NTHNL is the professional name of composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Jacob Rudin. The artist debuted as NTHNL in 2018. Since then he has produced a steady stream of experimental electronic music. Although he often works with guest vocalists, on his new instrumental record Jacob is doing everything himself.
“Tranquility Studies, Vol. 1.” is the brand new EP from NTHNL, released to all major streaming services on January 21, 2021. Each of its 5 tracks features a different flavor of atmospheric moods and melodic interludes. The simplest description of the record would be to label it ambient relaxation music. And it definitely is that. However, there are many layers of nuance to these songs. From the nature sounds of “Space: Sound” to the astral projection-inducing electronic soundscapes of “36HZ,” the record is the perfect vehicle for delivering altered states of consciousness.
Throughout the EP, NTHNL populates his ethereal dream sequences with expert solo performances on multiple instruments. The flute plays a prominent role on tracks like “Breath” and “Duality.” The latter also features some very slick saxophone work that lands melodically somewhere between Harlem and Cairo. “Surface” features some truly mind-altering synths. The artist accurately describes the pieces as, “Smaller journeys embedded in the larger trip.”
We had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Jacob to ask about the past, the future and the new NTHNL record. Check out his answers to our 8 questions. While you’re reading, grab some headphones and cue up “Tranquility Studies, Vol. 1.” Take a much needed escape.
8 Questions with Jacob Rudin of NTHNL
The Static Dive: Where are you from?
Jacob Rudin: I was born in New York but grew up in New Jersey (just outside). I have since lived in Boston, Minneapolis, Paris, and now Brooklyn.
SD: How long have you been making music?
JR: I have been playing piano since I was about 6. I became serious about classical piano when I was 15 and took to classical composition when I was 16. All the while I was making electronic music and writing songs. I’ve been writing songs since I was 11 or 12.
SD: Who are the musicians involved in your project?
JR: For this EP just me. I played the flute, sax, keyboard, guitar, harmonica, synthesizers. I produced, mixed and mastered it. I didn’t want any other fingerprints on this project, the thought was too scary.
SD: Who are your biggest musical influences?
JR: I love Brian Eno, I think he managed to find what was necessary to keep in ambient music, and nothing more. I think all ambient music since has his to contend with. I think it’s sort of a reference point for all of us and that’s pretty cool. I love Pharaoh Sanders, especially the albums Karma and Thembi. I think he managed to create groovy music that is immersive both in musical scope and in production. It’s both wild and coherent and that to me has always been a goal.
Tim Hecker and Harry Bertoia, the former for his ability to muck up pretty harmonies with noise and maintain both the pretty and the ugly simultaneously; and the latter because he was an instrument maker (like me) who was interested in noise and whose sonic textures build up over long periods of time, but whose sonic vocabulary truly creates its own sonic universe.
SD: What is your greatest non-musical influence?
JR: I’ll go with non-sonic because I am of that John Cage school of “all sound is music.” I read a book called the Novacene lately by James Blackwood. He basically says that we (the human race) are about to give birth to the future of intelligence in the universe (AI) which will be as advanced to us as we are to plants. Pretty cool. I try to read a lot. Lately the varying depths and geometries of the buildings here in Brooklyn have been inspiring, but they can also make you crazy when you’re stuck in your apt!!
SD: What inspired you to create this project?
JR: My own anxieties caused me to start experimenting with generative music to ease anxiety. The original thought was to code music that went forever but which was always slightly different. This is still the idea I guess maybe for some pieces but it evolved to include more aspects of my musicality, namely, my playing.
SD: What are your plans for the future (musically)?
JR: I have a song coming out with the enormously talented Beccs soon. I wrote and produced it and she sings on it and co-produced it, but her production instincts for crafting a good pop song (and not just singing the hell out of one) are unbelievable. I hope to return to Europe, do some touring, do some field recording in cities for a new round of Tranquility Studies. I’d like to start work on a second Cosmic Flute album soon and I’m applying to residencies all over the world for the fall.