James Johnson & Aperus: Ecotone

Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion

In the genre of organic-infused ambient music, ambient sound sculptors James Johnson and Brian McWilliams (aka Aperus) have made a new offering centred on deeply textured environmental sound.

"Ecotone", a strong statement of appreciation and concern for the natural world and its current fragile state, is a factory-pressed cd featuring deep ambient musings meant for attentive listening. The 54-minute outcome, a deeply textured environmental sound study using an expansive canvas of fine field recordings, minimalist piano, synths and organic instruments, was derived from a lengthy session that saw the duo improvise and handle a wide variety of compositional techniques.

Both composers gave a lot of attention to detail, while implementing percussive samples, contact microphone recordings, many surprising animals sounds and vocal tones. It's a slow moving and profound organic offering of sensitive environmental sight and sound paintings venturing into dense, darker but always spacious territory. Its minimalist, melodic nature and introspective impact occasionally remind of some older stuff by Robert Rich, Brian Eno or the gamelan works by Loren Nerell.

But then again, it digs deeper as the lush, mesmerizing textures and surreal sound patterns spread their wings and take off. To me, the most impressive are the two tracks opening ("Descending Arc", "Cycle 17") and the three pieces closing the album ("The Moth Jar", "Transmigration" and "Traces"), as they really run underneath your skin, evoking a hypnotic state.

The soundings on the contemplative and cinematic "Ecotone" simply resonate the clear voice and the many dimensions of the natural environment. It ends up even more impressive when heard with good quality headphones.

All in all, "Ecotone" (a limited edition release coming with great art work) makes most interesting and intense listen. Highly recommended to all who appreciate deep-listening ambient.