Green-House: A Host for All Kinds of Life

For proof that we all must ultimately coexist on this planet, look no further than coquina. The porous sedimentary stone forms almost entirely out of fragments of shellfish, trilobites, and other invertebrates; over millions of years, snails, urchins, and other creatures make the rock home alongside algae blooms, forming communities inside each rainwater-carved divot. Coquina lends both an opening track title and general ethos to Los Angeles musician Olive Ardizoni’s new album as Green-House, A Host for All Kinds of Life. Within Ardizoni’s ambient collage of field recordings, synth, and piano flourish idiosyncratic melodies crafted with the patient and methodical hand of a gardener.

A Host for All Kinds of Life is the first Green-House album Ardizoni has made with longtime collaborator Michael Flanagan as an official partner, and it represents a maturation of the ideas introduced on Green-House’s 2020 debut, Six Songs for Invisible Gardens. The music, deconstructed new age designed as a communication between plants and those who care for them, has evolved from soundtracking individual organisms to the mutually beneficial ecosystems they create. But Green-House’s work has always been invested in biotic beings big and small, following in the footsteps of artists like Mort Garson and musicians associated with kankyō ongaku, a Japanese style of ambient sometimes translated to “environmental music.”

Like kankyō ongaku, which sprang up in the 1980s in conversation with architecture and contemporary art, Green-House’s own branch of environmental music homes in on what flora and fauna might sound like behind the din of modern metropolis, almost as if a biodome started up a chamber band. Throughout A Host for All Kinds of Life, electronic elements—clean tones from Casio synths or mellotrons that form hypnotic refrains—are woven with field recordings that evoke intimate moments with the natural world, moments Green-House insists are still an intrinsic part of urban living. Even in a concrete jungle, signs of life as minuscule as the chirping of birds lift a veil of false separation between a city and its roots.

Where 2021’s Music for Living Spaces played like incantations for a struggling bird of paradise, A Host for All Kinds of Life takes more interest in pauses and negative space. Moments of stillness in “Lichen Maps” are brought to life by distinctive noises like the rustling of a dried rattlesnake tail, fed through a granulator plug-in, or a deep human breath. Sitar- or theremin-like synths on “Coquina” and “Luna Clipper” ring out tentatively before growing into more complex compositions. Green-House’s measured approach means that even on songs that intertwine three or four melodies, discrete textures from foley recordings or keyboards still ring out in the background like muted bells. The details in cuts like “Coquina” or “Castle Song” build so intuitively that it’s almost as if they’re happening in secret, a thicket blossoming away from prying eyes.

The gentle singing that graced Music for Living Spaces standout “Find Home” is absent from A Host for All Kinds of Life. The timbre is missed, but the choice may be deliberate: The only voice heard on the album arrives at the end of the winkingly titled penultimate track, “Everything Is Okay,” in the form of a voicemail from Ardizoni’s mother following up on a missed connection. “I didn’t want you to think that our conversation you wanted to talk about wasn’t important,” she assures Ardizoni, “because you are the most important.” Coming right after the title track collapses in a frenzy of agitated, pitch-shifted saxophone, “Everything Is Okay” feels like a steadying hand on the shoulder, unexpected but familiar.

Green-House bridges similar dichotomies often and skillfully on A Host for All Kinds of Life, engendering an atmosphere that's comforting but not exactly comfortable. In structuring the album around pregnant pauses and hushed single-instrument lines, Green-House realigns their sound away from easy listening and back toward a vision of active communion in shared space. Like any plant, A Host for All Kinds of Life requires careful attention without demanding it. But spend time with these songs, and small wonders—a chime, a beep, a grainy but unmistakably maternal “you”—continue to surface like new blooms on a lovingly tended vine.