James Johnson - Entering Twilight
2000. ENTERING TWILIGHT is a single long track, about 66 minutes long, in a sparse, almost subliminal style. Fans of Johnson's previous works Surrender and Unity know the beautiful, glimmering restraint with which he expresses himself, but this one is even more minimal.... like floating in a thick fog with vague chiming chords drifting toward you through the haze.
"...at the end of the day
when the past & the future
slowly end & unfold
bathe in the dreaming light of the sun..."
In a slow moving, almost still ambience, ENTERING TWILIGHT creates an atmosphere that surrounds and unfolds for 66 minutes. This long form piece was created for continuous playback to enhance the listeners environment with an amorphous, and at times almost transparent, background of sonic imagery.
Entering Twilight is a single, continuous piece 66 minutes in duration.
MP3 sample clips: EARLY | MID | LATE
Purchase for $8.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Reviews"Significant Releases of 2000 list."
--Star's End Radio host Chuck VanZyl
"Top Releases of 2000."
Vladimir Jovanovic, Inner Space Radio, Zagreb, Croatia
"Top 10 of 2000....Three Hypnos releases in my top ten... any question what label is releasing the best ambient music these days?"
--David Bass on the Ambient Music mailing list
"Best of 2000 list (#19)."
--Eric Meece, Mystic Music, KKUP Radio
"Best CDs of 2000 list."
--Jim Brenholts on the Ambient Music mailing list
"A little masterpiece. I have no words to describe it."
--Massimo Pavan, Italy
"I've just got 'Entering Twilight' following your recommendation, it is light, slow, warm, minimal and gentle. Funny thing is it fits my 'sunny morning' playlist better than the 'late night' one."
--Simon Bausch on the ambient music mailing list
"Can this label get any better? With Entering Twilight you get a recording which ranks alongside Eno's Thursday Afternoon, Neroli, as well as sitting quite comfortably alongside Robert Rich's longer works. I'm partial to these long soundworks whenever I hear them. It not only allows the artist to expand and develop in one go, but also allows the listener to drift away into what ever direction they may choose to follow. I guess the closest thing I could compare this to would be the sensation of floating on clouds, that gentle motion of bobbing up and down knowing that all around you is absolute safety. It's amazingly still in it's core presence, and as some have commented seems not to develop. But don't be fooled as there are minute events happening over long periods; the real problem is that if you consciously listen to this it's bound to start possibly annoying you simply because nothing is happening quickly. It's classic ambient music, background music which when it ends makes you go over and play it all over again. I'm partial to repeat playings at night wherby it puts me into a very deep sleep at the best of times. I'm not all that familiar with james Johnson short of an excellent track on a Hypnos compilation some time back."
--Hans Stoeve, Powerspot Radio
"James Johnson's past releases, in fact his first, are with Illusion Of Safety, but being frank here, I didn't recall seeing his name before. To see him back with a full length, one sixty minute track, on Hypnos is a kind of surprise. The music is maybe an even bigger surprise. Although this might be a perfect release for Hypnos, as all their label ingredients are there: ambient doodlings, arpeggio synths, humming rhythmic patterns, I think it's the most regular, most normal release, Hypnos could get. Many of their other releases are just that little bit more daring, more adventurous and these elements is what's lacking here. To me it's a standard work. Skillfully performed, but too much of a worn-out cliche."
--Reviewed by Frans DeWaard
"The quickest paranoia induced by recordings "intended for low-volume listening" is that they harbor some subliminal intrigue, laced with devious undertones. The second paranoia lies in the suspicion that they might sell low volumes, ho ho. Like a tear borne by reunion, this recording is that strangest of fuck music beasts. It threatens to engulf but recedes. At its low volume, the listener pursues it. The hope is not that it is caught - but that one would have someone with whom it might be pursued. Pursued, perused and usurped in moments of wonder intwined. "What was that sound, babe?" "Which one?" And so on."
--Reviewed (unattributed) in Vital Ezine
"This 66 ½-minute, one track CD reveals a style that may be part of the lineage of positive, gentle, cloudy ambient music that one finds on Steve Roach’s Quiet Music albums and in early Eno. It is a relatively low volume piece of music with gentle, melodic notes resounding and fading in and out of the deep. It more or less fills the space for an hour with bell tones, soft voice-like chorales and lots of resonant ambiance. The notes drift on the winds rather than work as distinct melodies, almost like MIDI controlled wind chimes. The title, Entering Twilight, is aptly descriptive, an album perfect for all-night repeat sessions."
