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

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Blackmore's Night - Shadow of the Moon – Well, if this album doesn't make you want to run barefoot through the heather I don't know what will. Former axeman for Rainbow and Deep Purple has joined with his Lady to create an utterly enchanting...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues