NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A longtime city resident released an album of ambient music that is a tribute to New Brunswick.
David Pressler's "Sound of Home" is a refreshing change from the genre of music that has traditionally been coming out of New Brunswick, a city that is famous for its wild underground basement punk scene.
The album was released August 6, 2017 and, with tracks such as “18 South” and “Banks of the Raritan,” the album screams New Brunswick.
"I'm from New Brunswick and I've lived here for most of my life. My parents split up when I was 12 though, so I ended up going to high school in Highland Park and then Metuchen. But I've always lived here," Pressler told New Brunswick Today.
"All of the titles reference something in New Brunswick that I interact with," Pressler explained. “Highway Gardens” is a reference to the Rutgers Gardens, while “View from the Heights” is a reference to the view from the field behind Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass campus of Rutgers.
"At night, especially in the summer, I like to walk over there and take in all of the lights from the highway and the buildings downtown," Pressler said.
“Going Home” is about taking the bus home from his job, and includes audio from the Rutgers EE bus, and “Under the Overpass” is named for the location where he collected audio samples, or "field recordings," under one of the many overpasses along Route 18.
As for “In the Yard,” Presler says that track is "pretty self-explanatory. I just recorded the sounds of my backyard and set them to a piano with an extremely long delay."
"I tried to mix these sort of poetic moments with mundane everyday life. That's what it's like to live anywhere, I guess, but New Brunswick is a perfect balance of absurd and banal."
Despite its New Brunswick influcence, the album, however, was inspired by a semester that Pressler spent attending college in Pittsburgh and a trip he took to the Princeton University Art Museum about six years ago, he said.
"They had an exhibit up called 'New Jersey as Non-Site,' which was about the development of the fluxus movement, but also more generally about how New Jersey is a sort of middle-ground between big centers of culture and modernity," Pressler explained. "I think that existing as a 'non-site' is crucial to understanding the identity of New Jersey. That exhibit and the thesis behind it really left an impression on me."
"There's no one place in New Jersey where a music or art scene takes place; the artists just make do living where ever, because you're never really that far from New York or Philadelphia."
Pressler said that the concept of "musical impressionism" encouraged him to move away from making "autobiographical or confessional music and creating music that conveyed a sense of time and place."
But, he put the idea of an album about his home city on hold to start a band. He still records and tours with Ghost Camp, a four-piece band based in the Hub City, and says he has also been "recording with Hill Boys off and on for the last few months."
"Fast-forward a little to spring 2016: I've been playing in a band for three years, we just finished recording our second album and with some of my tax return, I decided to buy my first synthesizer," Pressler said. "I was listening to a lot of ambient music, like Jurgen Muller, Cluster and a lot of late-period Dirty Beaches."
He also cited Hiroshi Yoshimura as one of his many influences.
Pressler said studying ambient music was "the final ingredient" and for the next 14 months, he spent his free time working on the solo album.
Pressler is continuing to tour with both his bands, and he is looking forward to releasing another solo album as well.
"The compositions for my next solo album are about evergreen trees, and the DeBoer Evergreen Garden at the [Rutgers] Gardens has more or less been the main influence for them," Pressler said. "I'm hoping to incorporate more string instruments into it, specifically the cello. I'm not sure why, but I'm completely obsessed with the sound of cellos."
"I'm also working on dance music, so I may put out a mixtape of disco remixes or something but it depends on how much time I have goof around scratching up records."
If you’re looking for an album to relax to on a lazy Sunday or summer night outside that screams Hub City, anyone can stream and listen to the full album for free at Pressler's Bandcamp page.