Rich Johnson: Up The Turret Mil (2008)
Voices tell stories; they penetrate their surroundings so that the stories warrant attention. They may have a subject that is self-referential, these are the times it is interesting to follow the flow.
No clearer can it be than in Up The Turret Mil from trumpeter Rich Johnson. This record may be publicized as experimental, but perhaps a better categorization is multi-media because it includes several levels of sound making: acoustic, electronic, and mixing of samples in perfect balance, offering more than a modicum of intrigue and intimacy.
What is innovative about this CD is the way in which the acoustic instruments are given the status of voice. Johnson's trumpet carries the narrative, first accompanied by bell-like tones in a deliciously slow two-note ostinato that eventually progresses in and out of the cackle of an amusing tightly-bitten reed tenor saxophone played by Jason Rigby in "Squinting Skyward." The piano inherits the story line amid the percussive and machine-like sounds of "Star Rover." But the trumpet returns to a different sonic circumstance, muted, seemingly in a bubble chamber in "Ignite A Noise." The guitar eventually follows in combination with the piano in "Harvester."
The beauty of the recording is the design; the narrowly overlapping juxtaposition of sounds orchestrates a direction for the whole. One can wonder where the atmospheric and solid instrumentation are headed. In "I Trap Totem Pulp," a train travels to the sea, a destination which moves the listener further and further into the imaginative depths of mind. But with the resurgence of the acoustic instruments, the muted trumpet, for instance, in "After a Tectonic Melt Purr" and the guitar in "Up The Turret Mil" within heavily rhythmic circumstances, the listener may be reminded of the grittiness of the idea of grounding.
The emotional and reasonable foundations upon which to build always vary; the sonic possibilities for the expression of the process of doing so, manifold. This music portrays a journey that has its own logic. There is no measure for ascribing to it labels which would shroud it in some sort of darkening scrim.
Up The Turret Mil sets its own standard. The acoustic instruments carve the way through the strange patterns created by the electronics. To dissemble the music analytically might ruin its synergy and disallow the discovery of even the tiniest sounds that creep into the aural space. There are sounds like crickets in the grass or dolphins under water or oddly creaking cogs in grinding machinery or the foghorns of tugboats. These sounds rest comfortably in the mysterious landscape constructing Johnson's musical intuition.
Track Listing: Squinting Skyward; Star Rover; Ignite A Noise; Harvester; The Loves of Zero; Shoreline Frequency; I Trap Totem Pulp; After A Tectonic Melt Purr; Following Transparent Monodies; Up The Turret Mil; Last Town Mile.
Personnel: Rich Johnson: trumpet, laptop, samples, acoustic guitar, piano; Jason Rigby: tenor sax.