“(Johnson) creates a kind of country post-rock. It feels like a universe unto itself.”
“The rise of ambient country…(Johnson’s) a part of a new crop of artists who emphasize abstract expression over linear narrative and conventional structures…a legacy that joins the dots between country and post-rock, experimental music and world-class pedal steel.”
“Hints of Reichian minimalism, spacey Tangerine Dream kosmische, Eno-esque ambience and hypnotic New Age.”
The follow up to Johnson’s acclaimed Balsams album, The Cinder Grove delves further into the compositional possibilities of the pedal steel guitar. This halcyon collection of tracks draws on a wider palette of sounds, adding strings and piano, to dive deeper into the sound bath of Johnson’s meditative music. The Cinder Grove is a profound, affecting statement on the nature of loss and irreplaceability as well as a major addition to the canon of Johnson’s work.
The Cinder Grove is a suite of requiems for lost places. Many of the spaces that once fostered affordable living and creative work now only exist in sonic memory, like the echoes of ghosts. Like much of the California landscape in recent years, some of these spaces succumbed to fire. Others to the equally inexorable forces of gentrification. While his 2017 LP Balsams was intended to provide the listener with a space for respite and calm – even healing – The Cinder Grove seeks to remember what has been lost while celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and the natural world. Johnson dug through archival recordings from some Oakland (CA) DIY performance spaces to digitally extract their reverb and echo qualities. He then applied these effects – as well as the digitally modeled reverberation of a redwood forest – to the tracks on The Cinder Grove, allowing the pieces to bask in the lush virtual spaces, and in the process realized that these sonic re-constructions can only ever be approximations. We try to make spaces what we want them to be, whether in memory or in the material present.