A few months after releasing Future Past Life, STFKR have returned with Ambient 1. Out now via Polyvinyl Records, Ambient 1 sounds very different from previous STRFKR efforts. The electronic album is entirely instrumental, laden with synths, and as the title suggests, incredibly ambient.

Ambient 1 emerged when, after completing Future Past Life, STRFKR songwriter Josh Hodges immersed himself in ambient music. Hodges found himself in possession of new age cassettes from an estate sale and soon began spending time experimenting with a Prophet 5 synthesizer. Then, the pandemic came, and Hodges used the moment to work through his experiences and emotions by experimenting with ambient music. An album eventually took shape, resulting in Ambient 1.

With a lush atmosphere of psychedelia, “Rainzow” begins the album. The mellow synths and keys create a chill and tranquil mood, all the while creating captivating hooks and engaging melodies. “Work Smoothly Lifetime Peace” starts quietly, with spacey instrumentation that gradually yet delicately escalates in volume. Emotionally stirring and pleasing, there is an almost pulsating quality to the progression. “Bunjii” is like a lullaby of tranquility. Listening to this is like perceiving sounds from another world.

The experimental keys on “Kaleidoscope” sound like a pop throwback to prog-rock classics of the 70s. The organ gives this song an element of R&B and funk. “Telescope” is spacey, chill, and dreamy. The retro sound and bedroom pop vibes are strong on this track, creating a cozy and comforting feeling all around. Those vibes continue on “Anxiety.” Here, echo effects create an underwater feeling. “Anxiety,” title notwithstanding, manages to sound serene.

“Zee Majoor” offers shimmering and cinematic qualities. Dark, psychological vibes percolate in the ether. There are a lot of chill jams in this record, but on “Zee Majoor,” the tension escalates. “Concentrate” starts off with minimalistic, Avant Gard, and arthouse tones. It then evolves into an electropop and krautrock rock jam. This lends the album retro future and noir elements.

“Vergeten” serves as a brief interlude with organs that sounds like a church recording. “Nexus” changes it up by offering hand drum like beats amongst organ effects and intricate electronic music. “Zij Aan Zij” is dark and dissonant, furthering the experimental side of Ambient 1. “Sleep” ends the album with notes that linger slowly, bringing the record to an atmospheric and ambient conclusion.  

Ambient 1 displays an eclectic, diverse, and variety of sounds, stretching the limits of what STRFKR are capable of creating. The uniquely transcendental album blurs the line between an electronic album and a meditation soundtrack. The experimental side of STRFKR on display is surprising and satisfying.

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