Music Reviews 


Reviews 11-06-2001


Forgotten Places

by Robert Scott Thompson and James Johnson

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The initial listening session for the "Forgotten Places" release was so evocative in its nature that I just closed my eyes and drifted along in a lush velvet cocoon of soothing sonic tapestry. Little did I realize what an odyssey that moment's decision would become.

As our friends "across the pond" would be wont to say, in audiophile reviewing styles of late when something is outstandingly good, Johnson and Thompson are "Breathtakingly Brilliant" together.  So good in fact that I should really just state that "Forgotten Places" is a veritable "shoo-in" as one of the Quintessential Ambient/Space releases for 2001 and one should add this disc to the library collection post haste and certainly without hesitation.  But interjecting that notion at this juncture should only pose the question " Why? ".  Good question my friend as therein lies a tale to spin.

At one point of an early morning reverie I posed a few questions to myself. "How many times can I return to the well and find an utterly enthralling&ldots;  yet significantly different listening experience"?  Could the concept and execution of the compiled tracks of this release be the point at which the art of playing and recording music transcends and becomes an art form unto itself?  Were Johnson and Thompson cognizant of the spellbinding nature of what was being woven into the individual threads let alone the overall theme of what was to become "Forgotten Places"?  Is it just my own fertile imagination that seems to allow a sense of written word descriptions that follow a varied plot which utilizes varying characters and plays out like a sonic journey of epic soundtrack proportions?

Still on a quest to answer the aforementioned questions, at least in my own mind, I set aside an afternoon, which turned out to be a windy and rainy one, to perform a marathon, repeated, listening session with "Forgotten Places".  A fire was stoked and blazing within the hearth as I settled in with the Musical Fidelity A3 CD player driving the Musical Fidelity X-Can v2 tube armed headphone amp and my ear-speakers of choice, the Sennheiser HD-600's. What transpired, until interruption by a Fed-Ex delivery, was a four hour plus session in which Johnson and Thompson treated these ears to four chapters of the finest sonic listening pleasures I can ever recall experiencing. The collaborative talent manifested between these two gentlemen has completely re-written the book on Ambient/Space Music sound sculpting.  The repetition of tracks served to merely highlight the magic that lies within the tracks of "Forgotten Places".  Each moment that I began to fixate upon a particular passage and melody the music had the effect of triggering memories of forgotten times, places, events and people from my own lifetime or weaving brand new thoughts and journeys to dwell upon.  Even though I felt I was becoming comfortable and familiar with the tracks they individually retained that uncanny ability to transform and become a chameleon upon successive listening.  Aside from the fact that the work as a whole still remained consistent in its capability of transporting the listener through new and not remembered soundscapes I remain at a loss for words when it comes to describing precisely how this has been achieved.

One final seed to plant within or to impart upon you, the reader, is the uncanny way with which "Forgotten Places" will play to each and every varied mood with which you approach it.  The depth and engaging level of interaction between the music and the listener sets an unprecedented, stellar, sonic achievement.  And oh what a delectable palette of sonic treats awaits your ears.

Both artists are known for possessing a penchant for ambient long-form productions, especially James Johnson.  They both have a mercurial approach to sound sculpting, sonic sound treatments, layering and production mastering.  Track after track I was astounded by the depth and intricacy of the sound treatments and production techniques that surrounded their individual instrument voicing signatures.  The interplay of each so delicately woven between the two artists layered melodies. And that mentions nothing of the treasure trove of sonic ear candy that abounds within each track. Be it the 2:12 "Then & Now" or the 9:21 "Low and Clear" I still am not positive that I have heard, or at the least recognized, all that is contained within the realm of "Forgotten Places".  Even after the more than fifty playback sessions which now merely comprise the embarkation point for the odyssey I alluded to at the beginning of this review.

Share the odyssey of a lifetime through James Johnson and Robert Scott Thompson monumental achievement and open yourself to that which lies within, hidden, untapped, in "Forgotten Places".

Reviewed by BEAR 11/6/2001  
Visit BEAR's website by clicking here  The New Age Sampler Website

Visit BEAR's bio page to learn more about him.

Five (5) Bear Paws, my highest recommendation.


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