What does The Ocean Between Us evoke for you? For Los Angeles-based audiovisual artist, producer and NTS Live radio host Diamondstein and Sangam - his musical collaborator from Manchester - it evoked enough to serve as the title for the duo album they created earlier this year. Picking up where the Transatlantic duo left off with their last project, 2017’s Lullabies For Broken Spirits, The Ocean Between Us expands on their rainy, late-night urban-psychedelia with the addition of introspective beatscapes and post-modern classical music touches. Still richly filmic, and as textured as the acid rain rusted surfaces of the cyberpunk landscapes their works often live within, The Ocean Between Us pulses with new - as of yet unidentifiable - life; life finding a way.

“The title was the first thing I suggested, partially because of the literal bodies of water between us and our mutual appreciation for the sound of rain and waves on a shore, but also because I just think long-distance relationships are fascinating,” explains Diamondstein, writing by email. “The inability to see someone you care about often - be it family, friend, or lover - means that you fill in a lot of the gaps in their lives with things you imagine, some good and bad. This can be torture, but it also can be really beautiful. The feeling of longing for someone is a really powerful motivator.” Given the way Diamondstein and Sangam write music, they both knew this kind of emotion and narrative “The idea of longing for someone you miss, and the imaginary life you create for them in their absence,” as he puts it, would come through strongly in the music.

Both artists who put the music ahead of individual identity, Diamondstein and Sangam met online through the extended network of music makers clustered around London record label Dream Catalogue, an organisation which, after an initial association with the vaporwave scene, blossomed into some of the leading purveyors of a skyscraper-high ambient/environmental music sound. Having both been released through Dream Catalogue gave them common ground, and after listening, it turned out they were fans of each other’s music as well. “We started speaking on Twitter, and began sharing song stems back and forth,” Diamondstein recalls. However, like The Ocean Between Us, and Diamondstein’s thinking around it suggests, they’re yet to meet offline.

Interacting online though has given them everything they need to be able to create music together, as The Ocean Between Us and Lullabies For Broken Spirits both clearly illustrate. “We both have a bond within music - if it ain’t sad, or has no feeling, we ain’t with it,” Sangam muses via email, before explaining how the conversations they’ve shared online have helped them come together musically. “Even though we’re literally oceans apart, we still feel on the same waveform of sound and emotion,” he continues. “We sculpt sad memories and thoughts into our tracks. When we make tracks, it just comes together so naturally.”

Diamondstein echoes Sangam’s thoughts while expanding them. “I think our natural writing styles both just tend to be super emotional - both in the sounds we choose and a lot of the patterns/chords in the songs themselves,” he writes. “I've always been told that my music is very "cinematic", which I always take as a massive compliment because scores and cinematic music is meant to really stretch the emotional depth of whatever you're seeing. Sangam definitely shares this quality, particularly with our emphasis on music that isn't particularly happy or cheerful. I think he typically calls it sad, which it often times is, but I think particularly with his music, it's a much more complex emotion than that, which is ultimately why I think I was drawn to his music in the first place.”

Something compelling about The Ocean Between Us is how it’s imbued with a distant familiarity clouded in the intrigue of the unknown, a feeling close to déjà vu, but not quite. It’s possible that this might be part and parcel with the nature of Diamondstein and Sangam’s digital connection. While explaining their work process, Diamondstein admits he has almost no idea how Sangam generates his sounds. They both use different software to make music, so they’d just dropbox each other audio stems to sample from or recreate as new ideas. It was mysterious and freeing. “Most of what I sent Sangam were pieces that I had made and just put in a folder, without any real intention of ever using. Sangam then took them and turned them something amazing,” Diamondstein writes. “Similarly, Sangam would send me an idea, then he would just give me the stems, and I would build around them. Honestly, it was such an easy process.”

As those familiar with his 2016 album The Ridges are aware, Diamondstein is somewhat of a master technician, a producer with a definite emphasis on sound design. Part of why working with Sangam was an easy process was because of the permission Sangam gave him to be freer. “I guess [with music] I make this type of atmosphere that I dwell in and sometimes I'll have to [just] finish the track cause I don't wanna spoil the moment, one lil' tweak and that emotion downsizes,” Sangam writes. “I really respect how Sangam can just crank out music so quickly, and I really wish I was better at it,” Diamondstein continues. “I think what he says about not spoiling the moment with a little tweak is a really special thing about his music and our process together in my opinion… [If] it felt right, we just let it be that way, and that's something I really want to get better at.”

When it came to considering a home for their joint work, cult Californian label Doom Trip Records made sense. “I had been speaking with Z over at Doom Trip for a bit about releasing something, and I always loved the concept of split records from back in old punk and hardcore scene,” Diamondstein explains. Doom Trip had released music from real American weirdos like R. Stevie Moore and Rangers, so they were open-eared, and the timing was right. Diamondstein floated the idea, and Doom Trip was in. “I wish I could share some of the emphatic voice messages I got from him when we would send the demos as we were building these things out,” Diamondstein enthuses. “Every time I got one, it was a tiny burst of stimulation I need to know that what we were working on was truly worth doing.” “The Big Z!” Sangam adds. “Nothing but respect for the guy, hardest working guy I've ever come across when releasing music with a label. He's a pro.”

Across Lullabies For Broken Spirits and The Ocean Between Us, this working relationship has caught the music recognition from Tiny Mix Tapes, The Wire, Resident Advisor, Dublab, NTS, and us at The 405, positioning them nicely. Top of their agenda is meeting offline and playing shows together, but with the 21st century being the 21st century, they might not even have to meet offline to do that. “The goal is to start playing some of this stuff live together, so hopefully we'll eventually hang out in person,” Diamondstein explains. “Or maybe we'll still perform live using some sort of Internet rigging - I guess that could be kind of rad.”

The Ocean Between Us is out now through Doom Trip Records.