Jonathan Wilson: Fanfare
The cult of Jonathan Wilson has many followers. It began in the summer of 2011, when Wilson, a Carolina native with a Californian soul, released his debut album. Gentle Spirit’s hypnotic, slow-motion, hazy, folky pop seemed to come on the breeze from the halycon days of Laurel Canyon pop and rock scensters in the late 1960s. A work of immensely detailed songs and vibes, Gentle Spirit transported you onto the hills overlooking LA to observe the city and daydream of what could be.
There’s a much different spirit powering Fanfare. Just as the likes of Joni Mitchell & co eventually left the sanctuary of the Canyon for other locales, Wilson has also moved on form the music he’s hearing in his head. Sure, there are plenty of pastel traces and shades, but Wilson has added muscle and tone to the songs. And like his namesake Dennis Wilson, or Pink Floyd at their most wigged out (both fairly clear influences on the album’s majestic trajectory), Wilson has now headed for the wide open plains of the big sky.
It’s fascinating to hear how he forged these songs into tumultuous, multilayered affairs, neatly tuned between the folk and psychedelia channels, as on Dear Friend. Of course, as those who binged on Gentle Spirit know all too well, Wilson specialises in mini-epics, songs that stretch out and take their time to reach a cruising altitude.
In Wilson’s hands, songs are subject to many different inflections. New Mexico and Desert Trip are his cowboy symphonies, songs full of the dust and the heat of latenight encounters in the desert, soundtracked with Ry Cooder-like stealth.
Love to Love has a splash of Gentle Spirit’s DNA in its make-up as it ups the ante and produces a radio-friendly hit all the way from 1974. Illumination, meanwhile, is a cracker, full of beautifully honed soundscapes and Crazy Horse-like pyrotechnics that spins higher and higher.
Wilson’s California dreams have gotten a whole lot more interesting.
Download: Love to Love, Illumination, New Mexico