Review: He’s Come a Long Way Since ‘Cosmic Flute’- NTHNL’s Ambient Life Study in ‘Ontogenesis’

Ambient music takes many forms and comes from many different sources. Quite often, it runs in the same veins as experimental electronica, with classically trained artists and composers becoming curious about the science of sound. Such is the case with Brooklyn-based composer and classically trained flutist, Jacob, ‘NTHNL’ Rudin. He started in 2019 melding flute compositions with electronic backing tracks and appears to have been on quite a journey with music since then. Now about to release an album which also incorporates his spiritual path,  Ontogenesis, inspired by the scientific term for ‘the origination and development of an organism, both physical and psychological’, is an apt title in more ways than one.

Originally with his first album, 2019’s Cosmic Flute,  NHNL’s flute-forward compositions were a blend of classical and ambient electronica, but landed more on the jazzy or classical end of things, with the electronic parts meant to support the flute work. Shortly after Cosmic Flute‘s release, however, Rudin began collaborating with vocalists on a series of singles in 2020 that saw him put down the flute and focus almost entirely on composing and producing electronic music. It’s clear in these singles NTHNL was finding his way, as he played with genre, style and beat structure. ‘Inside My Head’ with Louise Elser, for example, had a strong house beat but with vintage synths and jazzy vibes.

After his foray into poptronica, NTHNL began, as so many experimental and ambient artists do, to really study sound. His next two albums were not much more than recordings he took on his travels of Paris and London. In the style of musique concrète and other electronica pioneers, Paris and London were followed by the first two offerings of the Tranquility Studies, of which Ontogenesis will be the third, NTHNL began to put the organic sound recordings together with his ambient compositions.

The ‘Tranquility Studies’ series is an attempt to summarize and present my current explorations in medicinal music. I first became interested in healing music through early experiments in algorithmic, or automatically generated, music. I would listen to these pretty, repetitive, shimmering textures for hours at a time making slight tweaks, always feeling calm and blissed at the end of my sessions.

Ontogenesis, created with binaural beats as a literal meditation and aligning with the chakras of the body, would thus be a sort of apotheosis of all NTHNL’s journeys: physical musical and spiritual. Put together with the help of NYC yoga instructor Leslie Graves, the album was originally called ‘Music of the Body’ and each song is meant to tune to the frequency of each chakra, Graves also appears vocally on the album to guide the meditations. In order to compose the music, Graves gave NTHNL keywords as jumping off points for each track or movement, and those became the titles. Deep and resonant, each track combines all of NTHNL’s loves: classical piano and wind instruments, ambient electronica, spiritual frequencies and sonic science, into works which are as effective as meditations as they are well-crafted as pieces of music.

Fans can listen to the first two songs from Ontogenesis, ‘Heart’ and ‘Synthesis, Memory’ on Spotify. The full album will be out on 12th July on both Spotify and Bandcamp.