-- Mike McLatchey
"Genres are always expanding. The ambient domain covers a great portion of music that takes a less aggressive approach to gain recognition. James Johnson’s release Entering Twilight spirals further away from the original ambient source to outer regions that are defined only as sparse or meditative. Exhibited in one 66 minute opus of serenity and enlightened Bliss, we see flight further ahead in time, music that is soundtrack to the path taken during afterlife. There is no other way to accurately describe the music other than as The Opus from Heaven. Even the most non-religious, open-minded person could see how Johnson’s production on Entering Twilight could be categorized as heavenly or celestial in shape and form. Johnson’s vision for the future of ambient has veered quietly towards celestial realms that can be none other than described as pure, unadulterated tranquility."
"Entering Twilight has carried me to sleep every might for the last 3 weeks, and every time I experience it the beauty of its nuances grows stronger and stronger. As I become more familiar with the terrain, its depth and magnitude only intensify. A stunning work of art, and a stunning journey. Thank you."
"Reviewing albums of extremely ambient music is always a difficult task, particularly when the sleeve itself describes the contents as "intended for low volume listening". So I listened to it at low volume - then I turned it up a bit so I could hear what was going on. "Entering Twilight" doesn't even have individual track titles to help out - it's just one epic piece like Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon", and that album (or maybe "Music for Airports") forms the most obvious point of comparison - after all, the sleeve of "Entering Twilight" does suggest it should be filed under "ambient", the term introduced by Eno to describe music which exists just at the threshold of perception. So the 66 and a half minutes of "Entering Twilight" - with a sleeve illustration of blurred, underwater images - comprises gentle chime sounds over choral voices, deep bass drones, and slowly moving chords which aren't obviously strings or brass - just a mellow pad sound which moves slowly through the listener's consciousness.There's no textural development as such, and the music fades out very gradually at the end, so it probably shouldn't be regarded as a composition in the usual sense. Another point of comparison though could be the long track on Jean-Michel Jarre's "Waiting For Cousteau", also intended to set up an ambient atmosphere and maintain it for as long as possible. On this level, the album works well - probably a good purchase for anyone who enjoys this style. Rating: *** "
-- Mark Jenkins / E-Mix
"WOW! His music harks back to the good old listening days when I could put on music like this and really Relax! Thank Goodness. I was beginning to think that musicians had lost their sensitivity to the mind/ear connection. Entering Twilight is a GodSend. Johnson is a genious and I hope he keeps giving us creative, sensitive, "silent music" like this that's positive and also intelligent."
--Renee Gelpi, Celebration Starsong Radio, Canada
"When ambient music composer Brian Eno said that falling asleep to music was among the greatest compliments one could mention, he may well have had James Johnson's new release Entering Twilight in mind. A quiet, drifting 66-minute piece that occupies the entire CD, Entering Twilight is composed of few timbres and long sustained tones that only rarely have a suggestion of harmonic motion. Most of the piece has a slow, abstract melodic line in long, drawn out phrases, with a minimal shimmering in the background. The melody line as such doesn't repeat or stick in one's head, but otherwise the overall effect is similar to the first piece of Eno's classic Music for Airports or his Thursday Afternoon. Entering Twilight is a great piece to accompany reading or quiet meditation, filling the ambient space with a warm glow that finds the space between the worlds that characterizes the twilight in Carlos Casteneda's magical Don Juan series."
--Caleb Deupree for Ambient Visions
"You will want plenty of time for this, as its one track lasts 66:32! Perfect for healing,massage,or meditation, the gentle rhythms of Johnson's electronic wizardry take listeners far away from any feelings of stress. His touch is light and masterful, keeping listeners' attention without being distracting. It's created for continuous playback; one could spend hours wrapped in its sonic salve, finding a space of compassion, wisdom and serenity. Striking, to me, is the very silence this piece has the capacity to create. It's definately for travelers,seekers,cosmic voyagers, and healers of all types."
