Global column – August 2019

Ami Dang – Parted Plains

The line between ambient music and muzak can be a fine one. The former is “an atmosphere, a surrounding influence: a tint” to envelop the listener, music “intended to induce calm and a space to think,” according to Brian Eno’s liner notes on the topic, while the latter has become a watchword for unremarkable background sounds; stuff to merely fill a room’s silence. To the uninitiated, both can occupy the same murky generic space of the spa or hotel lobby – music that is as ignorable as it is interesting.

For her third solo album, Baltimore-based sitarist and producer Ami Dang pushes her own version of ambience, making the case for instrumental work that lets unease creep into its stillness. Opening with a keening sitar melody backed by the aortic throb of arpeggiated synths on Raiments, Dang goes on to employ her electronic palette with cutting force, darkly droning on Bopoluchi and sparklingly optimistic on Stockholm Syndrome. Her sitar, meanwhile, uplifts the synthetic bedding of her compositions with classical Indian raga melodies and polyrhythmic plucking. In fact, listening to Parted Plains is like experiencing the glacial lassitude of a one-hour raga compressed into four-minute movements.

Read the column in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 09/08/19]