Where exactly Rich Johnson fits is anyone’s guess. On his debut album, published on Eivind Opsvik’s Loyal Label, he flirts as much with experimental electronica as he does with avant-garde jazz. A trumpeter by trade, Johnson also works with acoustic guitars and pianos which he blends in with electronics and samples. With influences stretching from Bob Dylan to Low and Fugazi, the scope of his work could only be wide.
Sole operator on board, Johnson is found here occupying a ground stretching from the more experimental side of Rune Grammofon (think Supersilent or Humcrush) to more angular electronic forms, sometimes close to musique concrète. The music presented here is strangely fascinating and hypnotic, full of dense and sound formations which, while never really materialising into fully fledge melodies or grooves, hint at much more cinematic and haunting landscapes. It is as if Johnson was purposely bringing his compositions to repeated points of climax, but was then holding off just before.
Not unlike Arve Henriksen, Johnson extract some pretty unusual sounds from his trumpet, but the process is somewhat different. While the former uses his instrument in its prime form, the latter uses electronic treatments to create layers of various density, as demonstrated on the wonderfully vast and luminescent I Trap Totem Pulp or the more mechanical grounding sub-bass of After Tectonic Melt Purr. Elsewhere, the trumpet becomes primal and sanguine, especially on Ignite A Noise or The Loves Of Zero. At times, the music is extremely stripped down and minimal, evoking the shimmering assemblages of Icarus (Star Rover, Harvester), while the title track is ceased with rampant convulsions as it twists and turns with desperation.
Rich Johnson’s debut album is a vastly eclectic and thrilling collection which never quite settles for one genre or another, yet manages to remain fluid and consistent all the way through. Johnson has created with Up The Turret Mil a pretty impressive and unique record and positioned himself alongside some of the most exciting contemporary jazz musicians around in the process.
By themilkman Posted on Feb 3rd 2009 01:06 am
Rich Johnson – Up the Turret Mil
Jazz? Perhaps. The central category on New York–based trumpeter Rich Johnson’s mysterious Up the Turret Mil isn’t so much genre as atmosphere, conceived in the broadest sense and filtered through all those qualities sound isn’t supposed to claim: texture, flavor, color, and so on. Johnson’s minimal, processed compositions give onto whole scenes, shadowy little dioramas. Because so much is left unexplained, unobvious, the soundscapes can seem digressive; they’re ignorable if narrative cohesion prima facie one’s goal. Taken another way, though — my rules here — their piecemeal architecture and essential discontinuity paint Johnson’s brass-and-bytes m.o. in a new and stimulating light.
Johnson’s trumpeting is indirect: melody lines often charge ahead and then decompose as if apprehended or simply forced shut. At times — “Ignite a Noise,” the album’s most percussive track — this occlusion sets in by way of a mute, the effect one of sonic roughhousing: rubber on oxygen. On “After a Tectonic Melt Purr,” his laptop manipulations abet a cascading sensation, kept at bay by a slow-brewing, again thickly processed pulse. Elsewhere his tones swirl, bend, or merely glitch. The project is rarely comforting — indeed, opener “Squinting Skyward” sounds distinctly ill at ease — but frequently rewarding, the inner-directed tinkerings of a man as much concerned with spatial, tactile, and visual logics as he is with the more ineffable properties historically imputed to sound.
The eleven entries don’t — can’t — easily harmonize into a meaningful whole, but that hardly jeopardizes Johnson’s experiment. Each piece condenses or dilates without clear reference to its conclusion; Up the Turret Mil dodges the mega-crescendo format that underwrites so much noise, ambient and harsh alike. Rich Johnson has built an appealing, occasionally beautiful theater for the microdramas of our quantum age.
File Under: ambient, experimental, Jazz, laptop, Monosonic, trumpet
Multidirectional studies in trumpet and laptop.
February 17, 2009 by Peter Ekman
|By Mark Corroto|
If something exists in the netherworld, it is said to be “living in hereafter,” or the “afterworld.” This ethereal theme, with its delicate, vaporous connotations is the subject matter of trumpeter Rich Johnson’s Up The Turret Mil.
While not a native of the Netherlands in either possible connotation, this New York artist produces sounds from somewhere beyond music, a region located between sound and feeling. His early training was in classical trumpet, before studying jazz at the Manhattan School of Music. He is a member of We Can Build You, with Jason Rigby and Jonathan Goldberger, and Voice of the Turtle: a laptop duo with Scott Anderson.
This disc was conceived, recorded, and mixed by Johnson in 2007, with him playing all parts on trumpet, laptop and guitar. This might suggest that Up The Turret Mil could be a reworked (or overworked) affair—it’s not. The stark minimalism (or restraint) is that of simple sonorities and patterns. His trumpet manipulations are reminiscent of Jon Hassell, Rob Mazurek and Ben Neill.
Although a trumpeter by title, Johnson doesn’t present a top-heavy brass record; his spartan delivery is the trick here, neither flooding the music with natural or manipulated sound. Choosing his words (notes) carefully, he divines this otherworld of buoyancy—he is just as apt to rely on guitar, or computer flutter as the center of a track. The netherworld Rich Johnson occupies makes ambient music interesting and improvisation unnaturally coherent.
Personnel: Rich Johnson: trumpet, laptop, guitar, electronics.
Style: Fringes of Jazz
Published: January 23, 2009
From trumpet, samples, piano, acoustic guitar and laptop, Rich Johnson has produced his first solo recording. Liberal helpings of introspective ambient space are encroached with free and cool jazz, folk, musique concrete and occasional low-key glitchy techno. The calm, serene and organic nature, of the majority of the CD, is augmented, not overshadowed by the avant-garde free-jazz intrusions (“Ignite a Noise” reminiscent of Basil Kirchin’s Quantum-era call and response brass birdcalls). It’s title track serves as a late attempt to shake up the proceedings but following it’s brief excursion into tech noise it lulls to it’s minimal and familiar pace.
Blending traditional instruments, trumpet, guitar, piano, with laptop and sampling, Rich Johnson has a wide palette from which to craft his music, the pieces ranging in influence from slow jazz, to folk, to experimental and Musique concrete. Starting quietly, the album smolders over two tracks until igniting suddenly on the appropriately entitled “Ignite a Noise”, jazz trumpet and skittish electronic rhythms colliding in stuttering happiness. Although the music is strange and experimental, it never becomes harsh or discordant, maintaining an inner harmony and a fragile surrealism, vibrant yet controlled. Definitely a grower “Up the Turret Mil” is an album that can surprise every time it is heard, the lightness of touch just one of its many wonders.
Rich Johnson’s atmospheric and rewarding debut album focuses on textures more than beats. It smoothly cuts and pastes laptop glitch with samples of trumpets, guitars and piano.
Johnson originally studied classical trumpet but it’s plain that his musical direction is strongly shaped by the free jazz he studied at the Manhattan School of Music. Nevertheless he takes less confrontational elements from this genre and skillfully blends them with his own synthetic soundscapes.
The effect is to produce the type of lush experimental ambience that graces established labels like Leaf and Rune Grammofon.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Johnson has already contributed to recordings on the latter.
The minimalist tone makes it an album that creates a gentle mood and one, which glides calmly, rather than imposing on the listener.
The sharp trumpet blast at the start of the appropriately titled ‘Ignite A Noise’ makes for a jolting contrast to the mellow feel established in the opening two tracks. Such moments are rare, however, as Johnson favours the understatement of hypnotic tracks like Trap Totem Pulp and ‘Following The Transparency Monodies’
Only ‘After A Tectonic Melt Purr’ and the title track works up into anything that approximating a groove.
If the spirit is willing, the album’s understated organic pulse is one that has the capacity to be both absorbing and transporting.
11t Total playing time – 43.15m
author: Martin Raybould
Tonight at Cornelia Street. Rich Johnson with Aaron Jennings and Eivind Opsvik. Here’s a great sample of new music made from trumpet. Also catch Flip Barnes and Hooper Piccalero. The whole thing starts at 8:30.
