Ma Ja Le & James Johnson - Seed
Artist: Ma Ja Le and James Johnson
Label: Hypnos Recordings
2001. The second collaboration between Ma Ja Le (who previously released IMAGINARIUM with Vir Unis, now available again at the Hypnos store) and James Johnson (who released ENTERING TWILIGHT on Hypnos this year, also also just released a CD of his own with Vir Unis, PERIMETER, below) is a sonic melding of the minimalist overtones and organic synth work of James Johnson & the ethno-tribal-atmospheric sounds of ambient duo Ma Ja Le. The sonic tapestry is as lush, emotive and transportive as it gets. A Spiraling journey to the deepest depths of ethereal ambience and back.
1 > Yaquona (part1) - 7:24
2 > Yaquona (part2) - 10:08
3 > Methane Sea - 18:00
4 > Outside In - 10:23
5 > Hibiscus Ceremony - 8:17
6 > Seed - 19:26
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"A fine CD -- recommended! Gentle, deep and absorbing."
--Eric Meece, KKUP Radio
"There is undeniable appeal in spacious music -- music whose airiness can fill a room while its substance almost sub-consciously engenders both personal and universal visions. Ma Ja Le is Paul Vnuk, Jr and Christopher Short, who provide e-bow, bass flute, drone loops, "melted machinery, shakerscapes, sound-worlds," ticking watch, wavedrum, udu, "cosmo-horn, prehistoric insect worlds, altered reality," percussive drones and voice. Johnson supplies what may be the backbone: synthetic architecture, piano, reprocessed sound inversions, software synthesis, and ethereal textures. (Need I tell you that the sounds from this CD are unusually intriguing?) Six tracks total more than 72 minutes and transport the listener to an interior, earthy, somewhat shadowy space that feels as voluminous as the external cosmos. Ma Ja Le's "ethno-tribal" atmospheres and Johnson's organic minimalism combine surprisingly well into music that not only feels relaxing, but is as interesting as it is listenable."
--NAPRA Review, Sandy Marshall
"This is a stunning collaboration by three of the most gifted artists in the ambient genre, Christopher Short, Paul Vnuk Jr.,and James Johnson. Together with one vision they have created a sound world of rich textures and beauty that transports the listener to a different space and time. The sound flows effortlessly as the interplay between these artists conjures up the concept of all life originating from some type of seed. The production on this disc is awesome with a perfect balance ,blending guitar ,synthesizer ,percussion,flute, piano,effects and much more into a magical sonic garden. Yaquona [part 1] sets the stage with a swirling introduction, a collage of synth, guitartronics, percussion and effects. A tribal rhythm starts and marks the smooth transition into Yaquona [Part 2], a stately procession of intriguing sound. Up next is "Methane Sea", eighteen minutes of beautiful flowing and drifting chords,with some nice guitar. Some snaky flute sounds and percussion entice the listener into the next track, the slightly oriental sounding and intoxicating "Outside In". The fifth track "Hibiscus Ceremony" features some lovely piano work by James Johnson. Finally the last track "Seed" takes the listener on a long voyage through distant galaxies to the ends of time.
This is one of the very best ambient works and is highly recommended! It is space music of the highest order and a must for any electronic music lover's collection. Hypnos Recordings has added another masterpiece to it's catalog of high quality ambient releases."
"Glossy guitartronic melodies juxtaposed over the sounds synthesizers and a variety of electronic timbres is only in the foreground of this release. Seed is the collection of works that came from a collaboration between James Johnson and Ma Ja Le (a.k.a. Paul Vnuk Jr. and Chris Short. Seed brings to life a new aesthetic for James Johnson. With Seed Johnson seems to working in a bit more an experimental realm only touching occasionally on the deep atmospherics that have made him a household name in ambient/ atmospheric genre. Johnson's work, though, when fused with the quasi-tribal and glossy ethnic sounds of Ma Ja Le is a nearly perfect marriage of sonic experimentation and tranquil resonance. The thing that makes Seed unique is that seems to be a bit of a stylistic deviation from works in their past repertoire. An artist should experiment and expound on their many influences bringing them fully into their work, and Johnson, and Ma Ja Le have done an exceptional job at this. At the same time they've created a recording that is new, fresh, and quite dynamic. If you're hungry for a recording that's a little experimental, but not in the sense of harsh, or dissonant, that's fused with ethno-tribal beats, fluctuating morphed guitar, and synthesizer then this is certainly a recording that will satisfy. Seed is a fine work."
--Matt Borghi / All Music Guide
"Seed is the long awaited and much anticipated studio collaboration between James Johnson and Ma Ja Le (Paul Vnuk, Jr. and Chris Short). The album is a natural follow-up to the y2k live CD, Live Under a Harvest Moon. The disc features a hybrid of two styles, neither of which dominates, both of which compliment. The new style is symphonic tribal minimalism. Ma Ja Le's tribal ambience interacts superbly with James's expansive and meditative minimalism. The artistes' mutual preferences for experiMENTAL sonic possibilities provide the recurring theme that holds the set together. The deep and ethereal ambience is absolute ear candy. There are distinct symphonic synthesizer echoes. Chris's "guitartronics" are subtle and powerful. James's "synthetic architecture" is gentle and dynamic. Paul's "synthscapes" are colorful and gray.
At the time of this review, Paul, Chris and James were still looking for a label on which to release this amazing CD. That search should be a short one!
(They found a label. It will be a Hypnos release. That is no surprise at all!)
In short, this is an amazing cd! deserving of any and all accolades!"
"Seed is such an amazing recording. I have never heard anything like it by anyone... ever. This is the newest sounding "ambient" recording I have heard in many years. Just delightful, mysterious, straight ahead at times, and a great depth."
--John Pemble, Sonic Flow, KTPR radio
"Gurgling sounds and effects and shapeless textures abound in this richly organic sonic expanse. Jumping right into the deep crevasse, ‘Yaquona (part 1)’ is dark yet delicate, with soft undercurrents brewing and bubbling. There is a feeling of uneasiness or foreboding, something amiss is about to happen. It becomes unexpectedly bright and shimmering near the very end. A vague semblance of rhythm, which soon grows into a deep reverberant plodding beat, begins part two. You feel the need to brush away the bugs in the dank musty cavern. The sounds conjure up detailed images, very compelling stuff. ‘Methane Sea’ has, surprisingly, a Vangelis-like lead, adding some melancholy melody to the mostly formless echoes. Rich delicate atmospheres are beautifully done here. This track also appears on the limited edition ‘Live Under A Harvest Moon,’ but the version on ‘Seed’ is over 15 minutes long, a more fully developed piece. Resonant flutes and more bleating drums dominate ‘Outside In,’ a tribal number with cool eastern touches. I’d feel almost cheated if a James Johnson CD didn’t include an excellent piano solo, this time in the form of ‘Hibiscus Ceremony.’ His sparse playing amidst more synth textures has a very calming effect. You may need to return to it after the brooding, haunting title track that closes out the disc. Another track from ‘Harvest Moon,’ here it is twice as long and twice as dark. The benchmark for dark ambient has to be Robert Rich and Lustmord’s ‘Stalker,’ and this finds itself in similar territory. Downright spooky, but deliciously so."
--Phil Derby, Synth Music Direct