Exposé Online banner

Richard Leo Johnson — Celeste
(Soft Science SOFT_011, 2014, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2015-03-03

Celeste Cover artAmong 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.

Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Richard Leo Johnson

Latest news

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Syzygy - Realms of Eternity – There is definitely something going on with progressive music these days. As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century it appears that we are emerging from the doldrums with some...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues