Individually, both Vir Unis (aka John Straate-Hootman) and James Johnson have established themselves as masters of ambient minimalism. Unis' music often combines subtle beats with his infinitely structured ambience, while Johnson employs sedate piano to embellish his minimal electronics.
Together, these two soundscapists conspire to produce ambience that features a degree of rhythm swarming amid the staid atmospherics. With "Perimeter II", they offer a tasty mixture of both styles, rhythmic and beatless ambience.
VIR UNIS & JAMES JOHNSON: Perimeter II (triple CDR on Atmoworks)
Disk 1 features 54 minutes of ambience flavored with pleasant rhythms.
Track one begins with an uncharacteristically shrill quasi-guitar tonality that is stretched to generate a lasting fiery impression. Behind this sparkling blaze, a pool of gentle electronics seethe and multilayers of engaging E-perc establish complex and intriguing rhythms. This dose along is ample evidence of what is to come: melodics that are heavy with ricocheting tempos--outstanding ambience with a beat presence.
Bell-tones are featured in subsequent tracks, lending a far eastern flair to the futurist tuneage. The soft patter of bongos will show up too. A variety of cybernetic noises are harnessed and muted until they gurgle like furry insects. Those previously mentioned astral guitar sounds play vital roles in the CD's songs.
Specific sounds are one thing, and certainly helpful in gaining an idea of the nature of the music. But "compositional: skill is what ties everything together--and Unis and Johnson definitely excel at this talent. Their melodies are sinuous and pleasant, combining almost harsh sounds with gentle atmospherics to produce a tranquillity that bustles with invigorating stamina. The interplay of various synthetic textures generates a lush sonic perfume that often remains elusively just at the periphery of hearing, while more demonstrative elements embellish that bubbling intangibility with lavish definition.
Some of the tracks on this disk strive to violate an "ambient" quality with strenuous exuberance, unfurling their sonic presence with a serene aggression that somehow remains unintrusive despite their verve.
Disk 2 delivers 62 minutes of further rhythmic ambience.
Delicate E-perc swims in a sea of bubbling electronics in the first composition. Soothing tonalities mix with bleeping cybernetic sounds and wheezing computer breaths. The synthetic beats act to propel this ambience without agitating the calm, injecting an understated pep that can be subliminally invigorating. This juxtaposition of tempo and flow grows denser as the composition progresses, swelling with vitality until reaching a klanging pinnacle of mesmerization.
A rhythmic presence appears throughout the tracks on this disk. Synthetic sounds patter away, ranging from liquid diodes to underwater digital bongos to mechanical heartbeats. Twinkling piano keys are utilized to punctuate these unconventional rhythms with earthier tempos. An approximation of interstellar infinity provides a constant backdrop, generated through aerial textures and subtle hissings.
Creative efforts are applied to maintain a fragile airiness to this music, restraining the rhythms from becoming too forceful, while nudging the atmospherics to exhibit more density than normal ambience.
Beyond this calculated balance, there exists a remarkable sense of inventive composition, producing music that is at the same time likably engaging and dreamily torpid. What at first seems to be environmental soundscapes from a mechanical universe are revealed to possess character and charm, evidence of conscious guidance that strives to mold soporific melodies from these tenuous structures.
Unis and Johnson are indeed maestros of this peculiar genre, actualizing the realm at the edge of slumber and transforming those blurry notions into engaging themes with their subtle rhythmic strategies.
Disk 3 offers 50 minutes of beatless ambience.
Extremely dainty tonalities blend with manipulated water drops in the initial track, evoking a gurgling serene soundscape. The electronic tones wander with elegant inclination, exploring the harmonic and enhancing the minimal nature of the music.
While perpetuating the overall textures of the first piece, the following track features muted beats which add a taste of body, but not enough to disrupt the sedative qualities of the tuneage. These beats are quite deceptive, establishing a random flair to the drifting flow without introducing definite rhythms. Meanwhile, the swaying tones evolve their own substantiality, unfurling crystalline tinges and wavering direction.
The third composition continues this sparsely defined atmospheric property. Softly crafted electronics hover in silent breezes that possess not even the strength to disturb a feather with their passage. The soundscape, however, gradually pretends to accrue stamina while remaining resolutely passive.
The fourth track introduces somber and languid piano to the drifting mix.
And the last piece blends most of these prior elements into a track that exemplifies the dreamy textures and sleepy piano threads.
For a review of Unis & Johnson's superb "Perimeter I" release, go here.
|Entire page © 2003 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
|Webpage design by|