CD – Up The Turret Mil
Here’s one for the brave experimentalist out there. New York’s Rich Johnson offers you his latest album release, ‘Up The Turret Mil’ which is generally based around trumpet and laptop!!
‘Up The Turret Mil’ is, although lovingly conceived, generously diverse. This is a real two-edged sword; one to draw you in with hypnotic ambience, the other an exercise in ‘shock and awe’ to awaken you and test your thresholds. Johnson takes you from the warm and gentle, trance inducing of tracks like ‘Star Rover’ and ‘Harvester’ to the brazen and brash, sonic cacophony of ‘Ignite A Noise’ and ‘After A Tectonic Melt Purr’ – a journey that you’ll need to take with care and understanding!!
‘Up The Turret Mill’, I suppose, could be likened to Terry Riley meets Stockhausen; take the more melodic, trance-like Riley and shake in some of Karlheinz’s angular and spiky outpourings and you’ll start to get a little closer to where Rich Johnson is going. This ain’t ever gonna be ‘popular’ music; Johnson’s experimentation with sound, exploring pitch, timbre, fade, decay and many more ‘facets’ of audible sound is at the same time ingenious and outrageous. His music has a feeling of intelligence from an intuitive perspective – it’s as if the inner, slightly more introspective, musician is vying with the outer, extroverted techno-wizard. The vying though isn’t totally ‘sounds at odds’ with each other, the vying is descriptive and moving. This is an album that you have to be prepared to spend time with; a cursory tilt of the ear towards ‘Up The Turret Mil’ will find stark, harsh sounds that are forming no sensible order or purpose. However, invest some time to look further and you’re sure to find the beauty in the ‘beast’, the clever juxtaposition, the obtuse adventurous sound forming waves of light and shade. Maybe not syncopation, maybe not even set to any musical tempo you’ve ever come across but, go further, my boy, look in, listen and find!!
‘Up The Turret Mil’ by Rich Johnson will, to some ears, be totally outrageous and annoying. ‘Up The Turret Mil’ by Rich Johnson will, to others, be totally outrageous and compelling. ‘Up The Turret Mil’ by Rich Johnson will be a challenge to most with some harvesting reward whilst others find only unnerving mayhem. However, ‘Up The Turret Mil’ by Rich Johnson is experimentation with heart and soul – there is a point to this work and there is an end product – if you can get your head aligned with Rich Johnson’s oscillating musical world you might just find that heart and soul for yourself and be able to drink in its unique and quite intoxicating elixir – you might just find the gold in the potion - it’s there if you give it a chance!! ‘Up The Turret Mil’ by Rich Johnson is indeed challenging but it’s also absolutely fascinating and truly different! And, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!!
Its not cool to say so, but sometimes I just fail to understand things. For instance, the release by Rich Johnson, which I spun twice in a row and then still didn’t understand it. Johnson is a trumpet player, who also touches the acoustic guitar, piano, laptop and mixes it with glitch, sampling, musique concrete. His inspiration comes from Bob Dylan, Don Cherry, Low, Kenneth Galburo, Fugazi and Jimmy Giuffre.
What gives me a hard time, is what to think of this? The eleven pieces are a mixed bag of goodies. There are gentle glitches, there are heavy guitars and computer distortions (in the title piece), and there are traces of improvisation. That’s all clear. What I don’t seem to get right is this: do I like this? Is it good? Or is the variety of the material in its way? I don’t know. With some of these pieces, like the title piece, I think its all too plain and simple, but then its not bad either.
Then I play it again, listen more closely and think: yeah, no, this is great. Nicely atmospheric, put together in a nice way, good moves, nice pieces. I read in the press text that ‘this is a grower’ and I think, you’re damn right, this album is a grower. An odd bunch of pieces, more like a compilation, but then one in which all the pieces seem to fit in neatly. A grower indeed.
