A Struggle Not A Thought

by Chuck Johnson

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Ruben van den Belt
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Ruben van den Belt Pure coincedence I stumbled upon his music. So glad I did. It is really hard for me to name a favorite track on this album. Beauty comes in a variety of ways on this record. You can tell Johson is a very skilled musician, the way he is moving you as a listener with both subtle and sudden changes in tone and tempo. Favorite track: The Flying Spire Don't Have No Mercy.
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Chuck Johnson is a composer and musician currently residing in Oakland, CA, whose musical acumen and resume is as diverse as it is impressive. He was a member of Spatula, Idyll Swords, and Shark Quest - influential bands in the Chapel Hill independent music scene of the 1990's and early 2000's, and his early influences of North Carolina Piedmont blues and the "American Primitive" approach are widely evident , especially through his contributions to Idyll Swords (Communion/Three Lobed) and Shark Quest (Merge Records). He has composed music for several feature-length documentaries, including Brett Ingram's award-winning films Monster Road and Rocaterrania (as a member of Shark Quest) and Cynthia Hill's Guestworker. In addition to his work as a guitarist, Johnson performs electronic music using homemade and analog instruments, creates interactive and intermedia work with unusual interfaces, and works extensively with just intonation tuning systems - all with an ear towards finding faults and instabilities that might reveal latent beauty. To top it off, he holds an MFA in electronic music from Mills College. For all of these achievements, however, an album comprised strictly of his solo acoustic guitar music has eluded him, although hints have abounded through various compilation albums, the most recent snapshot surfacing last year via the lauded Beyond Berkeley Guitar compilation (Tompkins Square). Long in the making, A Struggle Not a Thought is Johnson's full length debut, an album brimming with sparkling fingerstyle compositions that are just as forward-thinking and jaw-dropping as any revered documents by the steel-string compositional masters, both past and present.

What is truly striking about A Struggle Not a Thought is Chuck Johnson's ability to distill rich vistas and vivid panoramas into succinct compositions - akin to Glenn Jones or Steffen Basho-Junghans at their most concise and lyrical moments. From the initial strumming of chiming steel-string found on opener "Last Moments at Chittor", Johnson evokes an atmosphere of true intimacy, drawing the listener in with his masterful technique and serenading them with chiming currents of steel string beauty. "The Flying Spire Don't Have No Mercy" is a propulsive 12-string cascade spilling into melodic, undulating sound pools, while "The Stars Rose Behind Us" is like a perfect melding of Jack Rose leather and Glenn Jones lace.

Tremendously expressive, A Struggle Not a Thought shows us that a modern steel-string powerhouse has been lurking behind the scenes for many moons now. Here's to inaugurating Chuck Johnson into the pantheon of acoustic guitar players where he quite rightfully belongs.

*Chuck Johnson is a former member of indie bands Spatula and Shark Quest (both Merge Records) and Idyll Swords (Communion, Three Lobed).
* Performed with Pauline Oliveros, Peter Kowald, Eugene Chadbourne, Frank Gratkowsi, James Fei
* Appearances at Siren Fest, BENT 2004, Transmissions Festival, Signal+Noise, the Festival of New American Music, and the San Francisco International Film Festival.
* RIYL: Glenn Jones, Robbie Basho, Jack Rose, John Fahey, Sean Smith, Peter Lang, William Tyler.


released November 8, 2011

Mastered by Harris Newman/Grey Market Mastering.



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Strange Attractors Audio House Portland, Oregon

Strange Attractors Audio House is a micro-indie record label from Portland, OR. Splintered from its' long-running radio program antecedent "Strange Attractors" on KAOS Olympia 89.3 FM Community Radio, Strange Attractors Audio House is inspired by and strives to document challenging yet sincere "out" music loosely in the realms of steel string guitar, psych rock/folk, fire jazz, post-rock and more. ... more

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