Ambient music is defined as “a type of music, often without a tune or beat, that is intended to make people relax or create a particular mood,” by Cambridge Dictionary.
It’s the clause before or that Rachika Nayar, a New York experimental musician, does not identify with. Her music, she says, is intended to reflect and elicit a transformation or emotional resonance that the listener likely can’t articulate into words — in this regard, she succeeds.
Nayar’s debut album, Our Hands Against The Dusk, is the culmination of years spent beta testing recording methods and integrating her previous musical worlds — electronic production and post-rock guitar — into a new sound, perfect for a time of uncertainty and isolation.
“Those two separate methods were not expressing everything I wanted to express,” Nayar said.
She began taking the guitar loops she would conjure up in her bedroom and manipulating them through Ableton and granular synthesizers. The first song that came from this starting point was lead single “Losing Too Is Still Ours,” which begins with staggering guitar loops given epic proportions through deep drum hits and thick drones, before collaborator Yatta yearns in an ethereal, heartbreaking tone. Written in 2017, this song laid the blueprint for the rest of the album.
Through its development, Nayar enlisted instruments like piano and violin to contort as well. The standout is the seven-minute final track “No Future.” This time, it’s a cello receiving the prescription of manipulation and digital rendering. A Colin Stetson-esk track full of emotional potential energy that turns kinetic at the two minute mark, this song is the album’s perfect bookend.
When it comes to the representation of Nayar’s music, she created “impressionistic” music videos. The most recent is for “Losing Too Is Still Ours,” which depicts silhouetted figures soaked in an orange and blue haze flailing about the non-specific space in slow motion. Nayar used the word “impressionistic” and said it is potentially a better descriptor for the album. I agreed. After all, impressionism emphasizes emotion.
This also comes through in her live shows that are often accompanied by personal and found footage, which Nayar hopes feel evocative of the viewer’s experience as opposed to specific to her as the performer.
“I want the sensory experience of my music to be fully encompassing,” Nayar said, pointing to raves and dance music as an example of sweeping musical experiences.
The combined use of light, sound, fog and music can create something “totally obliterating,” she said, adding that her intention is to facilitate an environment that “simultaneously takes you out of yourself, and submerges you deep within yourself.”
The idea of performing was once repulsory to Nayar because of a combination of anxiety and a feeling her rendering of the music was “just a worse version.”
Through refocusing her performance more on the experience and not creating live, impromptu sounds, she developed a method that respects her original recording and feels fulfilling.
This new confidence in her live shows arrives years after Nayar’s initial move to New York. Originally from State College, Pennsylvania, which has a population of just 42,000 people, Nayar found it difficult to find people to bond with.
“It’s very hard to find like-minded people in small towns,” she said. “I was really happy with who I found in coming to New York.”
She went to college in Connecticut before moving to New York. Upon her arrival, she began performing frequently at the legendary DIY institution Silent Barn. Nayar was welcomed into the community with open arms and has not stopped her development since.
Nayar’s first tour was set to begin in 2020, but was derailed by the coronavirus. Now, she is eager for her first performance to an audience with the luxury of time to digest her album. Her next show will be at the Shed in June.
New music from Nayar is imminent as well. She will be releasing an EP of unmanipulated guitar that draws on genres like post rock, math rock and midwestern emo, she said.
Additionally, Nayar has been writing a lot of music that will make up future albums and projects. Apart from the EP of guitar music, Nayar has been inspired by anime soundtracks and trance in her recent writing.
Suffice to say, she is an artist of reinvention who will keep listener’s appetites fulfilled with upcoming releases.