- The ambient artist delivers some of his most immersive work yet.
- Even when he was knee-deep in the '00s nu-disco scene, something about Jonny Nash's music always seemed different. It unfurled more slowly than usual. The synth washes were allowed to fully dilate, letting in a bit more space to sparkle between the beats. So when he emerged with his own label, Melody As Truth, in 2014, his pivot towards pure ambience was an obvious next step. Nash's third album, Make A Wilderness on Music From Memory, might be his most immersive ambient work to date. Just as his Eden LP was inspired by time spent in Bali, Make A Wilderness draws from the landscapes found in the works of Shūsaku Endō, J.G. Ballard and Cormac McCarthy. How the music aligns with those writings might never be clear, but again Nash's music moves at gentle speeds: deep breaths, cactus blooms, snails amid the morning dew.
For those who came to Nash's music thanks to his role in Gaussian Curve (where his sensibility found cosmic alignment with Gigi Masin and Young Marco), the unhurried, long-decaying piano chords of "Shell" will instantly feel warm and familiar. But whereas Gaussian Curve always sought the beatific, Nash isn't afraid to let in shades of doubt and darkness. The scraped prayer bowls that accompany that piano bring to mind that time just after sunset, when fading light is suddenly consumed by shadow. At crucial moments in the music, voices suddenly arise in the mix, adding an alluring new wrinkle to Nash's productions. They are wordless but evocative moments, such as when breaths arise amid the eerie metallic tones of "Flower" that add a flush of warmth. On the too-brief "Perfume Dream," that voice wafts over synth warbles, bowed strings and glockenspiel, suggesting that Nash could easily explore minimalism.
As it is, Make A Wilderness contains Nash's most breathtaking pieces to date. "Trees Bearing Fruit" uses bowed strings, buzzing keys and harmonizing voices to make one of the most ineffable moments in his catalog. While most of Nash's work shows that ambient music can be emotionally effective at pop song durations, "Language Collapsed" spans nearly ten minutes, one of his longest compositions yet. Nash adds glockenspiel to achingly slow swells of guitar, carefully shifting toward something light and radiant. It's not a big statement, but it shows in a single piece his gift for suspending time.
03. Perfume Dream
05. Trees Bearing Fruit
07. Language Collapsed