Immersed in mysterious ambience, and alive with compelling energy and powerful grooves, BEYOND CITY LIGHT offers the first taste of new music from Jon Jenkins since his landmark release, FLOW (a Billboard Magazine Critics Choice). Joined by a host of guests, including Erik Wøllo, David Helpling, and Greg Klamt, among others, Jenkins embarks on a sonic sojourn through sparkling city lights and beyond. Floating on deep rivers of textural ambience, piano tonalities, guitar textures, atmospheric loops, percussion, and ethereal vocalizations, journey through vast and scenic spaces, to a realm of deep sleep and dying embers.
Beyond City LightJon Jenkins
Amazon.com Editor's Top Ten Best of Year Pick
Jon Jenkins has many albums to his credit, including ‘Flow’ and ‘Continuum’ which I feel marks his success in the ambient market. He has worked with such notable names as David Helping, Paul Lackey and Jeff Pearce.
His style is self described as ‘Ambient – Electronic Esoterica’ and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes bordering on classical with an electronic touch, sometimes almost space music, sometimes a touch of jazz, Jon Jenkins has created a style within a style of music making his compositions unique in a genera that is typically identified as a ‘non-descript’ style of music.
This CD is not the usual ‘ambient’ production in that it is not meant to be soft and non-intrusive as much ambient is. This CD is meant to be turned up and listened to… this is a ‘feel the music’ CD that will leave you wanting more. Jon Jenkins takes ambient to new ground here with some very powerful compositions. There are ten tracks all deserving of serious consideration.
The first track ‘The Calling’ offers space synth and ethereal vocals that rises and fall to rise again in a progression piece. Filled with emotional stanzas, this piece could be considered an introduction to the balance of the work.
The first piece works into the second piece called ‘Zzyzx Road’. This is keyboard with synth backfill that provides a lovely composition, both strong and emotional. A very lovely melody is carried throughout the piece, making this a memorable track in a place where melody is not always memorable, but usually intentionally abstract. This is a very remarkable composition giving ambient music a definition.
‘Through City Light’ returns to the spacey electronica with a clearly identifiable beat and a hint of keyboard melody that tickles the mind as it sweeps you into the mood. More of a ‘jazzy’ feeling emerges but never dominates, giving this again a very unique feel. Another powerful and emotion filled composition.
At this point the pace changes. ‘Secrets of the Virgin’ is a softer composition that drifts in and out of stronger changeovers. We are introduced to an almost romantic composition that seduces you into a calmer place within yourself and explodes into ‘sexy’ vocalizations emphasized by a clearly defined, often orgasmic beat against a keyboard composition that sweeps you off your feet. It will lull you into that calm place and back into the ecstatic beat several times over the course of the composition before allowing you to finally rest.
‘Legacy’ allows us to travel with the music as it lifts us up with keyboard chords suggesting melody, but it is the demanding beat that moves our feet. We stop momentarily to linger in a soft explosion of sound and emotion only to move on again with the beat to the next destination this composition takes us to before allowing you to come finally to rest.
‘Deep sleep and Dying Embers’ is another change of pace, providing a very calming composition, drifting in and out of the mind. Soft, very subtle and very delightful, allowing us a period of relaxation.
We then are called upon to enjoy an almost spiritual composition in ‘The Source’. Suggestions of flute, keyboard, ghostly vocals, powerful musical phrases and strong waves of sound build and wash over you as you allow this piece to move you to another level.
Then there are the delightful fields to wander in ‘Sky of Surrender’. Again, this suggests an almost classical feel to the composition, but never gives into it. We are allowed a feeling of vastness, a never ending horizon that this composition reaches out towards, but it never limits itself to one space. This is a composition that follows the phrasing of the music, not a beat, and is expertly executed allowing us to drift with the music rather than forcing us to follow.
