On their debut album, Cerulean, Nashville Ambient Ensemble take the emerging ambient-country subgenre and pushes it to a newly evolved state.
The aptly named group is comprised of leader Michael Hix on synthesizers, Belly Full of Stars’ Kim Rueger on piano, Jack Silverman on baritone electric guitar, Luke Schneider on pedal steel guitar, Cynthia Cárdenas on guitar synth, Diatom Deli’s Deli Paloma-Sisk on vocals, and Timon Kaple on electric guitar. With their powers combined, the band crafted together a sound that is reminiscent of 80s new wave pop, Krautrock and the music of lap steel virtuoso, Buddy Emmons.
Tracks like “Inga’ pulse with warm synths while reverb-soaked guitars cascade around Paloma-Sisk’s breathy vocalizations. Partly what makes this album stand out amongst its peers is its vocals. Most records within this micro-genre tend to be mostly instrumentals, but the NAE utilizes Paloma-Sisk’s voice as an instrument, letting it add an icy chill throughout many of the compositions.
Meanwhile, on songs like “Coda,” the band uses Jerry Garcia-like guitar passages, waves of melty pedal steel and Dolly Parton-esque singing to invoke deeply cinematic soundscapes that would be right at home on both the Aguirre and Paris, Texas soundtracks.
Yet the title track, which is a moodier piece with wandering piano and twangy guitar, really takes the center stage. Between its atmospheric fusion of siren vocals, haunting pedal steel and shadowy electro drones, the song takes on a cosmic yet slightly ominous tone. It feels as though it came out of an acid cowboy noir score. How many songs or albums can you really say that about?