James JohnsonLive at
The Gatherings Concert Series
12 April 2003 8:00pmSt. Mary's Hamilton Village
Review: James Johnson + Vir Unis at The Gatherings Concert Series
The main set of improvised music ran over 80 minutes with very few breaks, ranging from pure ambient sounds to pulsing fractal grooves. It was interesting to see them perform live, as it had been more of a cerebral listening experience up to this point. I have to say that I was a little surprised by the content of the show as much of the music was a little more relaxed/less rhythmic than what appears on their first collaborative effort, "Perimeter." Not that this is a bad thing - far from it! The music was great and the sound system used, as well as the acoustics of the church, makes it a choice venue in which to hear this type of music. Chuck van Zyl, the host and organizer, even made a joke about some people just waking up when that set ended and the applause erupted. Usually there is an intermission, but John and James were in great form and played straight through. Both musicians then decided to give us an encore and, to me, it was the highlight of the performance (I hope that it was recorded and makes its way on to a future release). I didn't want the show to end, it was so enjoyable.
The highlight of the whole evening though was after the show when I went up to meet both of them in order to have my copy of Perimeter II (in addition to the concert, this was also the official release of their latest 3-CD set) signed: Both of them recognized my name! Guess I'm one of the loyal customers to the Atmoworks label/website, and they were very appreciative of my support and for coming down to the show. It made me feel great - I was smiling practically the whole way on the walk back to the bus station. Just another reason I love being involved with this genre of music: many of the musicians/bands I've met (or traded email with) are so approachable, down-to-earth, and just plain glad that you enjoy the music they make. I only wish there were more concerts close to where I live. However, I'm glad for the experiences I have had and I'll continue to make trips provided I have the time and money to do so.
As for the new release, Perimeter II is a little less rhythmic than Perimeter, but it is truly an impressive body of work (over 2 1/2 hours of material - so I won't review each track here or this post will be so long, there are 22 total tracks!), both in terms of the music and the packaging - using a 3-dvd case is unique. You will find some high-energy pulsing rhythms here, but there are quite a few tracks which just drift too (with perhaps a low percussive beat in the background). Quite a range of sounds are exhibited: from electric guitar to orchestral strings, "liquid" sounds aplenty, just to name a few. Highly recommended! My only complaint about it is that it doesn't fit in my CD case I bring with me to work! Congratulations, John and James! Definitely a contender for best of 2003 so far.
by Carlo Ruggiero
For more about Vir Unis, please access the:|
Read A. D. Amorosi's 10 April 2003 CITY PAPER Article (off site)
Concert Photos by Bill Forcier