One more gent that deserves some spouting off before the year’s end, as‘some’ Norwegian label has seen fit to release his solo debut. Our dude hails from New York but has previously gotten down with Nordics on a Rune Grammofon outing last year. As eccentric as Opsvik & Jennings might be, it’s no surprise now it was Rich also shaking that tree. Quite a nice axis of jazz/folk/laptop lunatics right there. I gather Rich is just another living by the saying “It never happened”, and as much as I can appreciate that kind of postmodern philosophy, I’m glad it did, whether he is in denial or not. Turret Mil… cute, quirky & gentil, say what you will.
“Blending traditional instruments, trumpet, guitar, piano, with laptop and sampling, Rich Johnson has a wide palette from which to craft his music, the pieces ranging in influence from slow jazz, to folk, to experimental and musique concrète.”
Starting quietly, the album smolders over two tracks until igniting suddenly on the appropriately entitled ‘Ignite a Noise’, jazz trumpet and skittish electronic rhythms colliding in stuttering happiness. Although the music is strange and experimental, it never becomes harsh or discordant, maintaining an inner harmony and a fragile surrealism, vibrant yet controlled. Definitely a grower, Up the Turret Mil is an album that can surprise every time it is heard, the lightness of touch just one of its many wonders…»
Rich Johnson’s first solo release delicately meshes acoustic instruments (acoustic guitar, piano and trumpet) with technology (laptop computer and sampling) to create a fascinating collage of sound. Like seminal artists, the New York based musician is adept in both traditional and nontraditional idioms as witnessed on saxophonist Jason Rigby’s Translucent Space (Fresh Sound, 2006) and on the music duo Opsvik and Jennings’ Commuter Anthems (Rune Grammofon, 2007).
Though Up the Turret Mil follows the evolving electronica ideas, there is nothing experimental about these well thought-out compositions. Yes, there are computerized backdrops and processed rhythms, but Johnson’s triumphs in giving the machine a soul by presenting music that has feeling as well technological advances. The surrealistic qualities of the opening “Squinting Skyward” contain static trumpet-speak: mouthpiece whispers and elongated tones, all within a theme that moves like the opening of a door into another realm.
Johnson is like an aural alchemist, providing a careful stroke here, a tonal touch there, the inclusion of real and processed colors—changing mood or tempo as in the jerky sequences that bounce on “Ignite a Noise,” while juxtaposing with a muted-processed horn. One of the most moving compositions is “Harvester,” a simply gorgeous ballad with acoustic guitar, piano, and an array of noise.
Trying to recognize the intriguing host of sounds that Johnson manipulates can be fun while listening to the recording—toy-like, metallic, glass, bells, distortion, patched and synthesized, keyboards, or was that a sampled typewriter? All of these are used in a minimalist fashion, fading in and out, non-obtrusive and varied from track-to-track.
The overall tone of the recording is mysterious, similarly traveling into unknown yet mesmerizing locations: the sound of a new India in “The Loves of Zero,” with its exotic percussion-like cadence; space travel to an alien planet in “I Trap Totem Pulp”; or one of the strangest hip-hop jazz clubs (most likely not on Earth) in “After a Tectonic Melt Purr,” where Johnson delivers some nifty drum-sequencing.
The title track totally rocks out with thrashing guitar synth sound yet without a raging backbeat (subliminal perhaps?), which brings up a debatable point: can a musician create art with just a laptop and few instruments? The answer is, as Rich Johnson proves on Up the Turret Mil: most definitely.
Personnel: Rich Johnson: trumpet, laptop, samples, acoustic guitar, electronics.
Published: January 29, 2009
Voices tell stories; they penetrate their surroundings so that the stories warrant attention. They may have a subject that is self-referential, these are the times it is interesting to follow the flow.
No clearer can it be than in Up The Turret Mil from trumpeter Rich Johnson. This record may be publicized as experimental, but perhaps a better categorization is multi-media because it includes several levels of sound making: acoustic, electronic, and mixing of samples in perfect balance, offering more than a modicum of intrigue and intimacy.
