JOHNNY WOODS: Pavilions (2020)
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
“This is a great find in the field of Modular synth music and one of the in the most accessible Art for Ears album around”
1 Lenticular Hall 5:50
2 Monorail 4:48
3 Habitat 2065 5:02
4 Cube of Worship 3:58
5 Autowalk 7:17
6 World of Motion 5:08
7 Dawn Two 6:28
(LP/DDL 38:35) (V.F.)
(Modular Synth Music)
Over the past couple of years, our ears have become even more admiring of this avalanche of EM creations from analog and modular synthesizers. Johnny Woods is the latest find that Evan from Bluetech sent me by pointing out that I should like it. Effectively! PAVILIONS plays in the yard of the recent surprises that DiN has brought to our ears. This American artist follows this tangent that Ian Boddy has served us little by little since the release of the always excellent The Secret Society by Lyonel Bauchet. Both simplistic in the unfolding of its harmonic lines flirting with the minimalist and complex in the algorithms of sounds and rhythmic patterns, always behind the hyperventilation of indomitable loops, this latest album by the American musician is the one that comes close of a larger audience.
And it starts with Lenticular Hall. It's a bit like if we had set foot on a nest of loops that fly and spin on themselves with their tonal differences. Bass pulsations surround this eruption, structuring a stoic rhythm that adapts to the tonal velocity of these loops which go either smoothly or in jerks. These luminous curls end up creating different lines whose melodious flights crisscross in a most seductive chassé-croisé. Warning! There is a risk of Kraftwerk' earworms style in Lenticular Hall. A lost key jumps on the spot at the opening of Monorail. Subdividing its tonal color, it multiplies with fascinating crossings on the static rhythm offered by an organic bass pulsation of which the snores reproduce a double. And the double of this double makes this rhythmic structure more elastic and more resistant to the exponential growth of the jumping and dancing keys. In a principle of Teutonic rhythmic melody, like Düsseldorf School, Habitat 2065 pursues its minimalist quest by facing layers of mist materialized by the murmurations of various particles dragging in the winds. Cube of Worship clashes in this decor of youthful harmonies. Its hyper-jerky structure of rhythm lives on where disorder and melodic abstinence always end up betraying each other with good synth solos which are the kings of this PAVILIONS' first zone of discord. Autowalk seems to be the answer, in modular art, to Kraftwerk's majestic Autobahn. That jumps to ears at the first listen, while the subsequent listenings bewitch us even more to the music of this musician residing in New Mexico. This track is a little jewel of creativity that has obsessed me since the first listen. World of Motion is the most difficult track to tame in this album, exhibiting two parallel textures that are able to work in harmony as well as in dissonance. The jerky robotic movement of its opening reminds me of Snowflakes are Dancing, but in a jerkier vision. The jolts are harsh compared to the debonair movement of the adjacent line which follows the peaceful course of a baritone with proud breaths. Dawn Two ends the album with these synth impulses which are at the base of the rhythms of this album and harmonious loops which twirl while multiplying in a harmonious back and forth where everything seems radiant and luminous in the universe of PAVILIONS, except for a few rare moments.
PAVILIONS is the most accessible Art for Ears album available on the market. It's as beautiful as only music can be.
This Johnny Woods album is a great find that combines ingenuity and musicality in the same concept where the many nods to Kraftwerk, Neu! and Michael Rother keeps popping up here and there through its 40 or so minutes. There's a video of Autowalk on the Internet to whet your ears and eyes. The album is available on vinyl and cassette as well as in HQ downloadable format on the artist's Bandcamp site and Beyond the Sky. Excellent album my friends!
Sylvain Lupari (August 30th, 2020) ****½*
Available at Johnny Woods Bandcamp