Photo credit: Patrick Jelin
A new event in Brooklyn called Ambient Church collects experimental music enthusiasts for an evening of eclectic electronics, ambience and drones – the perfect way to kick off the week. The third edition headlines famed French experimental composer Richard Pinhas with Byron Westbrook supporting. Trippy visuals are provided by Victoria Keddie.
Byron Westbrook sets a light tone with a constantly varying sonic palette keeping listeners captivated. It’s the right strategy. Skipping between thick bass-drone dirges, percussive, metronomic passages, and burbling, lilting treble delay effects, there are frequent sections of truly beautiful electronics that sets a high bar for the main act.
Pinhas has been experimenting with electronics since the seventies, mainly as part of ambient synth group Heldon and later on his solo project. Recently, Pinhas has taken to the guitar when performing live, offering a dense cloud of constant noise that varies only minutely through his sets. The opportunity to catch Pinhas provides the draw for the evening, but Westbrook’s performance appeals to a larger base unable to endure the sheer volume and shrieking treble of the headliner’s punishing guitar.
For those lacking a religious upbringing, or for whom religion is a nonexistent part of life, Ambient Church provides the closest thing to a religious experience. Venues contextualize music, and the ancient church serving as Ambient’s experimental home base is no outlier. The central reminder of the crucifixion, stained glass windows, creaking wooden floors, and high ceilings demand reverence and serve as a location divorced from more commonplace venues, which fits the abstract nature of the music itself. The similarities between church and club are not all that disparate, each providing a place within which we can transcend our mortal shells as well as connect with the like-minded.
Imagine a dense wall of sound, filled with the semitones of the sea, the rushing air through a wind tunnel, the screeches of guitar strings and the calls of whale songs, the bass thrum of a thousand tiny frequencies mashing against one another – and the human ear at the center of it all. An effective drone requires this utter submission, a totality of tonality and the envelopment that only massive amounts of volume can bring. Stand in the center of the church and seek deliverance by submitting to this cloud of sound, and consider the blessing that being able to hear and distinguish music up to 20,000 Hertz truly is.
Sign up for future Ambient Church events on the official website.