The Inner Urge is releasing their new EP, “Ambient 1: Blossom”. This EP is a slight departure from their traditional sound. As they developed as a band, the live shows began including free-flowing ambient improvisations which functioned as a kind of palate cleanse between the more intense moments. “Ambient 1: Blossom” is an attempt at capturing that side of the band.
Over the course of a few recording sessions in Summer 2018, the band composed and recorded a total of eleven tracks. They chose four of those to be released on this EP, along with one other from a separate session that was written by vibraphonist Michael. The tracks were recorded live and feature a lot of improvisations that happened in the moment. Over the course of Fall and Winter of that year, Alex worked on the tracks, fine-tuning the mixes, adding effects, and adding a few overdubs in spots. The project sat at 95% completion for nearly two years while they went back and forth on the mixes every couple of months. The end result is a product that the band is all extremely proud of and the band does hope it takes listeners on a fulfilling, meditative journey.
“Spout” begins with an ocean drum (frame drum with metal ball bearings inside it) slowly rotating to begin the effect of a Summer’s rainstorm. An effect-heavy acoustic guitar with flat-wound strings enters on an ostinato. The tuning of the guitar is set up to make it possible to play the melody entirely with harmonics. Soft synthesizer pads add to the texture. In the background, suspended cymbals and a collection of tom-toms introduce a sense of groove. Vibraphone enters later with soft mallets that add to the soundscape. Finally, as the composition builds intensity, a lead line on a high synth is revealed to drive the song to the climax.
“Cycle” was written around a loop set up between a mechanical metronome and mbira. The mbira ostinato cycles through 10 notes, which sits evenly in a 5 to 3 polyrhythm against the metronome clicks. Various pots and pans that were chosen based on pitch and sustain are played with soft mallets. Shaker and other small handheld percussion instruments were recorded on a spaced apart microphone pair and you’ll notice them pan from right to left and back in the mix as they were recorded. An acoustic guitar playing further syncopations and polyrhythms against the metronome was prepared with alligator clips on the strings at certain harmonic nodes for colour. Ambient pad and bass synthesizers fill out the soundscape.
The title track of the EP begins with a distance drone. A D# tone was captured on a sample & hold pedal in the electric guitar rig. The lead synthesizer holds on that same pitch, though slowly modulating in pitch and timbre. As the crescendoing tone builds intensity, the band swells in on an unsuspecting E major chord – placing the held D# drone as the major 7th. Suspended cymbal and spontaneous bowed D# tones from the vibraphone are added in between synthesizer and guitar swells. The band slowly fades to the sustained D# tone once before continuing to the climax. Floor tom rolls, suspended cymbals swells, and extended chords rolled in the vibraphone are introduced as the soundscape reaches its peak. The bass synthesizer slides to C# and finally to A underneath the Emaj7 chord – the first and only harmonic changes in the 7-minute piece. The band returns to Emaj7 and eventually drops out to reveal the sustaining D# tone before fading away.
“Earth” is a dark drone built around a didgeridoo and several reverberant mellotron tones. The harmonies shift between C# dorian, C# harmonic minor, and F# mixolydian. Bowed chord tones on the vibraphone, shakers, and high synthesizer pads add to the mix. A sustained melody on electric guitar is played with an eBow as the song builds intensity before swelling to the colorful F# major chord over the didgeridoo’s C# drone. The band returns to C# minor and runs off a cliff with it, letting the reverb carry on into the parting words – a lone final drone in the distance.
“Six” was written in memory of Tyler Kulp – a friend of ours who passed away suddenly while we were studying at IUP. Tyler was a talented multi instrumentalist well known in the percussion community for his impressive ability to play the marimba with 6 and sometimes even 8 mallets. A pulsing vibraphone rhythm is set up on an Fmaj7 chord using 6 notes. Soon after, chord tones are bowed up high on the same instrument. Electric guitar played with an eBow enters later, doubling the bowed vibraphone tones. Synthesized mellotron-type pads fill in and blend with an overdubbed electric guitar, both soaked in modulation and wet effects. A sawtooth wave sub-bass synth carries the low end. As the song builds, the harmony briefly switches to Gmin7 before releasing. The instrumentation fades away in the same manner that it was introduced. Michael learned how to play 6 mallets for this tune to honor Tyler and his immense talent with 6-8 mallets