Richard Leo Johnson — Celeste
(Soft Science SOFT_011, 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2015-03-03Among the true innovators, Johnson is always delivering surprises, and Celeste is yet another of many. The twelve tracks presented here were played on the “alien,” a special acoustic model built by Martin Guitars (named so because the two soundholes on opposite sides of the guitar’s body along with the bridge resemble the face of an alien), with a Theremin built into it. Playing a Theremin by itself is difficult enough to control and manage, but when one is built into the guitar one is playing, responding to the position of the player’s hands and arms while playing the strings, as well as the proximity to the player’s body, all bets are off, but Johnson was up to the challenge of making a full album with this. In videos one can find online, Johnson can be seen playing the guitar flat, like a lap steel, with something like an Ebow attached to the higher strings, but I’m certain he’s got a lot of other tricks he’s not showing us, like any true artist who maintains a degree of mystery surrounding his craft. So what exactly does this all sound like? Aside from the common thread of using this guitar, which dominates every track here, one may be reminded at any given moment of Steve Tibbetts, Leo Kottke, or the late Michael Hedges, but fused with the electronic sounds the Theremin produces. At times the electronics dominate the sound, but more often it’s the acoustic guitar leading the way where a fragile balance is maintained between the two. There are surprises here at every turn, and Celeste is one that certainly gets my highest recommendation.
Related artist(s): Richard Leo Johnson
New Aristocrats Live Album on the Way – No foolin'! These supreme musicians toured Europe early in 2020, just before touring ceased to be a thing musicians could do, and there were some hot performances captured. On May 7, some of these will be releases as Freeze! Live in Europe 2020. » Read more
Jewlia Eisenberg RIP – The sad news has come out that Jewlia Eisenberg has died. As a founding member of Charming Hostess, Eisenberg changed the face of music, bringing together Balkan klezmer, American folk, and experimental rock in a distinctive blend that garnered much praise. » Read more
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more