One of the albums I've enjoyed recently has been Fawn, the debut offering from Young Astronaut (see post here), so it was a very welcome surprise to find out that the album's producer, Geoff Swan, has also produced “Throw The Sun Into The Sea” by London-based composer Rob Johnson. Beautifully recorded, the album slowly reveals its charms over the course of the ten instrumental tracks. It's an album that owes more to film scores and neo-classsical composers than it does to rock, dance or pop, and would happily sit alongside albums by the likes of Mike Oldfield or Nitin Sawhney.
Click over the jump for more on Rob Johnson
The album's opening calling card The Wasp And The Flame opens with a repeated acoustic guitar motif before it's joined by a fuller sound of drums, synths, piano and electric guitar. I'm unaware whether or not Johnson is familiar the work of guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges but their playing styles are remarkably similar; fast picked open tunings with plenty of hammering on and harmonics. Flashy without diminishing any emotional impact. Despite the range of sounds, moods and textures on this album its Johnson's guitar playing that carries most emotion. Should he ever opt for a more stripped down sound, that introspective, sparse guitar sound would work well for him as demonstrated here on The Real. Elsewhere the music is kaleidoscopic in scope, from strident military drumming on The Beginning Of The End, through to more soundscape style outings such as Throw The Sun and Eve, along with the beat-driven Monsters. There's even room for a rock-out coda on album closer The Be All And The End All.
It's a well packaged CD album, double gatefold with two booklet inserts featuring photographs of the natural world - beaches, seascapes, forests and skies. Much like the cover art and booklets, the music is wide reaching and cinematic in scope .At times urgent and dramatic, other times serene and calm, with a similarly wide reaching palette of instrumentation. It's as if Johnson has decided to put every ounce of his vision and talents into this one record. What the album lacks in continuity of sound is more than made up for by the strength of the compositions and arrangements.
The album's cover design has a slight nod to those classic Hipgnosis designs and opens up to reveal a picture of Johnson, seemingly boxed-in, trapped in a confined space or lift. In the picture he's wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Amateur psychologists can read into that what they will. As for myself I'll be taking a look at the series of short films made to accompany each track. These will be available to view from April 16th on the album mini-site (www.throwthesun.com). If they're anywhere near as interesting and engaging as the music they'll be well worth a look.