James Johnson | Aperus "Ecotone" CD
Wow, this is a very impressive joint effort involving respected veteran ambient composer James Johnson and gifted sound sculptor Brian McWilliams known as Aperus or Remanence (together with John Phipps). While James Johnson is equipped with vast discography, mostly releasing on AtmoWorks or on his Zero Music label, Aperus has recorded highly treasured works such as "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure" (now newly reissued!!!) or "Hinterland" released on mPath Records about 10 years ago. What was mPath Records before, now became Geophonic Records, run by Brian McWilliams, and "Ecotone" is a premiere CD on this label published at March 31st, 2013.
Although released in ordinary jewel case, the artwork looks totally stunning!!! Both protagonists are indeed highly accomplished photographers, so besides 4-panel insert there is included also a vellum envelope with 4 additional pictures, randomly selected from 9 available shoots. The visual presentation of this release immediately gets extra points and that was the case with all previous works of Aperus and Remanence. But that's just the beginning, because gorgeous images are soon joined as the opening piece, "Descending Arc", blossoms with its deeply evocative mood. Natural environments, assorted primordial tinkles and rumbles (evoking Gamelan), and gentle drone cascades reveal all their tranquil allure and magic, 11 minutes of purely contemplative sonic bliss!!! But the duo keeps on excelling, "Cycle 17" invites with graciously warm, panoramic washes melted with raising and falling, briskly shimmering embellishments. Deep immersion immediately guaranteed, what a journey!!! Shorter "Nostalgia And Memory", as indicated by its title, returns to calmer terrains, enriched by sparse, but expressive, sad piano passage and other elliptical, smoothly disharmonious fragments. Quietly minimal and pleasingly displaying its title. "Crow Over Walnut Canyon" is another beautifully entitled track, it attracts with its gorgeously serene symmetry between modern classical elements, background subtleties and slightly rougher hums and organics. A music of sheer brilliance that will top any of the giants bridging modern classical textures with ambient soundscapes!!! The longest piece, clocking to nearly 12 minutes, "Long Goodbye" dives into deeply reflective realms filled with haunting piano and string expressions, warmly drifting tapestries, assorted high-pitched metallic squeaks and outbursts and distant natural sounds. Amalgamated in absolutely masterful way, painting wonderfully wide-screen sceneries of harmoniously heartening introspection. Another virtuoso performance!!! The next piece, "Ancestral Voices", unites all kinds of rumbles, tinkles, rings and other traceries in one, quite cacophonous sculpture guarded by ceremonial chants. Uniquely distracting, transporting the listener to a pilgrimage site!!! "The Moth Jar" moves into piano-fragmented, reverberant terrains, again intermingled with razor sharp, discomforting metallics and processed, richly flavored arrangements. Uniquely mesmerizing escapade!!! "Transmigration" is a quite eclectically built texture, flavored with voice-like drones, few modern classical ingredients evoking nostalgic moments and ebbing infusions, softly buzzing, beating, vibrant and swirling. Adventurously distinguishing journey continues!!! Shorter outro "Traces" consists of gentle Gamelan-like tinkles and buzzing resonations, achieving a deeply meditative state. Brief, but strongly effective!!!
"Ecotone" is enormously fruitful, all-inclusive collaboration between two efficient aural and visual hikers. The synergistic wizardry of both these Americans is just amazing on "Ecotone", where broad palette of atmospheres and sounds is expertly navigated into spectacularly complex and harmonious form, precisely polished in every detail. Audiophile sound quality included, so get ready your headphones too. "Ecotone" is a huge monument paying splendid tribute to Earth's magics!!! Unquestionably one of the pinnacles of 2013, hats off to James Johnson & Brian McWilliams!!!
Richard Gürtler (Jun 09, 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia)