When I dramatically changed the genres I review and listen to in 2018, I noted that “I’ll probably be a pretty bad premiere partner for the near future, as I don’t quite know how to talk about the stuff I’m geeking out on yet.” So it’s with astonishment and gratitude that I present to you one of the first ambient premieres I’ve ever done–for none other than Fort Lowell Records.
If the song above piques your interest, the album will be pressed on chartreuse green translucent vinyl via Fort Lowell: you can order it here. (Look at that snazzy mock-up! You know you want one.) The album releases February 17, 2023.
And while, usually, my premieres would stop there, this one was too astonishing to let go at just that. So I took it upon myself to talk with James Tritten, the label head of Fort Lowell records. I wanted to know: how did y’all end up listening to ambient too? And how did you come across infinitikiss? James was so gracious that he not only gave me answers to those questions, but he made a Spotify playlist of his favorite ambient tracks. (The interview has been condensed for clarity and length.)
Stephen (IC): infinitikiss is an ambient record. How did that come about, and how did you get involved in ambient?
James Tritten (JT): It starts with The Band and the Beat [ed: James and his wife Tracy Shedd’s electronic duo. We’ve covered them too.] So basically, Nic Jenkins is infinitikiss. We met him when we were living in Raleigh, around the time we were touring around the region. We were booking a leg all the way through Florida and back, and I just picked up his name between the Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina.
He lived between the two cities, and so I reached out to him. And we ended up playing a couple of shows with Nic. Nic and Tracy and I, but specifically Nic and Tracy, really, really hit it off. Like, they were brother and sister immediately. They were just kindred spirits.
I think it was like the first night we played with him, it was the end of the set. She got him after the show and she’s like, Nic, I wanna record a record with you. And that would’ve been probably 2015 or 2016. So then fast forward that conversation: when we decided that we were gonna record another Tracy Shedd record, Nic was it. If you look at the credits on The Carolinas record, it’s Tracy, me and Nic Jenkins.
So, Tracy and I took a little trip across the US this last May and we spent time with Nic. He’s now in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We got there, we spent a couple of days with him, which was beautiful. Somewhere in that conversation I must have spoken about the first ambient record that Fort Lowell had the privilege to release, and that’s the La Cerca record: A Nice Sweet Getaway. That came out in 2020. I remember recommending it to Nic at some point. It was later that he made a note [on Instagram] like, “wrapping up an ambient record,” and then I reached out to him then to say, “Well, hey, could I hear it?” That’s all it was. Could I hear it?
So we, Tracy and I, we just fell in love with it within–I don’t even think I was halfway through the record yet, and I was already like texting him, “Hey, can we talk about putting this out?”
This is a true statement when I say that I literally start every Saturday and Sunday listening to that La Cerca record. And we’ve been doing it for two years now. And the minute I got Nic’s record, it’s now both records. They’re just both of ’em side by side. It’s just such a beautiful way to start a day. It’s so just peaceful and it just, it just brings you into the day.
IC: So, tell me about this playlist!
JT: I literally spent my entire weekend making this playlist. I’m so excited. I’m really proud of it.
Ambient music starts with that, at my core, I’m a shoegazer. Tracy and I, we grew up with shoegaze. Like we were going to the club when it was like, “Here, let me introduce you to a band called My Bloody Valentine. You know, they just put out an EP.” And it’s really weird. It’s really noisy, you know?
So as a shoegazer, the goal was always to just get your guitar to sustain as long as it could. You know, one strum and then just this ever-sustained echo or whatever it was–reverb, whatever. This would’ve been like ’92, maybe ’93. I had four Roland Space Echoes. Four. Not one. Four.
IC: Just in case.
JT: No, I played through every one of them! That’s how obsessed I was with sustaining the guitar. Four of them. And I’d even loop ’em. I knew how to cover the erase head and you can create loops out of it and stuff. So I just became obsessed with these things. They were very much part of my instrumentation, as much as the guitar was. Well that led me to Brian Eno’s Discreet Music. So it’ll be the first song on the playlist. In my opinion, that is just the utmost epitome of ambient music.
And then I purposely, you know, I gave you La Cerca right following that because I just, I think it is on par with what Brian Eno does. And I know that’s a bold ass statement to say.
IC: Hey, you know, shoot your shot!
JT: I think it’s great. These examples on the front end that are these shoegaze bands that we were listening to. I mean, at the end of the day, ambient music is shoegaze minus the rhythm section. I mean, really! It’s true!
So that is where I just started aggressively collecting music like that. My dad ended up getting me introduced to bands like Tangerine Dream and Synergy, some of that older stuff, you know, the Barry Cleveland I’ve got there. Harold Budd, you know Harold Budd. Obviously you can kind of tie that into Brian Eno. But you can quickly see how it goes from this world of shoegaze stuff into this world of like old seventies-ish electronic music.
IC: I see … I love Johan Johansson. I see that on here. I love Spiritualized, Squarepusher, AphexTwin. American Analog Set. I love that you have–this is the more guitar-oriented ambient, right? The way I came into ambient is the opposite direction from the more synthesizer-heavy stuff into quieter and quieter and quieter and quieter until I ended up at ambient.
This is really fascinating for me. It will be really exciting for me because a lot of these were not in the path that I took to get to Brian Eno and then points beyond.
JT: I appreciate that actually, because I purposefully did that. I felt like, “I really need to tell my story with ambient music.” And I’m coming at it from a guitarist point of view. That’s the truth. You never would associate a band like American Analog Set with the word ambient.
IC: Yeah. But you put it in there and it makes sense.
JT: Yep. Well, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that track and what it is specifically. It was part of the Darla Records Bliss Out series. The Windy and Carl track came from the same exact series. It was a series of 12 inch EPs that they did. And my understanding is that that is what they were pushing the artist to do. I don’t know if the word ambient was being directly given to them. But that American Analog Set 12-inch is nothing like any of the albums. It’s completely different.
And so that song, in my opinion, it qualifies to a degree of ambient. There’s a couple of tracks in there where’s there’s a bit of a beat or rhythm that kind of comes in, enough that someone may challenge it.
IC: I think that’s part of it. I mean, ambient doesn’t have to be all clouds of synthesizers, right?
Thank you for talking with me about this “new” fascination that I have that goes back a decade, but is still basically new because we’ve only been writing about it for short period of time. I’m looking forward to more, more ambient records from y’all!
JT: I thank you even more for the opportunity to help promote the record and get it out. It really does mean a lot. —Stephen Carradini