I have said it before: I am a Phillip Wilkerson fan. So when I get a disc wherein Mr. Wilkerson has once again given himself over to long ambient drifts, I content myself in knowing that I will be spending a good deal of time looping the work. And so it is with Highlands, a suite of three longform pieces (the shortest about 16 minutes) and one notably shorter (9 minutes) track that are in no hurry to go anywhere. This is classic relaxation music, carved out of far-reaching, soft synth pads, cloud-like and warm. Although the disc is parceled out in four tracks, it’s very easy to get so gently entwined in the flow that it really becomes one simple, soothing, hour-long meditation. (And, yes, this disc is perfect for that.) Wilkerson’s expressive drifts maintain an overarching feel of quiet hope. Wilkerson’s compositional voice only raises in “The Mirror of God,” where he hangs everything on a large, bold chunk of drone. Even here the optimistic feel prevails, the drone coursing in a higher register, an ethereal voice sustaining a brilliant note. Around it Wilkerson floats smaller bits of sound, like dust motes shining lazily in sunlight. Highlands is a superb low-volume listen, one of those discs that affects the atmosphere into which it’s introduced. Looping is mandatory, and headphones reveal a splendid depth. Wilkerson is in full control of his craft, and Highlands is one of his best drift-based works to date.
Available from Free Floating Music.
I will be reviewing Wilkerson’s contribution to the “Complex Silence” series within the next few weeks.