--NAPRA Review, TJE, Nov/Dec 2000
"Nowhere is the meaning of Entering Twilight ever intimated by composer James Johnson. Any imagery or association will be established by the listener with each session and change according to environment and state. Ambient in the most classic sense, Entering Twilight is a release designed to fill a listening space with music at the edge of perception or that is the complete focus of a waking mind. There are no sections, movements or parts to Entering Twilight. What changes throughout the piece is the listener's perception and mood. The music is very gentle, relaxing and comforting and is quite befitting its title as twilight is that magical period when we are uncertain as to whether we are in day or night, dawn or dusk or even wakefulness or sleep."
--Star's End Radio host Chuck VanZyl
"One of Hypnos'latest releases is James Johnson Entering Twilight. To my ambient eroded ears this recording rates alongside Eno's classics such as Thursday Afternoon or Neroli, pieces which in themselves are timeless and sound just as fresh, innovative and exciting as when I first chanced upon them. Entering Twilight can also sit quite comfortably alongside Robert Rich's longer soundworks such as (possibly) Trances and Drones. I'm very open to these long soundworks whenever I hear them. It not only allows the artist to expand and develop in one long continuous swooping musical gesture, but it also allows the listener to drift away into what ever direction they may choose to follow. I would say the closest thing I might be able to compare this to would be the sensation of floating and weightlessness, a sense of time ceasing to be important, of slowing down and being silent within. It's amazingly still in it's core presence, and as some have commented whilst playing it on air, seems not to develop in any great shape or form. But don't be fooled as there are many events happening over this long period. The real problem for most new listeners to this type of long ambient soundscape being that if you consciously listen to it, it's bound to start annoying you simply because nothing is happening quickly. It's classic ambient music-background, atonal, textural and uplifting to listen to; which is what I want out of my ambient experience these days. I'm partial to repeat playing at night whereby a deep somnambulistic state may be achieved. I'm not all that familiar with James Johnson short of an excellent track on a Hypnos compilation some time back so further explorations are warranted on my part. I could go on about how special this recording is, but all I will say is a great recording is a great recording. Hypnos seem to be hitting the mark time and time again with each new release. I can't rate this label highly enough for anyone wanting to explore contemporary directions in ambient music."
Hans Stoeve, Powerspot Radio, NSW Australia
"As the title and 66-minute one-track notation on the back of the case implies, Johnson's album is pure ambient. Slowly moving atmospherics detailed by light keyboard notes and slow washes of calm sound essentially characterise Entering Twilight.
Music for the inner mind, or for the outer spheres of space, ambient music has a tendency to try and warp the relations of the individual and their surrounding world by sending the mind and emotions, via music, to a remote space, exchanging the outer world for that inner mind. Whether Johnson achieves such an exchange is debatable, but Entering Twilight is competent if not textbook styled ambient music. What is achieved here is a fabulous sense of space and of floating, as though the listener is moving freely through dusky clouds with no tactile objects in sight. The acoustic harmonics are beautiful and utterly engaging, evoking a strong sense of calm mystery and expansive timelessness. Ideal music for a sensory-deprivation tank, given the hour-plus running time, and despite that this is one piece of music, and by default repetitive, it never seems overly so; the fluidity of the music is smooth and seamless, moving with appealing grace and composure.
The back of the CD tray also notes "intended for low-volume listening", which is doing a disservice to Johnson; Entering Twilight sounds absolutely intense at high-volumes, with the strong atmospheres roaring and the chiming synths echoing and reverberating against the crashing ambience. Granted, that nullifies the peaceful intent of this sort of music, and the cats don't like it (ambient always goes over well with cats), but the power is there, which Johnson ought to realise, before selling himself short."
"Well, well, James Johnson made it this time to get a recording out on the famous ambient-label Hypnos. Johnson's music until now isn't exactly what I call dark ambient, or slightly experimental music. But all that counts is the music, and James Johnson again has composed a nice piece of introspective ambientmusic that now is put into longform perspective: 1 track of over 60 minutes dives into embracing soundscape-caverns with slightly minimalistic touches. Here and there it reminded of Roach's Quiet Music series or Eno's The Pearl combined with his Thursday Afternoon. Perfect music to lay back with, especially in eveninghours......."