What is innovative about this CD is the way in which the acoustic instruments are given the status of voice. Johnson’s trumpet carries the narrative, first accompanied by bell-like tones in a deliciously slow two-note ostinato that eventually progresses in and out of the cackle of an amusing tightly-bitten reed tenor saxophone played by Jason Rigby in “Squinting Skyward.” The piano inherits the story line amid the percussive and machine-like sounds of “Star Rover.” But the trumpet returns to a different sonic circumstance, muted, seemingly in a bubble chamber in “Ignite A Noise.” The guitar eventually follows in combination with the piano in “Harvester.”
The beauty of the recording is the design; the narrowly overlapping juxtaposition of sounds orchestrates a direction for the whole. One can wonder where the atmospheric and solid instrumentation are headed. In “I Trap Totem Pulp,” a train travels to the sea, a destination which moves the listener further and further into the imaginative depths of mind. But with the resurgence of the acoustic instruments, the muted trumpet, for instance, in “After a Tectonic Melt Purr” and the guitar in “Up The Turret Mil” within heavily rhythmic circumstances, the listener may be reminded of the grittiness of the idea of grounding.
The emotional and reasonable foundations upon which to build always vary; the sonic possibilities for the expression of the process of doing so, manifold. This music portrays a journey that has its own logic. There is no measure for ascribing to it labels which would shroud it in some sort of darkening scrim.
Up The Turret Mil sets its own standard. The acoustic instruments carve the way through the strange patterns created by the electronics. To dissemble the music analytically might ruin its synergy and disallow the discovery of even the tiniest sounds that creep into the aural space. There are sounds like crickets in the grass or dolphins under water or oddly creaking cogs in grinding machinery or the foghorns of tugboats. These sounds rest comfortably in the mysterious landscape constructing Johnson’s musical intuition.
Personnel: Rich Johnson: trumpet, laptop, samples, acoustic guitar, piano; Jason Rigby: tenor sax.
Published: March 15, 2009
Trumpeter Rich Johnson might be said to be engaging with the present; in a way, that’s true of so few of his contemporaries. He produces music that’s steeped in the culture of sampling, and similar examples of magpie-like curiosity. At the same time,
he fashions music that is as striking as anything out there. This is an achievement that might be modest, especially in these days of seemingly diminishing musical returns. But Up the Turret Mil still bodes well for the future.
On the happiest of notes, Johnson’s music also scratches away at the surface of various muzaks. The joy of his subversion is that of an individual let loose in some place so purged of potential pastimes that he’s faced with no other option. “The Loves of Zero” hints, in its muted trumpet lines, at Miles Davis caught in a soundscape of someone else’s fashioning. The unnerving antisepticism of Chicago indie-rock band Town and Country, along with the singularity of Erik Satie’s works for piano, are at the fore on “Harvester.” The resulting music sounds like that of an individual who is relatively isolated from mainstream society, yet absolutely besotted with the few elements he knows of it.
Small sounds serve a purpose in Johnson’s world. “Shoreline Frequency,” at least in part, is the worst of a sensibility for which no sound is too trivial, even while the piece has nothing in the way of harmonic evolution. Those small sounds, on the intermittent occasions when they merge into something that passes for a motif, form the basis for what development there is. However, it’s not to the extent that tropes—such as those old standbys of beginning, middle and end—have any significant role to play.
“After a Tectonic Melt Purr” is music purged of every excess, to the point at which it’s astringent. Drums lend impetus, as they inevitably do, but even this is broken; some kind of concession to the world of the beat, even while that very thing is surplus to requirements. By its very nature, the beat is associated with a world for which Johnson appears to have little time, but the escapism this implies is not a cornerstone of the music.
Instead, this is the work of a sensibility absorbed by the world, but only at the point at which it breaks down; when technology becomes not so much a servant of humanity, but rather a law unto itself. Up the Turret Mil is not bounded by the physical, by dint of the fact that it’s not a product of it.
Personnel: Richard Johnson: trumpet, laptop, samples, acoustic guitar, piano.
Style: Free Improvisation/Avant-Garde
Published: March 23, 2009