Working within and around the form of minimal electronics, the four tracks on The Wave Ahead are a form of ambulatory ambient. With gentle synthesized sounds and repeating melodic patterns, there’s obvious movement in the music – more progressive (in the momentum sense) than cyclical. The EP is more a series of journeys than an atmosphere.
Overall, the sound is a sleek electronic production, with Johnson combining glassily smooth tones with rippling passages of notes. Everything here is still on the warm side, and there’s been no need to throw a more analog spoke-in-the-wheels gnarled filter over anything.
Johnson’s creation of space and of a place ‘outside of’ the record carries throughout the record. The clock drip digital tones in “Transience” reverberate off into a distant universe, the echoes rolling in a pool of sound swallowing liquid. “The Wave Ahead of the Wave” has sound skittering through the headphones like light photography and electrical arc imagery.
With flutterby bleeps, gorgeous digital swells, and future transmissions, “Orbit” stays on the side of dawn till it nears its conclusion. As it ends, a shadow of darker sounds appears like a shadow of a moon threatens to swallow light. That darker, colder water is explored further on the digital-only closer “Vigil.” The waters might be smooth, but the sense is that the world is only going to get older and darker.
There’s an implication in the title of Jo Johnson’s latest release that relies on the listener’s perspective; are you living in apprehension about what’s been sensed on the horizon, or are you ready to roll with it? This concept is present and clear within the instrumental abstraction and is captured best on “The Possible In The Impossible,” the moodiest and longest piece here. The low end carries the emotion and melody, and the sense of expectation is masterfully made genuinely palpable.