Ben Seretan’s forthcoming Cicada Waves, out April 30 via NNA Tapes, is equal parts instrumentation and ambience. Recorded in Georgia’s Appalachian woods using a 100-year-old Steinway, the album finds Seretan improvising on piano as if in conversation with the noises of nature, creating a supremely peaceful aural partnership between artist and environment. Following “Fog Rolls Out Rabun Gap,” “8pm Crickets” and “11pm Sudden Thunderstorm,” fourth single “Rain & Cicadas” premieres at Paste today (April 13) alongside its gently psychedelic music video, animated mostly using The Sims by Bahareh Khoshooee.
“This might be my favorite track on this record because it’s the one where I play the least—it’s ostensibly a piano album, but really it documents the sound of me sitting at a piano and not playing while listening to these sounds,” Seretan tells Paste. “And these sounds are particularly dreamy—dreamy as in good, beautiful, sure, but also they sound like something from a dream, surreal and a little unreal. On the recording you can never really tell what’s rain and what’s insect wings buzzing, and together it sounds like static from a television you’re falling asleep in front of.”
“Bahareh’s work is aggressively digital/online—so much so that when I originally emailed her about making this video she kinda went, ‘hey … are you sure?’” Seretan says of the “Rain & Cicadas” video. “But there’s a small piece of hers hanging in my dining room, digital artifacts printed on thin fabric, and it ripples so beautifully when you walk by it. I had all these beautiful sounds from nature, and images of trees and butterflies but they were all going to be experienced digitally to some extent, beamed over WiFi onto laptop screen—ultimately, it made sense to get someone to interpret the computer intervention.”
The audio and video of “Rain & Cicadas” make for a transfixing combination: Both balance the boundless tranquility of nature with Seretan and his piano’s incongruous presence, and in certain shots, the two become one, with flora and fauna grafted onto the face of the artist’s digital avatar. Where the song is imbued with humble wonder, the video’s glitchy approximation of the natural world brings an ironic detachment into the mix, as if wryly pointing out the gulf between living online and actual life. Then again, you’re experiencing all of the above via the internet, so … beauty is all around if you know where to look.
Watch the “Rain & Cicadas” video below. You can preorder Cicada Waves here.