Original article at Tiny Mix Tapes
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.