Ambush's Silver SSS Record Earrings Connect the Dots Between Jamaican Sound Systems and Early Human Exploration
Text: Kevin Pires
Image: Kenta Cobayashi
New Icons celebrates the stories behind particularly notable pieces from this season.
Ötzi the Iceman was murdered more than 5,000 years ago while trekking the icy peaks of the Alps. He had 61 tattoos and pierced ears. In modern day Iran, the walls of the palace at Persepolis are carved with men wearing earrings. In Egypt, in a pharaoh’s tomb, a pair of earrings he might have worn as a child lay interred with him for millennia. Our bodies, it seems, have never quite been articulate enough in communicating who we are. We need more sound.
Earrings were first conceived to make humans intelligible to each other. Swinging like lures from the lobe, they were complicit in communicating status and signalling prosperity. They also whispered more subtle truths of what we hoped to be. In adorning our ears with metal molded over open flame, we turned outwards toward our own aspirations and toward other people. Tokens of intelligibility, of worth, and of noise, these Ambush earrings coalesce a globe-spanning tradition.
Verbal and Yoon, a hip-hop artist and a graphic designer, started Ambush in 2008, leveraging their understanding of the aughts as a time of cultural collision to create a line of jewelry influenced by the new century’s deepening connectivity. The couple, who recently collaborated with Sacai, based their 2016 collection on sound system culture. Born in Jamaica in the 1950s, sound system culture revolved around the construction of deafening speaker ziggurats that crews of DJs, MCs, and engineers used to showcase the latest dub and reggae tunes. Exported to the UK by emigrants from the West Indies, it melded with punk to become a thing all its own, influencing future genres like jungle in the 90s and dubstep in the mid-2000s.
This culture—of music, kinship, and new sound—externalized an interiority that yearned for physical connection. Projected onto gyrating crowds, this music helped establish communities that wanted to make manifest the ephemeral, the unspeakable. What we listen to and what we wear gathers us in common bonds that extend beyond who we are at birth—helping us to find the kin with whom we share no blood. Much like the sound that inspired them, these Ambush earrings are the product of reference, inspiration, and a desire for affinity. Oversized to the extreme, they embody a hybrid history that characterizes not only their makers, but earrings as objects themselves.