Chuck Johnson

Sun Glories

Image of Chuck Johnson - Sun Glories
Record Label
Western Vinyl

About this item

On his new album Sun Glories, Oakland-based musician, composer, and producer Chuck Johnson explores themes of time, memory, and illusion through his unique blend of pedal steel, synths, organs, strings, and drums. Opening track "Teleos" explores the linear and cyclical qualities of time itself through episodic sections and motifs, which evoke the bittersweet relief and nostalgia that flood the senses with the arrival of the first warm and sunny day after a long, dark, and rainy stretch of winter. According to Johnson, the piece "took a surprising turn when I started adding guitar textures that recall the music I played and listened to when I was much younger." Evocative fields of guitars and pedal steel conspire to spark an intoxicating palimpsest of memories, before being ushered forward by an improvisatory and propulsive drum performance from Ryan Jewell.

The guitar-based "Sylvanshine" captures a moment between improvisation and nascent composition, elevated by a radiant glissandi performance by electro-acoustic saxophonist Cole Pulice. "This track is an appreciative nod to Rachika Nayar, whose recent works have re-opened the electric guitar for me and inspired me to play that instrument again after a hiatus of several years," explains Johnson.

On "Ground Wave" Johnson revisits the composition technique of weaving a small string ensemble into clouds of pedal steel, similar to his approach on "Red Branch Bell' from his 2021 LP The Cinder Grove. "When the pedal steel solo comes in at about 3:30, I wanted to make it feel like the ground suddenly disappearing from under the listener’s feet." To achieve his vision for this piece, Johnson work with cellist Clarice Jensen (who Johnson has worked with on film scores and in live performances), and violinist Emily Packard (who Johnson knew from his time at Mills College), both of whom layered multiple parts to create a virtual chamber ensemble.

The album concludes with "Broken Spectre," a play on a term describing a ghostly optical illusion caused by sunlight bending over a mountain covered in mist or clouds. Once again Johnson's gorgeous pedal steel melodies build into a hypnotic swirl, which develops an epic sense of grandeur with the addition of Ryan Jewell's anthemic drumming. As the mist clears and the sun breaks through, this final track leaves the listener with a feeling of hope and resolution.


Superior Mirage
Ground Wave
Broken Spectre

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