Phillip Wilkerson, The Stars and Afterward

Because I am a Reviewer of A Certain Age, one of those who was young when the Berlin School was new, Phillip Wilkerson was able to hook me immediately with the first track–no, make that the first few notes of his new release, The Stars and Afterward. The open-throttle sequencer pulse of “Monoceros” sent a jolt of joy through my analog-loving heart. But this isn’t simply a Berlin-style outing. Rather, Wilkerson places a couple of these beat-potent excursions among softer, more Wilkerson-esque drifts to shuttle the listener easily back and forth. “Among the Nebulae” reduces the beat to a barely felt pulse, a suggestion running under pads that he gives a metallic, church-organ tone. You’ll notice it, but even when it’s at its most apparent it’s still modulated well into the mix. A nice touch. “Seven Degrees North of Castor” is another piece on the pulse-enabled side of the equation, and is just a fun, cool track to kick back with. There’s a lounge-like timbre to it, patched in with the retro vibe. What makes it work is the play between a striding bass line and a whistling, high melody–perfectly balanced. The drifting/droning tracks, like the lush and moving 21-minute “Radiance” are handled with Wilkerson’s practiced and, quite honestly, breathtaking grace. Wilkerson imbues his ambient flows with a feeling of pure patience and unhurried tonal observation. His “ambient mix” of “Among the Nebulae” and the title track, which ends the disc, carry this sense. “Among the Nebulae” is drone-based, a hypnotic wave of gently moving sound. “The Stars and Afterwards” is flush with a bit of star-romance, coming in on a somewhat dramatic rising tone before leveling off into a relaxed ambient drift. As is often the case with Wilkerson’s music, a through-line of optimism seems to thread itself into the work. The listener comes away feeling good, the spirit lightened just a tad. And that’s a very good thing. The Stars and Afterward is another superb release from one of ambient’s most consistent performers.

Available at Bandcamp.

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