I admire artists who choose to challenge themselves, who don’t allow themselves to sit in the same spot doing the same thing. It can be a risk, but there’s also a strong chance of a fresh new reward—for the listener as well as the artist. Phillip Wilkerson’s Swiftly the Sun represents an artist taking that kind of chance. Looking to explore new modes of electronic expression, he says, “I simply cast my creative True Self adrift to produce whatever came of its own making.” We, along with Wilkerson, now get to enjoy the rewards of his risk. Swiftly the Sun doesn’t seem to go too far afield of the artist’s general motif. He has always been one for soft pads and slow melodies packed with emotion, and that plays out here. But there are moments of experimentation, some subtle and some not, that will take long-time Wilkerson fans (such as myself) into interesting new concepts. Jumping straight to the front of that line is the standout track “Calm.” The title is a lie, by the way—this song has kinetic energy to spare, doled out in chunky doses of spiraling, dervish-like synth lines. Whether this is Wilkerson playing his trills straight and then manipulating them or it is him fiddling with the knobs to spin and twist these lines, it’s absolutely captivating. It works its way up into a feel almost like a jazz combo where the rhythm section lays down a steady, unchanging melodic base while the synth lead just goes gorgeously off into an inspired jam. I could plug this one into my head all day and be happy. It hits me spot-freaking-on. Maybe it’s because I love an old-school sound, but it’s also probably because it just works. “Vanishing” plays with chime tones that ring out over a quiet base. It’s a familiar juxtaposition, and here, between the lush drones and the repetitive nature of the chimes, it has a light hypnotic effect. There are plenty of quiet spots here as well, and Wilkerson nails them, as usual. The opener, “And Lilacs Too,” offers a piano melody that walks past misty pads. It is patient and emotionally descriptive. “Ways of Forgetting” is 25 minutes of pure ambient immersion. Long pads mingle like clouds and nothing is raised much above a confident whisper. Like meditating? Here’s your soundtrack. It’s full-on calming, slows the breath, and sets time aside. It’s not one of the out-of-character track here, but it’s a track that reinforces why I enjoy this guy’s music so much. The release closes with “Beyond the Farthest Horizon,” another slow-motion drift with a faint touch of melancholy. It has a certain spacemusic mentality to it, but feels more grounded, more like a captured quiet moment stretched out for us to examine in our good time.
Swiftly the Sun may seem more like a set of experiments to Wilkerson than it does to me. From this listener’s perspective, it’s yet another collection of music to listen to over and over. It has all the heart I expect from him, and adds in some fun and slightly unexpected shots of energy and vigor. An excellent addition to an already impressive catalog.
Available from Bandcamp.