♫♪  Chuck Johnson - “Calamus”

Photo: Andrew Paynter

Graceful contemplations overflow on Balsams, a new Chuck Johnson record that exchanges earthy fingerpicking for the expressive sweep of pedal steel. As fitting a Vin Du Select Qualitite release, Johnson travels through the steel’s less-explored dimensions, cultivating a field of sustained tones that cohere into Skelton-scape twang. Quite lovely, this music — ethereal, emotionally expressive, painterly, intimate yet vast.

Johnson’s sonic layerings conjure the ephemerality of clouds, vapor, or tides, and in the video for album opener “Calamus,” a continuum of abstracted water patterns mirrors the sound. Sound is in fact creating the abstraction, thanks to director Marielle V. Jakobsons’s Macro-Cymatic Visual Music instrument, a soundboard that translates resonance into pattern via water and LED lights, demonstrated here.

Whether using pedal steel or the Macro-Cymatic, Johnson and Jakobsons are negotiating between latency and manifestation. Together, sound and image open a space between vibration and visualization while avoiding a collapse into figurative resolution.

Watch the video below and head here for info on Chuck Johnson’s release show tomorrow at Oakland’s Land And Sea.

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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