a recording artist myself. So, I guess, I’m biased, but I’ll gladly accept that label if it means that I get to listen to works of art like Oceanic over and over. If it were a tape, it would already be nearly worn out or at least the printed ink would be disappearing on the cassette and if it were a CD I would be on my way towards my second copy, having scratched it, taking it in and out of the CD player so many times already. I’ve been at this longer than most, but not longer than Jeff and not longer than Projekt Records; it warms my heart to know that quality is still a consideration and it’s finding its way into the universe. Do yourself a favor and give this a listen as soon as you can; repeated listens are only more rewarding.

More information here:

https://projektrecords.bandcamp.com/album/oceanic
https://www.projekt.com/store/product/pro00417/

Matt Borghi
Ambient Soundbath

Ambient Soundbath Podcast #123 – Exclusive Ambient Soundbath Mix by Nimanty

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I’ve enjoyed the work of Nimanty for some time and it’s with great enthusiasm that I present this exclusive mix created just for Ambient Soundbath listeners. Enjoy!

Tracks mixed from two albums: ‘The StarNight Process’ and ‘Time Space Light’
Artist: Nimanty ( www.nimanty.com )
Label & release Venonza Records. Digital copies only
Distributor: AWAL / The Orchard Group
Mix total playtime: 1 hour, 24 minutes, 31 seconds.

Tracks in mix Starts at
1. Galactic Whispers (00:00)
2. A Lightyear Old Message (05:37)
4. The StarNight Process (13:41)
5. Time (36:00)
6. Space (48:07)
7. Light (01:00:50)
8. Nebula Of Life (01:15:37)

Albums and tracks available on Bandcamp.
Nimanty is on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Nimanty

Ambient Soundbath Podcast #122 – Allister Thompson’s Autumnal

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It’s always my pleasure to feature the work Allister Thompson. Through the years, Allister has become a friend, collaborator and kindred spirit. I was tickled when he released Autumnal,” his first long-form ambient piece. In order to bulk up the program, I added the wonderful track “After Us” from last year’s Primordia. This is a great deep listen. Enjoy and go check out my friend’s Bandcamp page.

Allister Thompson makes ambient, post-rock, psychedelia, and new age under the names The Gateless Gate and Khan Tengri. His newest release, “Autumnal,” is a long-form ambient piece inspired by the cloudy, windy, mostly wet days of fall where he lives in Northern Ontario, Canada near the shores of Lake Nipissing.

Ambient Soundbath – Music for Anxiety Relief on YouTube

For those Ambient Soundbath listeners who prefer a visual background, listen regularly on YouTube or just like a little bit of ambient television designed for relaxation and calm – This for you.

Please comment and like the video and also share your comments about what can be improved.

Ambient Soundbath Podcast #121 – Paul Beaudoin’s Shakti

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Ambient Soundbath Podcast #121 - Paul Beaudoin's Shakti
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The inclusion of Paul Beaudoin’s Shakti here on the Soundbath started curiously, when a variety of Paul’s tracks showed up in my inbox. Either from a series of Twitter posts or from a Reddit/Ambient conversation, Paul knew I was looking for longform works and sent me some things. I was instantly smitten with Paul’s beautiful collection of longform works. I kind of collect longform works like I do deep dish pizza experiences. Folks close to me know that two of my favorite things are deep dish pizza (specifically) but really and kind of pizza and ambient music, specifically longforms. A strange corollary, perhaps, but discovering Paul’s music was not unlike discovering a new pizzeria with a variety of delicious pies. Paul’s work demonstrates a masterful artistry with careful attention to restraint. This won’t be the last time you hear Paul’s work on the Soundbath.

Enjoy this two and a half hour beauty.
-Matt

About Shakti:

Shakti was created in 2015 while Paul was in Tallinn, Estonia on a Fulbright Scholarship. While in Tallinn, Paul experienced a major shift in his life, and began to reexamine nearly every aspect of his personal and creative. Paul’s interest in Indian culture and Hinduism, in particular, led him to imagine Shakti, the Indian goddess involved in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe – a goddess of both good and evil. As in life, the movement in Shakti is extremely slow and almost imperceptible. It was made from a series of 10 chords played by a Mexican accordionist that seems lost. And, as in most Indian raga, Shakti is meant to be heard at a specific time of day – the end of the piece should coincide with the sunset. Shakti is dedicated to the Estonian dancer Kaspar Aus, who used it in his evening-length performance “Solo: from nothing to nothing.”

About Paul:

Paul Beaudoin (b. 1960, Miami, FL, USA) – is an academically trained composer who received a Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Brandeis University. He is an award-winning educator and published author on John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti, and the history of American music. For decades, Paul lived in Boston, MA, where he conducted, played clarinet, and taught music and art history at several universities.  As an educator, he was a leading advocate for online learning and spent a decade traveling the globe to train teachers to teach with technology.
In 2015, Paul was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship that brought him to Estonia.  During this period, Paul’s inner creativity was reawakened.  He began painting, making experimental video art, and writing poetry. During this time, Paul experienced a radical shift in his creative work as he reflected on his academic career and inner spiritual transformation. Paul’s music moved away from the dissonant, angular music he felt was expected of an academic composer in New England.  Paul’s music softened, expanding into long, slowly evolving soundscapes living somewhere between ambient music and the long drone music of composers such as La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, and Eliane Radigue.  Paul’s recent music parallels his visual work, where soft backgrounds are etched with foreground gestural mark-making.
Paul is a globally recognized composer, visual artist, experimental video maker, and writer who lives in an Estonian neighborhood formerly occupied by the Soviet military.

To hear more of Paul’s music, please visit his Soundcloud page at
www:soundcloud.com/paul-beaudoin

and to learn more about his work in the visual and literary arts please follow him over at Instagram: www.instagram.com/paulbeaudoin

Finally, you can support Paul by downloading his music – all for free – over at his Bandcamp page: www.paulbeaudoin.bandcamp.com/