Air Bertr&, the new project from Let’s be Leonard‘s Karl Bertrand, has an ambient first single with “City Walk,” clocking in at a meditative 25 minutes and 48 seconds. Karl uses various instrumentation on the track, and was joined by fellow LBL bandmate Connor Dunn, playing saxophone on “City Walk.”
Hailing from Saratoga Springs, Bertrand began getting into ambient music in 2018, finding the music eased his mind as he wrestled with insomnia and anxiety. He cites favorite ambient artists as Chihei Hatakeyama, Midori Takada, Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Laraaji.
In the past couple years, Karl has hosted a radio show ‘Fly Air Bertr&’ on 91.1FM Skidmore College, where he mixes ambient music from various artists with ASMR recordings and lecturers from a variety of different philosophical and spiritual backgrounds.
Released on May 28, “City Walk” is the result of years of writing and recording, plus time in 2020 to focus on this project while awaiting the return of live music.
My connection with ambient music has often felt very spiritual to me. That might come out the most on the radio program.Karl Bertrand
Bertr& has performed at local events, including at yoga studios where he live DJs the class. He has also composed a piece for a local ballet studio, an interesting way for the music to come alive in a live setting, especially in comparison to the live rock performances.
“City Walk” was first recorded on a handheld cassette recorder as Bertrand took a walk from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Midtown. He later recorded an improvisation on electric piano to the field recording and finished the piece by inviting Connor Dunn to improvise over everything on his saxophone.
I definitely felt inspired by the big city energy and the thoughts of all of the old session players and jazz cats that had walked those same streets. I think Connor’s playing really captured that feeling. He did it all in one take after barely hearing the backing track. When he was finished he said “I’m done.” That was that. It’s just how I imagined the old-city jazz cats would have done it.
I’ve always loved walking alone in the city with headphones in. It’s one of my favorite things about traveling. I think the energy of the whole track feels just perfect for how I feel when I’m doing that activity. There’s so much life there but it’s also just so serene at the same time.
Bertrand shares one experience from the field recordings in New York City:
One of the coolest parts of making music is the unexpected moments. One of those moments is buried in the end of the field recording on this track. I’m almost finished walking through the park and getting closer to midtown. The environment grows more dense with commotion and voices of New Yorkers and tourists. One guy walks past and says “Which way’s up?” as I pass him (referring to which way is uptown I’d assume.) Maybe ten seconds later a little kid playfully exclaims “It’s this way!” It seems like a little miracle of sorts to record such an unexpected li’l moment like that.