It's not really a Christmas album, but the first official release from Knoxville's Ampient Music, a loose collective of local musicians, fits the season—it's an antidote to the mad pace and emotional stress that have started to feel like a natural part of the end of the year.
Cryptically titled Music4 Projec, the new album, available as a free download at ampient.bandcamp.com (consider it a gift for yourself), features contributions from John T. Baker, George Middlebrooks, Brett Winston, Todd Steed, and Toby Applegate. The tagline on the bandcamp page describes the project as "an update on Mr. E's concept of musical support for the everyday mundrone," a reference to Brian Eno, who coined the phrase "ambient music" in the 1970s. Each artist takes a distinct approach to ambience here—Middlebrooks arranges feedback and found sound around a gentle guitar figure for the 10-minute "murmuration," while Winston plays with Angelo Badalamenti-style reverb on a handful of tracks and Baker adds programmed beats to his guitar soundscape.
Steed founded Ampient in 2009 during the first incarnation of Big Ears. (Adrian Belew sat in with members during the 2010 festival.) The group has included more than a dozen members over the years, and held frequent performances at Pilot Light and Old City Java in 2011 and 2012. A few more such performances at, say, the busiest retail centers around town might be called for these days.