--KLEM, Bert Strolenberg
"While there probably many thousands who share his name, in the ambient world there is only one James Johnson. Stepping away from his own Zero Music label, he joins the elite, ever-improving ranks of the Hypnos roster. For this special engagement, Johnson rolls out one long stream of electronic beauty, the 66.5-minute long Entering Twilight.
Twinkling tones expand and drift, buoyed by a rising current of gossamer synth strands. Multiple lush layers entwine and softly swirl in big amorphous swells. Muted chimes are awash on a sea of faint angel-choir... all these elements simply levitate together seamlessly and without interruption. If I were the nit-picky type, I might have wished for a bit more evolution as the piece progressed, but it's all so gorgeous I shouldn't complain...
Johnson has been a welcome listen in these parts for some time now. For past projects check out Surrender, Unity or his collab with ambient/space duo Ma Ja Le Live Under a Harvest Moon. James also spoke with us in an exclusive AmbiEntrance interview back in April 1999.
Let these extended meditative atmospheres of unearthly serenity lift your tired spirit like a dandelion's little parachute seed... floating on a gently wafting journey through blue skies and puffy white clouds, ready to sprout in a new, better place when it lands. If you're seeking peacefulness and light, then Entering Twilight on James Johnson's ephemeral 9.0 soundwaves is the thing to do. "
--The AmbiEntrance, reviewed by David Opdyke
"James Johnson's Entering Twilight is sixty-six minutes and thirty-two seconds of slowly evolving sonic magic. I first heard about this recording before it was released on the Spacemusic/Egroups mail-list. It sounded very interesting. Eventually it came in the mail, and I soon after I was given my first chance to listen. On the back of this disk's jewel case there's a note that says 'intended for low-volume listening.' That's what I had heard initially and that's what attracted me to it. The sonorities on this record are soft and the Johnson's choice of timbres couldn't be better. The record slowly evolves taking in the listener and slowly releasing them to the ether. Johnson has created a magnificent record that meanders about the listener's psyche. The record gets the highest accolades, it's a fine work, and we'll be looking for more of Johnson's sonic mastery in the future. "
--The Organization of Sound, reviewed by Matt Borghi
"From the continuingly seductive Hypnos stable, one of those disks which is both too easy and hard to review. Sixty-six minutes of drifting sensuous ambience - the title is very apt. Minimal layers of tonal fog swirl from the speakers and envelop you in a moody landscape. Long slow tenuous tones, stretched and fading; pulsing lights; descending languorous cascades; echoed tuned percussion; droned voice tones; deep mysteries. Nothing happens and everything happens: focus on the incident, get lost in the topography.
'Intended for low-volume listening' is printed on the back and just right. This is classical ambience in the vein of Eno and Obmana and Koner and those others who place us in lost worlds glimpsed through the mists of twilight.
Easy to review because it is impossible not to fall victim to the beauty and follow the flow; hard because it is indescribable, its etherreal quality impossible to pin down. And all you are left with is a recommendation to get this if you like long slow drifting soothing ambience, and 66 minutes of simple unalloyed pleasure."
"A superb homage/extrapolation from classic Eno works like Neroli and Music for Airports; another great release from one of the most promising minimal/ambient artists working today."
--Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire editor, on the Space Music mailing list
"This is a marvelous disc of quiet, drifting ambience, very reminiscent of Eno's Thursday Afternoon. Without question, this is my favorite disc of the year so far.
Unsurprisignly, it's on Hypnos. I think you could close your eyes, point to a random spot in their catalog and be assured of picking an outstanding disc. To my ears, they are now setting the standard for ambient music."
--David Bass, on the Ambient Music mailing list
"This is perhaps the most minimal Hypnos release yet, rivaled only by Rod Modell and Michael Mantra's ultra ambient Sonic Continuum CD. It is almost unquestionably the most beautiful CD to come from the label. Appropriately being compared to minimal ambient works by Brian Eno, this is the ultimate for fans of relaxing ambience. Entering Twilight is elegant without being new age, ambient without wallowing in the depths of darkness. The music simply exists in a soothing, pleasant space, floating delicately over its 66 1/2 minute journey seemingly without care, aimlessly moving yet deliberately pulling you into its peaceful sonic world. It's likely a place you won't soon want to leave.
