Television Sky
Hold Me Down






The following sentence leaves a stale aftertaste, for it concentrates on the kind of age-related craze you often read in tabloids and even good oldfashioned newspapers, while it neglects at the same time the true value and innermost nucleus of the respective work of art or the person who created it, so please bear with me, as the next sentence is as follows: The man behind the moniker Television Sky is called Samuel Ruth, resides in San Diego and is, at the time of writing this review, 15 years old. You're still with me, aren't you? This guy has a way of working that catapults him above the sensationalist headlines à la "the world's youngest DJ / app developer / father," for the Drone panoramas and Ambient landscapes he creates are unbelievably cozy and aesthetically pleasing. Samuel knows his thing, and since he is so talented, his age won't be the topic again until the last section of this review. AmbientExotica should not jump the shark yet. Hold Me Down is a four-track EP which Samuel self-released in August 2012. It can be downloaded for free at Bandcamp. While there are many previous and consecutive works of this artist, Hold Me Down is a great showcase set due to its variety. The EP is loaded with warm and polished synth surfaces which flow and float gently and gracefully along. Melodies usually contain roundabout four notes, but their catchiness is not the most important part – as every Drone fan is perfectly aware of – rather than the entanglement of the different layers, the characteristic traits and timbres of the textures as well as the embedded patterns that put the finishing touches on a particular aura. Hold Me Down does not even feature one dud, each track is distinctive and yet merges harmoniously with its next of kin. As far as I know, no processed guitars or pianos are used, but even if they are, they camouflage perfectly in the synth-driven sceneries. I am trying to distill the magic of the artist's compositions below.


The EP opens with The Cockpit, its track title already being both a referrer to the front artwork and an indicator for the aerial landscape that is about to ensue. A slow fade-in reveals polytextural synth clouds which shuttle and oscillate, rise and fall incessantly. This mercurial balm is accentuated by bass drones and a four-note stardust motif which glitters in higher tone regions and injects scents loftiness in tandem with a pristine clarity. Everything feels fresh and solemn, and while there is a whimsical link to the esoteric New Age genre of the early 80's, it is thankfully not fully enforced thanks to the galactosamine guitar-like acid line which is introduced in the second half of the track, positively wobbling and elastically bubbling in front of the cyan-tinged cloudscape. The song ends as formulaic as it began, with a genteel fade-out of the layers, but everything between these markers is astonishingly soothing. Instead of an ubiquitous encapsulation that is so typical in ethereal Ambient pieces, The Cockpit unites the bustling blebs with majestic drone layers. The second composition, called Half Of You, is much more reduced in its color palette, residing in pastel ranges, but also in warmer climes. A thermal heat aorta in the form of golden-shimmering synth streams is presented; the gaseous melody comprises again of four notes and is stretched to boost the tranquility. Distant wind gusts mesh form a shelter-giving mirage and make this a composition that is torn between minimalism and sans-beat-Detroit mannerisms, but nonetheless harmonious in its setup. No hectic ornament is placed, this is a positively streamlined and silkened track in the tonal range of nostalgia, and yet is it embracing and full of contentment.


The following composition of five minutes, Lost Tombs, is filled with meandering sine layers that would sound cold and thin on their own, but once they are in unison as it is the case throughout the arrangement, a wraithlike, mildly piercing zone-out state is kindled and maintained. High-plasticity clicks, chirping cyberbirds and the sound of plinking plates and dishes (!) rounds off a wonderfully blue and acroamatic track. The intrinsic temperature is quite a bit lower than on Half Of You, but never does the soundscape feel gelid or cold rather than transfigurative and transcendental. This is the strongest piece of the EP, its blissful independence makes it hard to coin a definitive term to describe the evoked mood. The thickness and density of the layers is comparably low, there is no usage of reverb or hall effects that would interpolate the impetus of the layers. The clarity makes it so catchy. The final piece has a doleful title but neglects any trace of sadness in its sound layers: The Summer Ends is based on a shimmering enchantment, full of euphorious greeneries, burgeoning verdures and luminous synth chimes. Bird-like staccato splutters, deeply rumbling drone infusions and slowly morphing tone sequences aurally paint a dichotomously warm-freezing aura which is as languorous as it is distantly tense. The almost bedazzling brightness of the surfaces is the unique structure of this track. Hold Me Down ends on a positive, earthen mood.


Orbiting between Drone, synth-heavy classic Ambient constructions and New Age vesicles, Television Sky has created a deeply enthralling EP with four tracks that all are coherent enough to form a harmonious unity, yet very different in their patterns and texture-related timbres. Each of the offerings is somewhat lofty, but never overly thin or cold, there are no Glitch particles involved. I don't want to be an agist, but have to again stress the skillful production quality and secure aesthetic choices this young San Diego-based producer has interwoven into the soundscapes. If Samuel did not mention his age, I would not have spent a single thought about this. I am all the more impressed with the results, and I assure you that you won't believe your ears either. Whether it is the deep immersion in the lofty cloud patterns of The Cockpit or the warmest synth placentas in the otherwise strictly minimal orange-colored Half Of You, the dreaminess of the reciprocating sequences is wondrous and rapturous. Never does this young artist venture off into questionable or incongruous niches, he truly maintains an overarching conceptual style that does not feel like a collage of vignettes rather than a fully fleshed-out dreamscape. Neither are there cryptic enigmas nor syrupy instances of felicitousness. The songs literally float and shimmer. Hold Me Down is a true insiders' tip. Kudos to Samuel Ruth for this incredibly impressive work. I hope he will complete this "side quest" and remains in the realms of Drone. I keep on checking an revisiting his works from time to time – deal!




Further listening and reading:

  • You can download Hold Me Down at Bandcamp.
  • Follow Television Sky at Twitter: @TV5KY.






Ambient Review 187: Television Sky – Hold Me Down (2012). Originally published on Feb. 27, 2013 at