Meditating Out Loud 7
Cover photo: Jackson Hill – Rabbit Feather cover art
"Meditating Out Loud" presents some of the best new ambient and downtempo tracks we've handpicked for you. We are coming back with the seventh installment of the series.
Jackson Hill – Figment

Jackson Hill is an American bass player and music producer. His upcoming EP Rabbit Feather is the result of three years of experimentation. As its name suggests, the EP is full of textures and sounds that feel organic and artificial at the same time. Figment is a perfect example of this approach.

Jackson Hill
The initial idea for the track came from a simple piano melody that I composed, which struck me as really peaceful and cathartic. I'm drawn towards these kinds of simple, peaceful melodies, and I find myself composing and improvising them a lot as a form of sonic therapy for myself.

The ambient pads that enter at the beginning of the track were created by recording piano chords drenched in reverb, and then sampling and looping them to undulate into infinity. In fact, the vast majority of the sounds in this track are made from sampling the piano, with the exception of the electric bass and decorative bells. When I was making Figment, I was kind of obsessed with the idea of extracting as much as I could from one instrument when building a track, primarily through the means of sampling and manipulating the instrument. That approach is used on much of the whole EP, especially in terms of extracting material from recorded bass sounds and using that to create new instruments.

For the piano melody part, I was heavily influenced by the piano sounds on James Blake's records. I love the character and depth of the piano sounds on tracks like "Overgrown" and "Don't Miss It". The electric bass part here is really just doubling the piano melody, but the performance is intentionally loose and embellished. One of my favorite records of all time is Paul Motian's I Have The Room Above Her, and I've always loved the way Bill Frisell's guitar gently weaves in and out of unison with Joe Lovano's saxophone melodies, and vice versa, creating these expanding and contracting waves of harmony and rhythm. The way the trio approaches melodic phrasing and rhythm is so beautiful and mysterious, and on Figment I tried to channel a bit of that feeling of time stretching and bending fluidly throughout the track.
The Square Community – New Jersey

The Square Community is the moniker of John Gutenberger, a musician from Sacramento currently living in Los Angeles. John previously played in bands, including Far and Two Sheds, but now he is making instrumental music on his own. New Jersey is a hauntingly short and spooky instrumental that evokes associations with experimental ambient, new age, Western soundtracks and even massage parlour music from a parallel universe, but never quite fits into any of the genres.

John Gutenberger
In the early days of the pandemic, looking for inspiration, I started experimenting with my Tascam 424 mkII 4-track cassette machine using tape loops.

For this track (and my album Words Are No Constellation) the recording process had a profound influence on the creative process. The creation of this tune was not premeditated. I didn't "write" the song and then record it, it just sort of evolved out of the limitations that the recording process provided – the loop was of specific length and whatever I decided to record to it had to fit in that space.

I have an old acoustic guitar with a pickup that I plugged direct into the 4-track and noodled around until I came up with a passage that I felt "worked". From there I overdubbed the additional tracks – SK1 "Human Voice" and "Trumpet" and some other drone type stuff.

When I was done I felt it sounded like something from a sci-fi Spaghetti Western. I called it New Jersey after a character from the film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. New Jersey dons western wear and helps Buckaroo save the Earth from the Red Lectroids from Planet 10…
Frank Cogliano – Light

Frank is a Brooklyn-based musician. Light is standout track from his latest album Computers of the World. The song, according to Frank, was written and recorded before the rest of the album, and he had forgotten about it. "It was all done with the Prophet 08, with a sequence as a base, and then a few layered leads improvised coming in around the sides. Right before the album was released I added a subtle kick drum and some guy laughing. The track has a dark mysterious kind of sound, I like the progression in that it's circular and has a feeling like it's always going somewhere and never resolving". This quality, together with the song's shortness, makes it perfect for being played on repeat.
Also check out other tracks from the album.