Posted on Feb 3rd 2009 01:06 am
Up The Turret Mil
Loyal Label 2008
11 Tracks. 43mins09secs
Where exactly does Rich Johnson fits is anyone’s guess. On his debut album, published on Eivind Opsvik’s Loyal Label, he flirts as much with experimental electronica as he does with avant-garde jazz. A trumpeter by trade, Johnson also works with acoustic guitars and pianos which he blends in with electronics and samples. With influences stretching from Bob Dylan to Low and Fugazi, the scope of his work could only be wide.
Sole operator on board, Johnson is found here occupying a ground stretching from the more experimental side of Rune Grammofon (think Supersilent or Humcrush) to more angular electronic forms, sometimes close to musique concrète. The music presented here is strangely fascinating and hypnotic, full of dense and sound formations which, while never really materialising into fully fledge melodies or grooves, hint at much more cinematic and haunting landscapes. It is as if Johnson was purposely bringing his compositions to repeated points of climax, but was then holding off just before.
Not unlike Arve Henriksen, Johnson extract some pretty unusual sounds from his trumpet, but the process is somewhat different. While the former uses his instrument in its prime form, the latter uses electronic treatments to create layers of various density, as demonstrated on the wonderfully vast and luminescent I Trap Totem Pulp or the more mechanical grounding sub-bass of After Tectonic Melt Purr. Elsewhere, the trumpet becomes primal and sanguine, especially on Ignite A Noise or The Loves Of Zero. At times, the music is extremely stripped down and minimal, evoking the shimmering assemblages of Icarus (Star Rover, Harvester), while the title track is ceased with rampant convulsions as it twists and turns with desperation.
Rich Johnson’s debut album is a vastly eclectic and thrilling collection which never quite settles for one genre or another, yet manages to remain fluid and consistent all the way through. Johnson has created with Up The Turret Mil a pretty impressive and unique record and positioned himself alongside some of the most exciting contemporary jazz musicians around in the process.
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