Collection: James Bernard

James Bernard is a California-based sound artist and audio engineer whose three decades in music have yielded some of the most notable ambient electronic works of our era, both as a solo artist and across an array of collaborations. With extensive experience as a product specialist for the likes of Korg, Propellerhead and Spectrasonics, he approaches his creations with a unique depth of technological prowess, suffusing every piece with well-crafted texture and rich tonality.

Bernard became obsessed by the sounds of the burgeoning video game industry of the 1980s and a fervent desire to understand the inner workings of their formulation. Though his early education was centered on trumpet and piano, and some of his first sessions behind the recording desk were for local hardcore and cover bands, he was turned on to circuits and synthesis by a friend who was a lead sound designer at Korg. A concurrent discovery of rave culture, Aphex Twin, The Future Sound of London and the exploratory second side of David Bowie’s Low LP enriched a rapidly expanding perspective, and his first works took shape.

The landmark debut, Atmospherics (Rising High Records, 1994), placed Bernard in the upper echelon of producers during the initial golden age of cerebral electronic composition. Its journey through spaced-out synth layers and disembodied vocal découpage landed with confident force, and many of its motifs and methods have been extrapolated and explored throughout the prolific discography that followed, leaving distinct sonic fingerprints on each entry.

With his considerable base of knowledge, and an evolving process born of intuition and improvisation, Bernard primarily uses standard and modular analog synths, TB-303 bass sequencer and – more recently – six-string bass guitar for its particular warmth and range. Adorned by a stable of effects and reverb, his output runs a gamut from the celestial to the terrestrial, all of it imbued with careful pacing and melodic mastery. Highlights include Atwater (A Strangely Isolated Place, 2019), Fragments (Past Inside the Present, 2019) and the acid-tinged a sliver of silver (self-released, 2022).

Bernard has also brought his aesthetics to a variety of collaborations – most notably with his wife Cynthia Bernard (aka marine eyes) under their moniker awakened souls, as well as on the album Departing in Descent with bvdub (Past Inside the Present, 2022) and efforts alongside The Album Leaf, zakè, Markus Guentner and many others. In this spirit he likewise lends a keen and educated ear to his mastering work as owner and chief engineer at Ambient Mountain House, which specializes in the kind of subtlety and nuance that many studios often lack.

When out in the wider world, Bernard savors the benevolent and communal nature of live performance, and honors his lifelong love of sea otters with regular head-clearing expeditions to Otter Cove in Monterey.


Past Inside the Present Discography
James Bernard & anthéne - Soft Octaves [2023]
James Bernard, zakè, Marc Ertel, From Overseas - Live at the Gothic Chapel [2023]
James Bernard & bvdub - Departing In Descent [2022]
James Bernard (Influx) & 36 (SYNE) PULSE 01 [2022]
James Bernard - Fragments + Distancing [2019]

Remixes and Appearances
ASC - Eye of the Storm [2022]
awakened souls & From Overseas - Keep The Orange Sun [2021]
36 & awakened souls - The Other Side of Darkness [2021]
Various Artists - Healing Sounds II: A Compilation For Those In Need [2020]
Various Artists - Healing Sounds I: A Compilation For Those In Need [2019]