2018 has seen a new renaissance for ambient music unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Critics like myself have witnessed a steady stream of atmospheric soundscapes making their way into every genre in pop music, whether it be hip-hop, R&B, rock and even acoustic singer/songwriters. Postmodernism, more specifically surrealism, has become the prevailing school of thought for this current generation of exciting, captivating indie artists, and while mainstream audiences are just getting exposed to this approach to songwriting, giants like Ethan Gold have been dominating the underground for some time now. Gold’s new record Expanses (Teenage Synthstrumentals) is out this week, and while he might be new face to many, this album promises to make his brand of stylish experimentalism a household name.
Ethan Gold has experienced a lot of pain in his life, but as anyone who has studied history knows, the greatest art is born from the greatest of pain. Expanses (Teenage Synthstrumentals) was conceived during Gold’s recovery from a freak accident which took place while he was scoring an independent film. In listening to the record, which is completely instrumental, it isn’t difficult to connect with the heavily textured synthesized notes and angular harmonies that each track contains. If anything, the absence of vocals make these emotions all the more highlighted.
One of the reasons that I think this record is finding more success than Gold’s previous output is that not only is it far more melodic than what any of his contemporaries are producing right now, it’s his most mature and polished work to date. Gold has grown so tremendously since the start of his professional recording career back in 2011, and it really shows in Expanses. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for him back then. Maybe his sound wasn’t ready for the world. But at long last, the two seem to have found each other, and it’s long overdue.
I wouldn’t rule out Ethan Gold as being one of the major, unspoken influences in the future work of other artists in his medium. There are shades of new wave, ambient, classical, free jazz, funk and psychedelic rock all functioning in harmony in Expanses, and I can see listeners ranging in a wide variety of tastes finding something to fall in love with in this record. If you think it’s absurd to even suggest that a devotedly experimental, avant-garde artist could have such a reach, I would encourage you to have a listen to some of Lou Reed’s earlier solo work and reassess your opinion.
I can say with complete confidence that I won’t hear anything quite as original as Expanses (Teenage Synthstrumentals) in all of 2018, and that is why it is my nominee for record of the year. It might not be laced with hooky choruses, intense rapping or insane guitar solos, but it’s more authentic than anything you’ve heard on FM radio in your life, and that’s more than a big deal. Anything is possible for Ethan Gold moving forward now that he’s broken through in such a huge way with this album. I can’t wait to see, and hear, what happens next.