In the ever-evolving landscape of musical exploration, Ambassade, formerly known as De Ambassade, emerges with a refreshed identity and vision. Recently, the band made a significant shift, opting for a streamlined two-member lineup. This decision aims to enhance their focus on collaborative performances and innovative audiovisual projects. 

Earlier this year Ambassade released their new album ‘The Fool’, a compelling addition to the Cold Wave, Synth, New Industrial, and Experimental genres. The album dives into the realms of dark energies, natural, political, and human – emerging from reflections on religion, greed, and power after years of research and contemplation on the human mind. Inspired by historical instances where religion was exploited to legitimize power, Ambassade scrutinizes the negative impacts of male-dominated religious structures. ‘The Fool’ embodies this exploration through an eclectic array of instruments, including detuned choral and voice samples, droned tape loops, and DIY metal and found percussion. 

Pascal Pinkert and Jippe van Niel recently marked a milestone with their debut show at Berghain showcasing a synthesis of auditory and visual elements, inviting the audience on a journey through live performance. Both are driven by the curiosity to create a sonic space where Western musical traditions seamlessly intertwine with contemporary electronic production and non-Western forms. This fusion serves as a conduit for understanding the intricate relationship between the dystopian cybernetic realm and the raw, visceral nature of human experience. Numéro Netherlands dived into the sonic universe crafted by Ambassade, where musical experimentation meets visual storytelling. 

Interview by Magdalena Roe

If we rewind a bit, so our readers can delve into the origins of your journey. You mentioned that there were some transitions in the lineup. Have you always operated with different members coming and going? The Ambassade has always had a session musician vibe, where individuals would join temporarily. This dynamic led to various switches over time as members explored other projects and moved on. Surprisingly, we became accustomed to this, and it never bothered me that we didn’t maintain a stable lineup. I wasn’t concerned about who played with us as long as they could contribute to the sound we were aiming for. It became a natural part of our journey, and the constant change in membership didn’t negatively impact us; it’s just the nature of the journey, and we embraced it.

What is the synergy between you and Jippe like, especially considering his background in Rock? Jippe has an impressive history as a bass player and guitarist in a band with a focus on progressive rock, navigating complex bass riffs and intricate musical patterns. However, when he joined our project, he encountered a unique challenge. Our music, distinct from his previous experiences, doesn’t feature intricate baselines but rather opts for simplicity and openness. It was a surprise for him, as the basslines are straightforward to play. Yet, the simplicity posed its own challenge – hitting just a couple of notes demanded an exceptional level of precision. Jippe shared with me that, in our music, every note becomes crucial, as any mistake is immediately noticeable. Unlike the dynamic, fast-paced riffs at 150 BPM he was accustomed to, where mistakes might be masked, here, the spotlight is on precision. It was an adjustment for him, shifting from a context where complexity could sometimes cover errors to a space where the minimalism demanded absolute accuracy. Sometimes –  it’s the simplicity that brings out the details and demands a different level of musical precision.

What are the significant transitions and differences that Ambassade has undergone? These changes are tied to the ongoing transition we’re experiencing. Our transition encompasses more than just musical shifts. We’ve ventured into singing in English, moving away from our earlier Dutch vocals. Personally, the language in which I sing has become less significant; I’ve embraced the freedom to explore new sonic territories. We’ve released a few songs in English, signaling a departure from our previous work. The transition is a busy phase for us, and we’ve moved away from the conventional song structures of our earlier days. In our current creative process, we’re not primarily focused on crafting traditional songs. Instead, our energy is directed towards creating extended, atmospheric sounds. This marks a departure from the catchy hooks and hit-oriented tracks we were known for in the past. The shift reflects a conscious decision to move beyond the confines of creating hits but explore uncharted sonic landscapes. In our performances, we incorporate new techniques in both writing and execution. Even when revisiting our earlier works, we find elements that foreshadow the transition we’re undergoing. The release in the middle of the year was not the trigger but rather a snapshot of where we already stood in this journey. The new direction is a deliberate move away from our signature catchiness, as we embark on an experimental phase, prioritizing innovation over creating hits.

Where do you envision your musical journey? Is there a specific direction you’d like to explore or a particular musical landscape you’re drawn to? This transition is a common occurrence when I delve into a new musical direction. Recently, I’ve been exploring ambient compositions with increased enthusiasm. My exposure to various innovative concepts has been particularly eye-opening and inspiring. The potential directions are vast, and I’m currently steering towards a focus on ambient and repetitive elements. This shift involves experimenting with the use of vintage instruments, blending a sense of nostalgia with the exploration of the new sound. 

What does your current setup of your live performances look like? And how are you integrating new techniques, visual elements, and transforming your setup? It’s still a relatively new undertaking, and I’ve recently teamed up with someone eager to collaborate on a visual project. The current live show is in a state of transition, featuring a mix of new and old songs, creating a balanced 50/50 dynamic. Looking ahead to the coming year, we aim to enhance the on-stage experience by seamlessly combining music with visuals, and incorporating moving images and film. The goal is to shift the focus away from us as performers, placing more emphasis on the synergy between the music and visual elements. Although we’re still navigating this territory and experimenting with the integration, we’re exploring ways to make the visual component as vital as the musical performance. It’s a bit of a journey where we’re concurrently delving into both new and familiar aspects.

Our minds are accustomed to constant interaction with videos and visuals, making your transformation it into a musical context particularly intriguing. Could you share more about your process and how you manage to seamlessly bring together the auditory and visual aspects of your performances? Many people have mentioned that my music has a cinematic quality. There may be some truth to it, as I do appreciate a good soundtrack. ‘The Fool’ draws inspiration from various visuals. When I think about sound in general or consider ‘The Fool,’ there’s a particular series that stands out to me which is the series ‘Chernobyl’. The musical prowess of someone Hildur Guðnadóttir was something so special. Her cello performance was remarkable, capturing the essence of the nuclear danger prevalent in that era. ‘Chernobyl’ depicted the most hazardous place on Earth at that time, and Hildur’s ability to grasp the sound of nuclear danger was exceptional. She navigated the tension and every aspect so precise. What she achieved, including recording at a power plant in Ukraine with old equipment lying around, was truly outstanding.

Pascal passionately shared how visuals intertwine with our music’s cinematic essence, revealing the profound artistry behind Ambassade. With a continuous quest for sonic exploration, Ambassade invites audiences to join them on a dynamic journey where sound and vision converge in a refreshed context and experience.