Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Johnson’

Andrew Tuttle

Sorely missing from the pages of RSTB has been any mention of Andrew Tuttle. That’s on me. Several albums deep at this point, he’s racked up stage time with Ryley Walker, Steve Gunn, Matmos, Julia Holter, and Daniel Bachman. His latest for Room 40 is a pastoral source of rejuvenation in parched times. Centering around his banjo and guitar work, the record enters a lot of the same eddies as Nathan Salsburg, a fellow picker who’s music tends not to overwhelm with flash, but who instead builds a world out of gently burbling patience and calm. Make no mistake, both have skill to spare, but knowing that there’s more to gain in shading and shifting tones is a particularly lovely persuasion within the world of fingerpicked guitar. Tuttle lets notes hang in the air and dissipate. Banjos waver on the winds, reverberated guitar soaks into the skin and underneath he sketches field recordings with a fine brush.

Cut through with an outdoor ambiance, and a communal backporch air, the record is incredibly unfussed at first blush. The stitches on the songs are barely visible, owing much to Tuttle’s ability to make his compositions feel like they might have been improvisations, but there’s more of a unified thread here than he first lets on. Tuttle plays like a quilter, weaving picture patterns that come into focus the further one backs away from the record. There’s a natural awe to the album, that’s expressed between the patient notes that Andrew and his collaborators concoct. Those collaborators play no small part in shaping Alexandra as well. The indelible color of Chuck Johnson’s pedal steel has been a part of many great 2020 LPs and he lends it to a couple of tracks here, as well as acting as producer for the record. Tony Dupe (Saddleback), Sarah Spencer (Blank Realm), Gwenifer Raymond (Tompkins Square), Joel Saunders (Spirit Bunny) and Joe Saxby (These Guy) also find their way into the ranks, fleshing out the tessellated universe that Tuttle constructs across these nine songs. 2020 has become a year for exploring quietude in deeper dimensions, and to that end, Alexandra is a welcome portal to a stiller set of sounds.




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Ezra Feinberg

I’ve shared a bit of this new LP from Ezra Feinberg, but the album’s really not something that can be parsed out into bits and pieces. Feinberg made his mark in the sorely undersung band Citay, fusing guitar flash and virtoistic playing with a sun-baked good nature that was way ahead of the Cosmic Americana curve that’s reared its head the last few years. He’s since taken to more Kosmiche waters, with a stunning LP in 2018, Pentimento and others, which he’s ably expanded upon with the rippling Recumbent Speech. Now navigating territory smoothed by Terry Riley and canonized by the German synth set — think Harmonia, Cluster, or Rother’s solo works – the new territory suits him. Naturally there’s the stamp of Eno as well, but with Tim Green, Chuck Johnson, Robbie Lee, and Jonas Reinhardt in tow, Feinberg is building soundworlds of his own that recall the light spirit of Citay, but embrace the new age with wide-open eyes.

While the mood is serene, Feinberg has plenty of rhythm at play on the album. As with his previous outings his string work often creates a loping underbelly to tracks, but he’s meshing the repeated phrases with the soft skitter of drums that range from whispered shapes of a pulse to prog and jazz touches that feel at home with their ‘70s precursors. Most welcome here is the pedal steel of Johnson, who uses it to shade in the songs with a darkness that cools off the abundant ease of the album. Feinberg’s compositions use their players as subtle, yet essential layers. Even the vocals of Mandy Green and April Haley are woven between the cataclysmic crumble of “Ovation,” one of the album’s true highlights. With his previous outing, Feinberg set the stage for this new chapter in his output, but with Recumbent Speech he’s crafted a cosmic high water mark that should be touchstone for anyone looking to elevate minimal records for years to come.




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Saariselka

The debut collaboration between Marielle V Jakobsons and Chuck Johnson wafts in on waves of country ambiance. Over layers of nebulous, enveloping tones Chuck Johnson’s slide guitar pulses through like a beacon. His auburn tones navigate the environments that Jakobsons creates with a steadfast resolve, giving us some hope of not becoming lost in the shadows and shade that his partner seems to conjure out of thin air. Jakobsons has long been creating landscapes that seem built from vapor and vision – operating under her own name and prior to that as Date Palms. Those records are all monuments to ambient light on their own, but with Johnson she seems to have created something majestic by even her standards.

There’s been a tendency of late, when creating works that skew towards the ambient, post-classical, and instrumentally exploratory, to inject a sense of anxiety and dread into the record. I suppose it’s a reflection of the time the records are being made in. It’s hard not to feel the erosion of truth next to the erosion of land itself in in the tenor of the notes in many contemporary works, but there’s another feeling in Saariselka’s The Ground Our Sky — equilibrium. The record is at peace, not complacent, but enlightened. As the listener navigates the bucolic, yet bewildering landscapes of their record there’s a sense of ease that sweeps over the record. When Johnson’s amber light shines a path towards Jakobson’s vocals (seldom as they appear) she seems to float above swaddled in light and love, wiping away all the tension that laps at our everyday experiences. This is Cosmic Americana stripped to its core, set float and let everything beneath your feet crumble away for another time.



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Saariselka – “Into The Wind”

Temp Res debuts a new collaboration between guitarist Chuck Johnson and composer Marielle Jakobsons and it’s the sparse, mossy valley western you’ve been looking for this whole year. Jakobsons had an excellent solo release on Thrill Jockey back in 2016 that was boiled in cosmic wonder and ethereal synth, and prior to that she’d been the primary force behind Date Palms, long a favorite around here with their own high plains ache. Johnson’s works on guitar have knotted outposts from Three Lobed, Scissor Tail, Strange Attractors, and Trouble in Mind. Here the pair leverage their respective strengths, washing Jakobsons’ synths in amber strokes of slide guitar, yawning the track out with a mournful grace. Marielle’s vocals complete the track, haunting “Into the Wind” with an almost overwhelming sadness, lost in their own sense of sorrow and rebirth. The album is out October 18th on Temporary Residence, LTD. Anticipation is high.



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