Vaporous, lo-fi ambient to soothe your soul.
Jacob Long has been making vaporous, lo-fi ambient music as Earthen Sea for nearly two decades, sharing albums across Nicolás Jaar‘s Other People, Imminent Frequencies, and Kranky, which is where he’s putting out Ghost Poems, his latest outing. Across 10 psychedelic tracks composed and recorded during the first wave of lockdowns in his home in New York, Long continues to refine his fragile, fractured palette into fluttering arrhythmias of dust, percussion, and yearning.
The roots of Earthen Sea’s work run back to Cleveland, where he was born and raised. As a young boy, he was encouraged by his parents to play violin and listen to classical radio, but he also took an interest in metal, grunge, and punk, in particular the work of Nirvana. He’d spend his free time scouring magazines for new music and, one day, he read a two-page spread in Details about ambient music, which pointed him towards artists like Phillip Glass, Dinosaur Jr, and Aphex Twin, kicking Long into the realms of electronic music. Almost instantly, Long knew this was where he belonged.
So, in the ’90s, Long bought his first four-track recorder and began experimenting with sound, though none of his early cuts saw public release. That changed after the turn of the millennium but it wasn’t until the early 2010s, after nearly a decade of developing his sound with a series of quietly impressive, low-key releases, that Earthen Sea really hit its stride. This was at least in part because Long’s dub-punk projects, Black Eyes and Mi Ami, had dissolved, sharpening his focus on his solo work. With An Act Of Love, his debut on Kranky, Long demonstrated a knack for foggy, idiosyncratic ambient music, as he sought to create the perfect soundtrack to walking around his then-home of San Francisco at night.
Recorded last month in Long’s Brooklyn studio, Earthen’s Sea’s XLR8R podcast captures a similar vibe, as it moves through glitchy ambient and experimental electronics. Across its one-hour run-time, you’ll hear the Earthen Sea hallmarks—picturesque chords and drifting melody lines—and even its more beat-driven moments are underpinned by vast sonic and luxurious textures. Press play for a mix that’s sure to lull, blur, and soothe, the perfect accompaniment for a cold grey late afternoon or early evening in February, wherever in the world you are.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Mostly just been laying low, taking it a day at a time. I’m just working in the studio most days. Mostly working on learning to play the drums and painting. I’m working on some new music as well in fits and starts. Other than that, I just moved into a new apartment in the same neighborhood so I’m getting settled in there. I am trying to get out and skate every morning, weather permitting, as much as possible. I am keeping the winter blues away with activity or something like that…
02. What have you been listening to the last few months?
I’ve been listening a lot of ECM jazz records. I’ve been particularly diving into lots of piano trios but I kind of went on a collecting spree over the last year or so, so I’m diving into those. Beyond that, the newer stuff I’ve been jamming regularly would be: all the recent stuff on this mix, Sam Gendel and Sam Wilkes (together and their own projects, too), and I’ve been revisiting the first Sam Prekop solo record.
03. You’ve got a new album on the way. What can you tell us about it?
Yeah, I’m really excited that this album is on its way and I am really looking forward to having people hear it. It was mostly written in the summer and fall of 2020 and was mixed in November and December of 2020, so it has been in the works for a while. I’m still extremely pleased with how it has turned out, which maybe isn’t always the case after so much time, so I’m happy about that. It feels like a step in a slightly different direction for me which I’m excited to share, and once this is out there to explore further.
04. When and where did you record this mix?
This mix was recorded in mid-February in my studio in Brooklyn, New York.
05. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
I always keep a “mix” folder in my iTunes that I drop songs into that I think would work well for mixes as I’m listening to things, so I started by going into that folder and listening to a few things I’d dropped in recently and from there I got some ideas for what vibe I was feeling and kind of just filled out the tracklisting from there. I wanted to include a few things that friends had made so I picked those to work with everything else that was going on. Once I had picked enough tracks, I made a playlist with them and figured out a sequence that made sense to me for everything and made final cuts and additions to what songs I wanted to use.
06. What setup did you use?
I have a pretty basic Ableton “DJ” setup that I use to mix with. It’s basically just a virtual two-channel mixer. I loaded the songs into there and just did the mix on the fly!
07. What can the listener expect?
This mix captures a cross-section of a couple of vibes I’ve been into for a while. There are lots of glitchy, textural ambient electronics, some with percussion being the focus or at least mixed in. And on top of that some jazz-leaning sounds as well. Overall, it’s a low-key textural listening experience that felt perfect for a cold grey late afternoon or early evening in February in New York.
08. What’s on your agenda for 2022?
I’m looking forward to my new record finally being out, hopefully playing some shows at some point, and working on some new material sooner or later.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Romeo Poirier “Trace palmaire” (Sferic)
02. Vladislav Delay “Whistleblow” (alt take) (Self-Released)
03. Lifted “Trip Tonngue” (Future Times)
04. Eli Kessler “Late Archaic” (LuckyMe)
05. Sunun “Z.0” (Cold Light)
06. Topdown Dialectic “A2” (Peak Oil)
07. Laurence Pike “Rites” (Leaf)
08. AAVD Trio “You’re Soft Now” (Orb Tapes)
09. Jake Muir “On Occasions Of This Kind” (Sferic)
10. Nikolay Kozlov feat. Perila “Infinite Change” (Not on Label)
11. 9ms “Tome” (Squama)
12. On the Ifness “Slink Insomniac” (U-udios)
13. System “Red Click” (~scape)
14. Directions “Echoes” (Radio Edit 3) (Temporary Residence Ltd.)