Johnny Woods’ brilliant Pavilions is a magical sort of record. It encapsulates all the things we love about minimalist electronic music. This Buchla-driven electronic album pulsates with a synthetic heartbeat that captures a sort of otherworldly optimism within its compositions. Woods is a visual artist by trade, working in film and video. He has created videos and live experiences for Big Boi, Neon Indian, Classixx, Bear In Heaven, Chrome Canyon, and many more. I feel this gives Woods a very unique advantage in creating these improvised Buchla experiments. The visual translates into the aural beautifully.
On Pavilions Johnny Woods sets the controls for deep space, giving us a Komische journey steeped in early 70s German sonic experiments. Kraftwerk, Cluster, Morton Subotnick, and Suzanne Ciani live within the bleeps and blips, as well as contemporaries Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Isvisible Isinvisible. It’s a stunning and hopeful work of electronic music.
Listening to Johnny Woods’ latest sonic excursion I get the feeling of hearing the coolest video game music ever. Imagine finding some portal to 1982 and appearing in some 70s style tri-level home. You walk down into the sunken living room and find the family Intellivision console. There’s a game called Pavilions you don’t ever remember existing, so you put it in and start to play it on the 27″ Zenith. The game is an existential journey where you play a being trying to locate your home planet which was transported to some other galaxy light years away. The game is the journey to find home, while learning how you came about as a being, the meaning of life, and the journey to find where you belong.
The music Johnny Woods has created here fits perfectly in this scenario; it’s vast yet intimate, simple yet multi-layered, opens ones brain to deep-diving into the big questions, but warm and inviting enough to enjoy on a warm summer day floating in a backyard hammock.
“Lenticular Halls” is just the right song to welcome you into the world of Pavilions. Light and airy like Cluster in the early 80s, but with a more optimistic lean in the sunlit melody. Woods pulls you into his world with relative ease here, and it’s a world well worth spending some time in. “Monorail” and its repetition gives it an almost hallucinatory feel. There’s a Kraftwerk vibe here as well that gives the song a familiarity. “Autowalk” feels like a melancholy walk on the moon; desolate, deep, and ever pondering.
Elsewhere “World of Motion” captures the true beauty of the relationship between man and machine. Years of working with the Buchla and learning its ins, outs, and circuital secrets have led up to this album and this exquisite track. And album closer “Dawn Two” closes things out with a mysterious feel and sparse connection to the unknown.
The Buchla is as much an Ouija board as it is an instrument. It’s a connection to another realm, and the music created is a conversation the musician is having with the universe. It’s a fine line between noise and art. Pavilions is very much art in every sense of the word, connecting us to sonic worlds we’ve yet to truly understand. With excellent albums like Johnny Woods’ Pavillions we’re that much closer to some kind of electrical understanding. Or at the very least, circuital peace.
8.5 out of 10
‘Pavilions’ will be available 8/28/20. Preorder it here.