James Johnson: Surrender
Few, very few CDs I receive in the ambient genre, ever reach me as deeply as Surrender. Few, very few releases earn the right, to be called a masterpiece.
Johnson's Surrender is a solid masterpiece. Ambient works collectors who desire to only collect the very best must have this release. Fans of Steve Roach, Brian Eno, Jonn Serrie, and Harold Budd will be right at home with this CD.
I received this demo long, long ago and we have become fast friends. Some days at work, it played all day. Some lonely nights during my sporadic third shift stints it played endlessly, keeping me company. And those sleep-deprived drives home in painful daylight were eased by Surrender. There is much healing in this warm bath, this brain massage, and this quiet friend of Johnson's creation.
I labored internally for months, vexed over just how do I review such a hugely successful creation. I am not a reviewer that can easily "rip off" a word here and there and slap it online when it comes to such a monumentally strong and visionary work. It is 5 a.m. and after staring at the blue LEDs of the bedside clock since 4:30, I have been, at last, compelled to write of Surrender. Here goes the epiphany . . .
Expect three movements of grace, peace, contemplation, and dreams. First, "She Will Shift You" is 28:05 of Roach-worlds, drones, ebbs and flows, gentle but strongly pulsing currents of perfection, oceans of curiously relaxing and hypnotic synth- washes, tidal waves of pleasure cover you in elegant simplicity. Very much in the mood of Roach's Quiet Music and Structures from Silence but even more effectively done, honed to absolute clarity – blessed of Hypnos.
Next, as an interlude, 5:47 of "Remembrance" arrives, stirring neurons to wakefulness due to synths leaving and a pianoscape meander of sustain notes wanders into the forefront. Very Eno, mirroring Budd and a nod to Tim Story. Well-placed night noises insecta and amphibian saunter in too. Cricket and frog ambience samples courtesy of Paul Vnuk Jr. adorn the ethereal piano.
Lastly so, the 19:41 title track melts into being, bringing with it Vnuk Jr.'s environmental chirpings, subdued but at the edge of hearing, spilling over from track two. Overtop of this nature soundfield, Johnson returns to synth-breathings and loopings. Roach-styled, restful sonic influence is again heard but a Harold Budd feel pervades. I sensed that same aural space of Abandoned Cities and Serpent in Quicksilver here. Again, this track too, stands forth a superbly executed ambient masterwork. Supremely relaxing, mood-altering, calming, healing and an introspectively stimulating experience. This is a "sunrise-in-heavy-fog" or "dreamtime-with-nature" or even "lost-cities/ ancient-Mayan-temple-ruins" trip. You need to hear this yourself.
Well, my epiphany has ended, the CD moves to silence yet once more and I am ready to go back to bed. Thank you James. Thank you, so very much for Surrender. Forgive me for taking so very long to approach your fine art with this review but you now stand shoulder to shoulder with the best. Someone please add Johnson's visage to the Ambient Mt. Rushmore. Highest recommendations on this one.
Track Listing: (see review)
Personnel: James Johnson: nearly everything, Paul Vnuk Jr.: organic samples and such on track 2
Record Label: Zero Music