The first Nashville Ambient Ensemble record was a euphoric delight that spent more than its fair share of time on the speakers around here. Leaning into their moniker, the band skirts ambient, touches on country, and flirts with Kosmiche textures. As things began to settle into place for a second album, Michael Hix was diverted from course by a call from Frist Art Museum in Nashville. The museum was showing a collection of pieces on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art titled Light, Space, and Surface and approached Hix about composing a set of accompanying pieces. The pieces took shape and were well received in conjunction with the show. Subsequently, the idea of the pieces taking the place as the band’s follow-up began to take shape. Outside of the context of their inspirations, the songs on Light and Space still enter the nebulous world that Nashville Ambient Ensemble had built previously. Gossamer threads stretch across the headspeace, threading Hix’ synth, Luke Schneider’s Pedal Steel, and Jack Silverman’s guitar passages through the spaces created by Kim Ruger’s Piano and, this time around, Alicia Enstrom’s beautiful violin touches.
On many of the tracks, Dell Paloma returns with vocals, never quite letting her voice arc above the mists. The vocals themselves become part of the ambience, cutting through the haze while thickening it all the same. The assembled players have a way of creating plush worlds that play with light in particular, giving shape to the theme of the show. The soft edges of their works dip and curve, but never create darkness, never shadow. Instead the works find themselves lost in glare and glimmer, plumes of dry-ice impermanence that constantly shift. Hix’s keys play with some prog tones, but surrounded by Enstrom’s strings and Silverman’s dextrous guitar, the pieces erode the lines between surrounding genres. The soft touch of new wave, the grandiosity of prog, the cosmic caress of Krautrock, and the kinetic feel of jazz all collapse into the heart of a star on Light and Space. What remains is an album that’s billed as background, but pulls the listener into its orbit with a devastating gravity.
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