‘Through Different Eyes’ gives us a short, powerful burst of energy with a delightful composition drifting in a strong emotional background. The melody is never lost, as the background seems to force the melody to the front of the piece. Drifting over all this is a lovely vocal accompaniment to the melody that harmonizes rather than distracts. Again, another composition that calls for our attention, rather than allowing itself to settle into the background.
The final track ‘Forever’ caps this CD with another composition that declares open space rather than limited boundaries. This piece is strong, bold and yet is not contained by a beat. The phrases reach out and grab our attention; keyboard blends with synth and vocals to demand we pay attention, and then carries us over the vastness of the composition. The ending of the journey comes with a feeling of timelessness and endless space.
The compositions never become dark or monotonous. There is a definite feeling of uplifting, of carrying you along with the music, so you do not encounter any blockages or distractions to the enjoyment of the compositions. This is a CD to be listened to and enjoyed, rather than pushed to the background as
Jon Jenkins weaves a patchwork of styles and compositions which are not only pleasing as a whole to the ear, but also calls our attention to each piece individually to truly appreciate the blending of styles and textures that create the entire CD. This is not ambient music for the background, but rather it demands we pay attention to the music and allow ourselves to be pulled into it to truly appreciate the works as well as the journey the artist is presenting to us. This is a lovely and masterful effort that should not be overlooked and should be part of your ambient collection. And if you have never heard Jon Jenkins’ work before, this is a great introduction to the talent of this artist.- MA Foster, Ambient Visions
When infinity is the core of your creative palette, some things just take time. Beyond City Light arrives seven years after keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jon Jenkins released Flow, his first solo recording and a sterling piece of mind-stretching, deep-space sound design. Beyond City Light travels a similar path, with some variation, as it gradually transports listeners deep into the sonic ether. Jenkins in places supplements his spacious, resonant, slowly unfurling soundscapes with textures from flutes, wordless female vocals, and more emphatic percussion. While generally a good move, it tends to make a few selections, notably the Tangerine Dream-inspired ‘Through City Light,’ a little busy. Beyond that quibble, Jenkins--an admirer of Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, and other progressive-leaning acts--crafts some splendid mental theater here, particularly the opening track and the concluding five selections, highlighted by the benevolent celestial sheen captured in ‘Sky of Surrender.’ For fans of electronic/ambient recordings who prefer the mostly atmospheric, occasionally rhythmic region of the progressive-music continuum, Jenkins is a composer worth noting.- Terry Wood, Amazon.com Editorial
Beyond City Light’s the second cd of Jon Jenkins, who already made a favourable impression in the early days of the Spotted Peccary label with his album ‘Flow’ and his collaborative album ‘Continuum’ with Paul Lackey.
The album opens with beautiful deep ambience by means of vast textural plains and ethereal vocals. For me, it is the best track on the album. Thereafter comes a varied pallet of slightly rhythmic and grooved sonic scenery in which guitar is also embedded.
Jon comments to ‘Zzyzx Road’, which is the second track on the album, and it really kicks off the sonic journey, introducing more groovy but still highly visual music. On some tracks, the sparkling influence of Erik Wollo is evident. He is one of the guest-musicians on the album.
This hour long, highly cinematic album offers something for every electronic music fan. It delves into deep atmospheres, but also visiting the ambience of the real world beyond us all.
This is a great sounding cd which deserves a high recommendation!
Jon Jenkins isn’t nearly so ambitious, which in his case is an attribute. Beyond City Light is a simply lovely piece of becalming ‘space’ music, space in this case inhabiting both cosmic and personal realms. Though Jenkins receives help from others on a gaggle of acoustic instruments (various guitars, deep metals), all of which add further shadings and gradations, his gift of drama, in fact his flair for the dramatic (not the melodramatic) lifts this recording beyond the venal trappings of something like Vangelis’ recent obese exercises in 21st-century pseudo-classicism. Austere, possessed of a regal beauty and strong infusion of, yes, melodicism, Jenkins’ work takes some of Patrick O’Hearn’s early sensibilities to hitherto extrasolar levels, thankfully absent of the romantic schmaltz that dogged many on the, say, old Narada stable. In fact, the nine minutes that is ‘Through City Light,’ with its softly purring sequencer patterns and ultraglide synths, compliments the diminishing sunlight of any given evening perfectly.- Darren Bergstein, e/i Magazine, installment 7
Beyond City Light is Jon Jenkins's third and latest offering from a decade long career in creating albums. I don't know what his previous albums are like, but I can tell you that this one is refined ambient/new age. It has evocative qualities in the sense of transporting the listener mentally to other places. All music here is composed by Jon, and he's accompanied by some well known musicians - a few like Erik Wollo and David Helpling are also from the Spotted Peccary label. The instrumentation is rich in texture, including synths, piano, guitars, several types of flute, cymbals, and a voice.
Essentially Beyond City Light is an amalgam of floating/drifting ambience coupled with percussive rhythms - the latter aspects are more than a little reminiscent of David Helpling's Sleeping on the Edge of the World. The percussion tends to convey a sense of journey while the drifting synth sounds and wordless vocals add atmosphere. This is exemplified on ‘Zzyzx Road’ where modest tempo maraca like percussion plays against gentle beats, and piano notes add a strong sense of direction. All the while lovely synth washes round off the edges, particularly when the piece gets more energetic and intense later on.
Though there is energy on some tracks the overall feel of the album is laid back. It's mainly a relaxing listen with plenty of creative soul to keep the listener interested all the way through. Some tracks eschew the percussion for a purer ambient approach. Consider the peaceful and slightly melancholic track ‘Sky of Surrender’; here shiny washes continually pass over as more resonant drones briefly intersect.
Though Jon has no new age intentions (healing or affecting brainwaves etc) with Beyond City Light it certainly has relaxation effects on the listener like a fair amount of new age music. It's a great album to play any time of day and gets a thumbs up from me.- Dene Bebbington, Melliflua
Since his 1995 collaboration with Paul Lackey (Continuum), Jon Jenkins has been exploring the transportive power of ambient music, influenced by 70's progressive bands like Yes, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. This album is a great example of that same cinematic style, though channeled through what current technology has to offer. Ten years ago, Jenkins music would have been labeled New Age though in my opinion there is far more substance to what this musician has to offer. The ten tracks cover the gamut from ethereal soundscapes (’The Calling’) to chill ambience with a techno edge (’Zzyzx Road’) to Berlin school electronica (’Through City Light’). As a keyboard player, Jenkins knows that fleshing out the arrangements requires outside help, so he's enlisted an all-star lineup of guest artists. This includes Erik Wøllo's guitar loops, David Helpling's guitar and percussion, and Greg Klamt's flutes, but also extending to Linda Sargent's ethereal vocals, Matthew Stewart's bass and Steven Schreier's ‘deep metals.’ Consequently each track features a rich and dynamic arrangement that goes beyond mere solo ambient noodling. As one might expect, there's a wide-screen cinematic aspect to the songs and they easily conjure up visions of vast open stretches of natural landscapes. I'd imagine this is great traveling music, or it might just be something nice to have on while reading. Besides those already on the Spotted Peccary mailing list, fans of folks like Patrick O'Hearn and Tangerine Dream owe it to themselves to check this one out.- Paul Hightower, Exposé Magazine
Jon Jenkins, an ambient musician who was last heard from in 1998 (Flow) has returned in an auspicious manner with the genre-blending Beyond City Light, a CD which is bound to be one of the best releases of 2005. Assisted by notable musicians such as Erik Wøllo (electric guitar), Howard Givens (acoustic and electric guitars), David Helpling (electric guitars, percussion, and programming), Greg Klamt (assorted flutes and ocarinas), Matthew Stewart (bass, snare and cymbals) and Steven Schreier (deep metals...?) and featuring the ethereal and haunting vocal talents of Linda Sargent, Jenkins himself contributes synths, piano, guitars, percussion, voice, and textures. Unlike the dramatic soaring EM of his debut recording with Paul Lackey (Continuum) or the darker ambient Flow, Beyond City Light is more of a variety of musical styles, e.g. the drifting beauty of the opening ‘The Calling’ (patient synth washes, Sargent's lovely wordless vocalizings, and cascading muted guitars) segues into the cruising selection ‘Zzyzx Road’ (sounding a lot like the best stuff from Patrick OHearn's Metaphor/Trust era), featuring heavily echoed sparse yet melodic piano against a backdrop of synths and gradually more propulsive rhythms on percussion and hand drums. This juxtaposition of the serene with the powerful permeates the CD, providing an enjoyable sensation of movement through an assortment of landscapes. For me, the album conjures up an image of driving through the desert southwest. Musical selections veer from a propulsive sense of urgency to drifting and floating soundscapes that descend on the listener like nightfall along old Route 66, where the only light is the soft glow from your car's dashboard.
The album holds ten tracks, varying in length from not quite four to almost ten minutes in duration. Within some tracks, mood and tempo shifts occur as the piece evolves, such as the nine-and-a-half minute ‘Through City Light’ which starts out quietly as synths create a soft pillowy cushion and are soon joined by a percolating beat/texture under the surface alongside delicate chiming tones and minimal piano. As quasi-Berlin EM elements are introduced, so too are more dramatic drums and the track begins its slow build up into an almost Bolero-ish orgasm of emotional release with percussion, keyboards, textures and guitars all coalescing in a mad rush before it's over. ‘Legacy’ is yet another song that builds from humble ambient beginnings and ends up somewhere between powerful progressive fusion and the more dynamic work from Spotted Peccary labelmate (and collaborator on this disc) David Helpling, before subsiding into an almost mystical quietness by track's end.
Later selections tend to emphasize the more floating/spacemusic aspect of Jenkins' music, such as the appropriately titled ‘Deep Sleep and Dying Embers’ which combines assorted synths washes, chorales, tones and what I think are muted processed guitar textures in one of several excellent ‘pure ambient’ tracks on the album. ‘Sky of Surrender’ is another one, but this time the music takes on more of a positive vibe, almost spiritual in essence, as delicate washes of synth strings caress the air underneath sparse harp-like notes. I also loved ‘Through Different Eyes’ which explores quasi-electronica territory at its outset, with ping-ponging synths bouncing alongside lush flowing keyboards. Later on, Sargent's vocal talents once again contribute mightily, lending an air of beauty to the music that is almost spine-chilling in its effect. Equally impressive is Jenkins' piano work later in the cut, which drapes the entire song in an evocation of reflection and pleasant somberness (if there is such a thing). The album concludes with ‘Forever’ a seven-plus minute excursion into electronic keyboard territory which plays as a hybrid of Vangelis at his more restrained and Michael Stearns at his most ethereal. It's a perfectly selected closing track for this excellent album, since it carries the hint of daylight breaking over the horizon as the song progresses, reintroducing the musical metaphor of the CD being a trip through the desert, from nightfall to dawn.
I had many email and phone conversations with Jon Jenkins over the years about ‘when is your next album coming out?’ Much the same thing also happened with me and Mark Pedersen (Geodesium) who also disappeared from the recorded music scene for years (but likewise was always busy with music nonetheless). As with Pedersen's CD Stellar Collections which came out in 2001, Beyond City Light has proven the adage ‘all good things come to he/she who waits.’ Jon Jenkins has emerged from his hiding place and reconfirmed the promise of his earlier two releases, if not even trumping their artistic vision. This is an album worthy of many playings as you absorb every nuance of subtlety and revel in all the moments of power and passion. Kudos are owed to the many guest artists who assisted Jenkins with the recording (most notably the captivating Linda Sargent). As stated earlier, this is almost assuredly one of the best recordings which will be released in 2005. In conclusion, all that remains to be written is ‘Welcome back, Jon. You were sorely missed.’- Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire