REVIEW: James Johnson - "The Butterfly Chamber"

By Matt Borghi

Chain Border

There's probably no better architect of the long-form, slow-moving ambient tapestry than James Johnson. While many of his contemporaries have moved away from these long-form works to more radio-friendly pieces, James has kept it real and stayed with the long-form until now…thing is, though, his shorter works are more complete and orchestrated than one is used to in this genre.

Many of James' contemporaries took the same formula for their long-forms and jammed it into the shorter form…bad idea, but nevertheless one that's oft repeated. Johnson, being cognizant of this, took the time to craft compositions. While The Butterfly Chamber is a little more new agey than almost all of his other work, it's still a great listen. The compositions are finely-orchestrated, and in my opinion, truly move Johnson into a whole new realm as a composer.

For The Butterfly Chamber it's as if Johnson stashed his synths in the closet to make room for an acoustic piano, where he traded soft subtle pads for equally beautiful and sonorous tonal clusters that are both lackadaisical and contemplative as well as evocative and resonant. Fans of Forgotten Places, Johnson's collaboration with Robert Scott Thompson, will surely enjoy this recording as it seems as though Johnson has jumped from those slightly more orchestrated compositions to even more excellently composed works. This is an excellent recording. A must-have!

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