The music is wrapped around deceptively simple themes which slowly circle around and back in again. It is a musical paradox, because it seems to go nowhere, yet transports you to wherever you want to go. It is difficult to pinpoint just how much the music evolves or repeats. It certainly isn't just a tape loop on infinite repeat, but the changes are subtle. Soft, tinkling bells and cascading flows of long synthesizer pads seem alive with colour, literally breathing in and out as they go. Occasionally the sounds seem almost human, as a siren song beckoning, but they never completely coalesce. Throughout, there is a shimmering brightness to the musical proceedings. Though called Entering Twilight, it could just as easily grace a planetarium as it could a sunrise or sunset. Recline, reflect, and relax."
--Phil Derby, SMD
"James Johnson, who (along with Stephen Philips) is one of the heirs apparent to Brian Eno's crown as the best ambient minimalist recording today (should Brian ever retire - that is!), has released his most ambitious work to date, Entering Twilight. Consider it, if you will, James' Neroli, since it shares some of the same qualities as Brian Eno's CD of that name. Like Neroli, Entering Twilight is one long song and is one of the most patient and evocative recordings in the ambient/minimalist genre. If an album could ever be said to embody the essence of drifting beauty, this is it.
Combining bell-like tones that wink on and off like fireflies (or twinkling lights from far-off stars if you prefer celestial imagery), buoyed by underlying layers of slowly undulating synth washes, Entering Twilight is like falling into a lush pastorale dream. The CD brings to mind soft breezes, fading light (the sky turns from soft blue to rosy pink to deep red to soothing violet before becoming deep black) and the comforting presence of those infinite fireflies, flitting here and there like a million miniature lighthouse beacons, protecting you from hurt and harm.
While I have no doubt that space music fans will embrace this recording with loving arms, I believe its appeal can stretch much wider, reaching out to new age music fans as well as holistic health practitioners, therapists, and body workers. Played (as suggested on the album's back) at low volume levels, this music is like a musical cachet, filling the air with a subtle aural sense of peace.
In his relatively short career (the part that I am aware of), James Johnson has released three nearly perfect albums already (Unity and Surrender being the other ones). Entering Twilight is further proof of James' considerable talent as a masterful ambient musician. He produces soundscapes suffused with peace and a sense of floating and drifting beauty that are wondrous to explore. I won't say this is his best album, because his other two are different enough that I don't want to slight them in the least. Basically, in the case of James Johnson, everything he touches turns to musical gold. My highest recommendation!"
--Wind and Wire (Bill Binkelman)
"The quickest paranoia induced by recordings "intended for low-volume listening" is that they harbor some subliminal intrigue, laced with devious undertones. The second paranoia lies in the suspicion that they might sell low volumes, ho ho.
Like a tear borne by reunion, this recording is that strangest of fuck music beasts. It threatens to engulf but recedes. At its low volume, the listener pursues it. The hope is not that it is caught - but that one would have someone with whom it might be pursued. Pursued, perused and usurped in moments of wonder intwined. "What was that sound, babe?" "Which one?" And so on."
"The Hypnos Label has established themselves as one of the world's premier purveyors of ambient music, assembling a roster of artists that amazes even the died-in-the-wool Musique Nouvelle collector for sheer talent and compositional superiority.
The newest title Hypnos release is one of extremely tranquil music - one 66-minute track - recommended for listeners to play at low volume settings a la Eno's original Ambient Series.
Johnson's work is one comprised of distended, drifting, overlapping drones accompanied by vibe-like sounds while wispy, spiraling pitches gently suffuse throughout the composition's entirety. Comparisons to Roach's Quiet Music and other sleepy-time ambient music are inevitable, yet Johnson's signature is that of a distinct personal voyage leaving Entering Twilight in a league of it's own. Peaceful, serene and subtle this work should find it’s way onto many a player for the use of stress relief, relaxation or any situation necessitating the induction of a meditative state. The Hypnos label, it should go without saying, is one that supervises all the elements of the CD proper. While they release a 'finished' sounding project, the potential buyer’s confidence is augmented - insured that great sonic production value; well-crafted cover art and packaging round out the package. If Hypnos has released a dog, we have yet to hear it and must give Entering Twilight the Highly Recommended stamp."
--Glenn Hammett, The Raging Consciousness