Jonny Nash | Make A Wilderness
Music From Memory (LP/DL)
“This album is heavily influenced by descriptions of landscape and environment in the work of authors Shusaku Endo, J.G. Ballard and Cormac McCarthy. Fragments from a land that is a largely silent place. An ancient place. A non-place. A wilderness.” So, from the start, this is one of those autonomously conceptual, imaginary places that these ears (and mind’s eye) would love to visit for a short residency. I so enjoyed Jonny Nash‘s lush piano-driven previous effort, Phantom Actors, but it lacked the edge offered on Make A Wilderness – so this is much anticipated listening. And from the top of Root, I’m already diving into the deep-seated hollows of cello (Janice Wong) and vibes, an intriguing yet close-to-the-chest hesitance at first, and as it continues with faint velocity into Shell.
I’m actually hearing undertones of some of the more melancholic pieces by David Sylvian particularly the quieter interludes on Dead Bees on a Cake (1999). The delivery is cool, collected, almost teasing the next chordal shift. Nash’s washed harmonies amble softly, with what may be perceived as wolves or mammoths raising their call to the wild in the far off distance. His coloration falls between pastel and semiopaque, particularly on Flower, where it makes most sense. The drone is composed and drug in slow-motion.
The melodies are downplayed on Trees Bearing Fruit, but the voices (Laura Giavon) gingerly rise above, and sink between Wong’s strings. Accentuated, elongated and shimmering – a gorgeous crescendo to conclude side one of this stunning sleeper. As the platter is flipped Place is revealed through a timid piano, small steps and a hive drone that leaves a peculiar edge to the surroundings.
As Language Collapsed begins Nash leaves the listener in an unidentified location, and it offers this sense of floating in a clear gel where all your limbs are somehow contained without force, only physics. You can see everything around you though the light is muted in a glaze-like frost, perpetuating dull shapes and not much else. If this is a commentary about language, in and of itself, it purports both change/flux as well as re-emergence. And as such, seeing the unseen may be captured in the closing piece here, Apparition.
The synths are bathed in light and bent enough so as to not come off sappy or too lightweight. When considering ghostly spirits or outside realm forces many shiver with cinematic recall. Instead of something overly mysterious and literal Nash has gone for something slightly more romantic, in memory itself. With slightly dancing keys and a brighter melody each of us can readily reminisce with something, someone we have lost.