The initial listening session for the "Forgotten
Places" release was so evocative in its nature that I
just closed my eyes and drifted along in a lush velvet cocoon of
soothing sonic tapestry. Little did I realize what an odyssey that
moment's decision would become.
As our friends "across the pond" would be wont to
say, in audiophile reviewing styles of late when something is
outstandingly good, Johnson and Thompson are "Breathtakingly Brilliant"
together. So good in fact that I should really just state that "Forgotten
Places" is a veritable "shoo-in" as
one of the Quintessential Ambient/Space releases for 2001 and one
should add this disc to the library collection post haste and
certainly without hesitation. But interjecting that notion at
this juncture should only pose the question " Why?
". Good question my friend as therein lies a tale to spin.
At one point of an early morning reverie I posed a few questions to
myself. "How many times can I return to the well and find an
utterly enthralling&ldots; yet significantly different
listening experience"? Could the concept and execution of
the compiled tracks of this release be the point at which the art of
playing and recording music transcends and becomes an art form unto
itself? Were Johnson and Thompson cognizant of the spellbinding
nature of what was being woven into the individual threads let alone
the overall theme of what was to become "Forgotten Places"?
Is it just my own fertile imagination that seems to allow a sense of
written word descriptions that follow a varied plot which utilizes
varying characters and plays out like a sonic journey of epic
Still on a quest to answer the aforementioned questions, at least in
my own mind, I set aside an afternoon, which turned out to be a windy
and rainy one, to perform a marathon, repeated, listening session
with "Forgotten Places". A fire was
stoked and blazing within the hearth as I settled in with the Musical
Fidelity A3 CD player driving the Musical Fidelity X-Can v2 tube
armed headphone amp and my ear-speakers of choice, the Sennheiser
HD-600's. What transpired, until interruption by a Fed-Ex delivery,
was a four hour plus session in which Johnson and Thompson treated
these ears to four chapters of the finest sonic listening pleasures I
can ever recall experiencing. The collaborative talent manifested
between these two gentlemen has completely re-written the book on
Ambient/Space Music sound sculpting. The repetition of tracks
served to merely highlight the magic that lies within the tracks of "Forgotten
Places". Each moment that I began to fixate upon
a particular passage and melody the music had the effect of
triggering memories of forgotten times, places, events and people
from my own lifetime or weaving brand new thoughts and journeys to
dwell upon. Even though I felt I was becoming comfortable and
familiar with the tracks they individually retained that uncanny
ability to transform and become a chameleon upon successive
listening. Aside from the fact that the work as a whole still
remained consistent in its capability of transporting the listener
through new and not remembered soundscapes I remain at a loss for
words when it comes to describing precisely how this has been achieved.
One final seed to plant within or to impart upon you, the reader, is
the uncanny way with which "Forgotten Places"
will play to each and every varied mood with which you approach
it. The depth and engaging level of interaction between the
music and the listener sets an unprecedented, stellar, sonic
achievement. And oh what a delectable palette of sonic treats
awaits your ears.
Both artists are known for possessing a penchant for ambient
long-form productions, especially James Johnson. They both have
a mercurial approach to sound sculpting, sonic sound treatments,
layering and production mastering. Track after track I was
astounded by the depth and intricacy of the sound treatments and
production techniques that surrounded their individual instrument
voicing signatures. The interplay of each so delicately woven
between the two artists layered melodies. And that mentions nothing
of the treasure trove of sonic ear candy that abounds within each
track. Be it the 2:12 "Then & Now" or the 9:21 "Low
and Clear" I still am not positive that I have heard, or at
the least recognized, all that is contained within the realm of "Forgotten
Places". Even after the more than fifty playback
sessions which now merely comprise the embarkation point for the
odyssey I alluded to at the beginning of this review.
Share the odyssey of a lifetime through James Johnson and Robert
Scott Thompson monumental achievement and open yourself to that which
lies within, hidden, untapped, in "Forgotten Places".
Reviewed by BEAR 11/6/2001
BEAR's website by clicking here
New Age Sampler Website
bio page to learn more about him.
Five (5) Bear Paws, my highest recommendation.