‘Kilter’ reminds us of the actual realities of our physical existence and our implicit knowledge that there are hands behind the notes.
Words by Brad Harris
At a relaxed ambient night at the RCA in 2018, the performer (whose name I have unfortunately now since forgotten) remarked that he and fellow ambient artists often spoke of what he called the ‘teardrop problem’, whereby ambient tracks often end up having a waveform that looks like a teardrop, slowly rising to a peak with a quick drop off at the end. Across nomorewillroam’s EP Kilter, the American-Cypriot producer segues between “sorrow and foreboding, calmness and serenity, expectation and excitement”, and in its attempts to “encapsulate the continuous fluidity of being” navigates between peaks and troughs that thoughtfully avoid falling into this trap.
When listening to ambient music, several questions always spring to my mind. Is its success wholly contingent on whether it is meditative? Is it even really music? I don’t think you can really classify it in the same terms as more structured types of music as I can only really speak of it in words generally reserved for states of matter: thick, glacial, heavy, absorbing etc. This EP, like most ambient works, has a sort of indescribable weight to it, as if you can actually feel the pressure of the frequencies as if a heavy gas has escaped into the room.
I suppose with ambient the only important thing is timbre. Rhythm, when it does appear such as on the fifth track Question, does not exist as an independent feature, seeming only to affect the timbre, like when your eyes adjust to darkness, and you can suddenly make out new shapes in front of you.
The last track here, Harmony, seems to push all these things to an extreme as it becomes enveloped by noise. To some ears this might be grating, but there is something comforting to listening to true noise. We have all heard it, even if we haven’t necessarily focused on it. Often loudness is intermittent and that’s why it catches us off guard (which I suppose is what gives rhythm its distinct power), but by hearing only loudness we can get used to it and start to live in it, to feel its walls and features.
There is a case to be made that ambient carries a punk sensibility in its disruption of capitalist normality. It certainly has more in common with spiritual practices than the crushing routines and randomness of our concrete physical reality. Except unlike punk it doesn’t seek to propose a solution, but merely suggests an ultimately unattainable alternative reality. In this way then, it is a deeply bittersweet experience to listen to ambient, knowing full well that it must at some point come to an end.
When the final piano begins to play at the end of Kilter, we are gently brought back to the world, reminded of the actual realities of our physical existence through the weight of the keys and our implicit knowledge that there are hands behind these notes.