Phillip Wilkerson gave himself a dictum when he set out to create Sojourner: “Go as slow as you can go.” Turns out this was a very good suggestion, since it lead to a time-stretching suite of six classic ambient pieces that, in coursing along as slowly as they do, allow us as listeners to slow down as well. Wilkerson follows the well-visited template of placing rise-and-fall pads in each other’s paths to weave and intersect, creating richly layered washes of sound in constant, graceful motion. In places, the long-held notes border on drone, blends of single tones reaching off into the distance and pulling your mind with it. That drone feel may be at its strongest on “Sunlit Drift.” Wilkerson pulls and holds his notes, a resonant low end holding up higher washes of sound. The motion is minimal but present, shifts happening in their own good time. While everything here is soft, warm and meditative, each piece has its own distinct tone. “Epiphany” is just a bit shadowy, the sounds packing a viscous density. “Sanctuary,” appropriately enough, builds from a pipe-organ tone that hangs gorgeously in mid-air. Wilkerson’s nod to sacred music here is pleasantly obvious, softly draping the piece in reverence. “Gates of Mercy” evokes a sense of drama as it patiently nudges its way into spacemusic territory. Listen carefully-there’s a very underplayed bass line whispering beneath the flow, adding just enough texture to catch the ear in places. The long closing track, “The Awaiting Presence,” becomes a big, full and densely layered mass, even bordering for a brief time on the edge of dissonance. Wilkerson pilots it back toward a calming drift, creating a feeling of having passed through something tenuous and into, if I may be so bombastic in my language, a state of subtle grace. Here again, late in the piece, he sets a quiet rhythmic passage against his pads. It’s something you slowly become aware of, a slight shift of focus without breaking the flow. It’s a very nice touch.
It may go without saying, but Sojourner is a superb headphones-on experience. Wilkerson’s layers and sense of pacing really come to life in a deep, focused listen. However, as is always the case with good ambient, it also works beautifully as a passive, open-air listen. Letting this release loop is highly recommended. I have literally had it going on for a full work day, having it catch my attention here and there but turning to a relaxing mist most of the time. This is a beautiful release, another must-hear from Mr. Wilkerson.
Available from Bandcamp.