Julien Wilson – Meditations (Lionshare Records)

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Julien Wilson is a Melbourne based saxophonist. He has released over twenty albums as leader or co-leader and plays regularly with a wide range of groups. Most recently he has contributed to Barney McAll’s Precious energy, though over the years he has recorded and performed with the likes of Charlie Haden, Hermeto Pascoal, Hugh Masekala, Bob Moses, George Garzone, Bernie McGann, Vince Jones, James Carter, Nigel Kennedy, Phil Treloar, David Tolley, Brian Wilson, Thirsty Merc and The Artie Shaw Orchestra.

Meditations is a solo saxophone album, which sees him improvising over layers of delayed and reverbed saxophone. The results are quite freeform and adventurous, with Wilson utilising space and playing with time and modulations in reverb, delay and decay. Structurally most of the pieces feel loose and in the moment, as he gently responds to his treated sounds, building the music piecemeal. It’s quite fascinating to consider that he more than likely had no idea where he would end up. As result development tends to come from the different array techniques he uses, his breath, or changes in volume or density. It’s easy to call this music cinematic or indeed meditative as it is very atmospheric – offering plenty space for the listener to contribute their own thoughts and preconceptions.

Though there’s also something in this exploratory act itself. It feels tangible, imbued in what we’re experiencing: An openness to the moment. A journey with no destination in mind. An restless need for exploration in tandem with a confidence that the journey will have value and meaning.

The lack of additional instrumentation provides a certain clarity and purity of vision. It does feel like the work of one musician in a room following the music where it wants to go. It’s the audio artefact of Wilson’s inner journey.

It was recorded during Melbourne’s lockdown’s in real time – including the fx. It’s pretty difficult to put words around this work, or it’s sister album released at the same time, Mutations, which employed similar strategies. Both albums are prime examples of Wilson employing what would normally be seen as a limitation of not being able to collaborate with others, yet rather than limiting possibilities this constraint has resulted in a removal of the net, a removal of genres and known structures. Meditations is the warm and joyous sound of Wilson embracing the kind of freedom you can only achieve alone, and opening up to a universe brimming with endless possibilities.

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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

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