Meet the Reviewers of Ambient Visions
Lorie Johnson


The Three Faces of Lorie


Lorie Johnson


Lorie Johnson 


Lorie Johnson with her favorite rock group....Stonehenge

My musical biography

It was music that awoke me to full living consciousness at the tender age of two. I was lying in my crib in the Namanui section of Naha, Okinawa, and the sounds of a koto and gamelan came drifting into the open window near my crib. The sound was fairylike, magickal, drifting in from the garden across the street. A connection was made somewhere in my mind, and for me, conscious life began at that moment. From that moment on, music became the soundtrack of my life. I can hear better than I can see, and music allows me to multitask- read, write, and think. In my house, the stereo gets more play than the television. 

Let me tell you a little about myself: I am 40, single and childfree, a US Air Force veteran, TechMage, cat-herder, broom pilot, computer builder, WebCrafter, and music lover. I write under two names on the Internet: my own (Lorie A. Johnson), and my 'nom de web', Sunfell.  I take care of the Arkansas State Legislature's computer systems for a living. I write, cook, and avidly collect books and music. Calling me eccentric is a complement. I am a solitary person, but enjoy the company of intelligent, articulate, and humorous people. I am a classic 'late bloomer', and life is starting to really be enjoyable to me. My best years are ahead of me, not behind, which delights me to no end. I am a double-Virgo Metal Rat.

The gear I play my music on is above average, but not quite audiophile, except for the speakers. I picked up my beloved Klipsch Kg4 speakers while stationed in Germany, and I bought the Pioneer midi system that is currently running them in England. I have an older Sansui receiver that I might put back into service- it's a 1986 model with a 130 watt class AB amp. It'll blow the walls down if I crank it up past say, 3. I have plans to upgrade my audio system- I have my eye on a nice midsized Onkyo receiver, and a multidisk progressive-scan DVD player that'll do duty as a CD player, too. Eventually, I'll have the home theater rig of my dreams, with a surround sound Polk (or Klipsch) speaker system, digital projector and THx- quality audio gear, but that's a ways away budget-wise. Gotta walk before I fly.

I suppose it's unusual for a woman to take such technical interest in audio systems- when I was shopping for my stereo gear, I'd often know more about its specs and details than the salesman did. I've been interested in them since my dad taught me how to thread his Sony reel-to-reel forever ago. Audio gear and electronics were, to me, much more interesting than dollies and playing house, and the interest stuck. I was an electronics tech in the Air Force (microwave and satcom systems) and I am a PC Support tech today.

What are my reviewer qualifications? I almost hate to admit it, but I am not a musician, singer, or songwriter. I was an Air Force brat, and our frequent moves precluded any music lessons.  But I have an 'ear' for good music- sounds that make my mind and heart soar. I love complex, 'high calorie' sounds- electronic or acoustic makes no difference. I listen for the soul, the life of the piece. There is a lot of mediocre and even poor music out there, sad to say. I strongly subscribe to science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon's 90% rule: 90% of everything in the world- books, websites, movies, TV shows, and music- is BS. My job is to hunt down that worthy 10 percent and let you know about it so you can buy it and enjoy it for yourself. The goal is to encourage the musician to create more good music- which they can't do if they're starving.

I ask myself questions when I review any sort of music for recommendation. Is it empty musical ear-candy, or an exhilarating audio treasure? What imagery is invoked? Is it suitable for trance- work, writing, ritual, lovemaking? Is it housecleaning music, or am I meant to stand rapt in the sweet spot, soaring along with the melody? Will it be a good dinner guest, or party piece? How about taking a road trip with it? How long will it live in my CD player? If I lost it, would I buy another to replace it? Would I snap up the performer's next album without thinking? If I am writing, and it captures my attention, is it good enough to get me out of my seat to see which track it is? Will it do this twice?

I believe that there are two kinds of music in the world- repeatable and recyclable. By recyclable, I mean that I'll take the disk to a secondhand shop and find another home for it. I might review a few 'recyclable' disks here, just to contrast the 'Great' with the 'Needs Work'. Everyone has to start somewhere. I'll always give a questionable album a second chance: sometimes it takes time for it to grow on me. If I am accustomed to a particular style with an artist (Delirium comes to mind), and they change their style, this can be a rude jolt. It's a musical FNORD: like reaching for a candy bar, and retrieving a cup of coffee instead. If my ears are 'set' for one thing, I have to clear my mental palate in order to properly appreciate what I'm listening.

I like all sorts of music- but ambient, electronic, most jazz, and world fusion are my main favorites. "Switched-On Bach" was my introduction to the world of electronic music, and "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" was the first album I bought as a kid. My peers thought I was strange because I wouldn't swoon over Donny Osmond- I liked Walter/Wendy Carlos better. Still do. And 500+ CDs later, the majority of my collection reflects my unclassifiable but rich tastes- I have hardly a pop album to be found, but lots of wonderful obscure audio treasures rarely played on the radio.

It's hard to write about music and sound. Words crawl where sound flies. But I hope that my words will intrigue you enough to tempt you to listen yourself. I'll tell you what I like and why- in as elegant and interesting way as possible. After that, it's up to you. If I liked it, chances are, you will too. Better get your music budget in line- your collection is probably going to increase exponentially!

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