Tag Archives: scott johnson

[Review: Thoughts on Air, ‘Random Tandem’]

Random Tandem, the double cassette from Hamilton, Ontario’s Thoughts on Air, begins with the two-chord, whispering moan of “Commuter Special,” is momentarily suspended in the expansive guitar drone of “Double Helix” (think a less arpeggiated version of Neil Young’s guitar work from the Dead Man soundtrack), and washes out near the end with the additive minimalism of “Waver” and “Woven.”

Nevertheless, ToA’s Scott Johnson doesn’t eschew the more ragged edges of experimentation. “Screaming U at Mimi,” the meditation of a post-blues lothario, mixes a rocking chair riff with warbling vocals and screeching guitars (the last mercifully low in the mix): “Ooh baby, the mystery / is in my mind / but my heart is warm / all the time.” The sentiment of the lines pervades much of the album—even where there is no lyrical content to spell it out.

“Hop (with Scotch)” is an especially captivating track: distorted drums, peeling vocals/guitar, and a kinda raga vibe raise it above the rest of the album. Soon enough, the dissonant picking and slurred vocals of “Fiddle Crap (with Bacon Grooves)” brings the album back into the realm of exhausted self. The latter track sounds like it could be a missing cut from Steropathetic Soul Manure, Beck’s early 90s ode to his own frustration with the musical arts.

Johnson is best when blending the two impulses—the emotional fullness experienced in musical flight and the imminent return to the incomplete self—as he does on “Mutuality.” There’s a sort of alternation between the two states over the course of this double cassette, as though the trippy voyage must always be reconciled with the earthbound body and its not-so trippy cares. “Mutuality,” with its repetitive first guitar and second guitar alternating in the bass and treble ranges, simultaneously keeps the listener on the hook and eager to take off.

The final track, “Hymn for She,” has a truly rad two-guitar, two-vocal harmony and deploys that old oceanic trick of building, cresting, and washing away. Woulda been fine by me if it were a few minutes longer.  In any case, the entire set is thoroughly recommended.

Random Tandem was released by the Old Frontiers label, also out of Hamilton, and the double cassette included an absolutely astounding packaging that is made of an old converted audio tape case from the Hamilton Public Library (the disclaimer is still inside). The cover art and the 12-page booklet are both top notch and were put together by Johnson and Old Frontiers mate Sean Gadoury using a color photocopier and, according to their website, “a technique of blending images by feeding the paper back through the machine: a unique process with fortuitous results.”


Review by Shane Meyer

[Free Music Friday: Thoughts on Air, ‘Lazy Haze’]

DOWNLOAD: Thoughts on Air, Lazy Haze (Cloud Valley)

Here is some gorgeous, melancholic drone from Hamilton’s Scott Johnston aka Thoughts on Air. The man himself describes this cassette as “moon powered couch potato drizzle.”  Give it a listen and you’ll see that’s pretty dead on. Enjoy.

[2011 in Review: Hunting Rituals, ‘Brooding Forest’]

Hunting Rituals, 'Brooding Forest' (Ecstatic Peace)

Back in 2008 something sinister occurred up in Hamilton, Ontario, when Scott Johnson of Thoughts on Air and Jeremiah Buchan of Fossils met up for a jam session in the basement of Sonic Unyon Records. Both artists are of a similar wavelength in that neither is averse to utilizing grating sounds and uncomfortable textures to achieve their sonic aims. Thus the collaboration was a natural fit, even if the gut-wrenching, noise-drenched final product–titled Brooding Forest–was anything but natural sounding.

At first this disturbing noise–which came out under Johnson’s project Hunting Rituals–was limited to a very small tape run on Hamilton-based label Myasis Tapes in 2008. One of the 30 tapes though managed to finds its way into the hands of Sonic Youth member and underground excavator Thurston Moore. Moore then wrote about the release in his “Bull Tongue” column for Arthur magazine saying that it unfold[ed] like a sex-sweat sheet, each rumple a dank and sensuous dream.”

In 2011, Moore then decided to re-release Brooding Forest to a wider audience under his Ecstatic Peace imprint. Apparently, Moore found Hunting Rituals’ “moist grip on psyche-scuzz blanket motion” to be worthy of greater exposure.

Tiny Mix Tapes seconded the recordings value by describing its sound as “a field recordings from deep inside some dark labyrinth of poisonous trees on the edge of the gateway to the world of the Old Gods, swarming with foot-long mosquitoes and deadly rabid beasts howling out for flesh.”

Descriptions as such might seem a bit ridiculous, but only until you listen to Brooding Forest. There really is no place for the traditional critical lexicon with recordings like these.


Review by Jamie Moore