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Robin B. James
October 10/23/20, 2020
With their acclaimed ambient electronic music project Time Being, spacemusic maestros Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik have been exploring the expansive sonic realms of atmospheric soundscapes for the better part of a decade, becoming favorites on ambient, sleep, and study Spotify playlists. On their third album, An Ocean Of Time, the duo venture into over 70 minutes of deep-drifting, time-melting, soul-stirring bliss that hovers delicately at the fringes of darkness and light. The album releases today on Spotted Peccary Music in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats.

See inside the album and sample the music in this unboxing video: https://youtu.be/beLliEy6J3c.

The vast and immersive ambient soundworlds that unfold throughout An Ocean Of Time foster an introspective, deeply-serene state of mind well-suited for yoga and meditation. The album’s fathomless spaces evoke a sense of ageless infinity. The sublime combination of synthesizers, electronics, spatial effects, and subtle swarms of orchestral wonder coalesce into a boundless auditory expanse where time is forgotten. Hints of cello and violin drift upon an open sea of textural ambience, as occasionally pulsing electronics or melodic illusions come into focus, hold us in suspense, and gradually dissolving back into the void.

With soundscapes as expansive as the mind will allow, Time Being musically ponder this question in an attempt to touch a perfect heart of awareness, presence, infinity, and the essence of being. The music invokes the question, “Are we in the cosmos or is the cosmos in us?”

The sound of Time Being sometimes portrays forms in fog that offers suggestions without always simply resolving. To further illuminate what I hear on the album, I have reached out to both musicians to discuss their process and to bring their electronic art into a more crisp context. What you will read here are many short ideas that resemble a stream, flowing past bits of quartz and gold, containing bountiful plant life and an amazing range of small living creatures; life is raging all around, and every moment is magical, forming an interplay of the eternal, unchanging consciousness and the temporary, material world.

The conversation begins with the topic of making music.

Robin James: How would you describe your methods for inventing your sounds?

Phillip Wilkerson: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the creative process and discovered that creativity is more of an opening to the experience rather than trying so hard to capture the experience. Opening to the creative process sets vibrations in motion that are expressed as sounds or words. Capturing the vibrations (recording sounds) is just a mechanical set up--a recorder, a pen, etc. Getting stuck in the mechanicals is easy to do and sometimes, even results in new forms of creativity. So balancing both aspects is necessary, but for me, the mechanics are always secondary.

Jourdan Laik: Layers. You cannot sit down and create an intricate soundscape in one fell swoop no more than you can create a flower with just carbon.

Robin: How did your parents prepare you for your journey? What do you remember about discovering music? How does that allow you to create now?

Jourdan: I couldn’t have been more than 8. I was with my parents at a record shop. My mom asked me which I would like; she held out a few cassettes for me to choose. I picked one that was all black - I thought it looked cool. It was Mozart. We listened to it all the way back home. Once home I listened to it till bedtime. It wasn’t my first time hearing classical music. Maybe it was because the tape was mine but this was likely the first time I actually listened to music. I liked picking out all the instruments and following them up, down, in and out. I would even wave my hands around to the beat pretending I was a conductor.

Phillip: Most recently, I’ve discovered that the music primarily creates itself and the mechanics take care of themselves. Music channels through me and gets recorded. I don’t always “make it happen” It often happens spontaneously and without intent. Again, it’s setting up creative opportunities and then letting whatever happens next happen.

Jourdan: I want to make music and sounds that take people to a different place. Each composition means something to me personally - but I’m not interested in forcing you there. I want you to go where the music takes you. So as long as the music allows you to disconnect from where you are now, and go to a different place, then I have achieved my task as a composer.

Phillip: My task as a composer is primarily to create music that listeners enjoy returning to again and again--not necessarily on repeat, but over a number of years, revisiting like an old friend. To create ambient music that is evergreen and timeless. I wouldn’t call composing a task, but rather an opportunity.

Robin: What is music?

Phillip: Music is setting vibrations in motion in the form of sound. Sound is primordial and is a two-way manifestation that we can all participate in--as sound creators and sound listeners--neither is merely passive.

Jourdan: Everything is vibrating. The frequency of these vibrations define the different things we see. Humans love to experience beautiful things. When the vibrations are just right - they please us. Music is vibration organized into patterns and harmonies. But so is a flower. You can see a flower. But you can only really appreciate it when you look closer. Understanding everything about even one flower requires more than just a glance. Listening is the aural version of visual exploration.

Robin: (to Phillip) What is listening?

Phillip: Listening is Awareness, being aware of what is happening in the imminent moment. We can listen with our whole body to what is happening all around us and within us as a field of our immediate presence--locally, globally, and as a universal presence. And maybe simply because there is no definitive answer, it becomes apparent, if you ponder long enough, that life calls upon each of us, individually, to create a reality for ourselves and to take responsibility for creating an existence, within our sphere of influence, that is meaningful and beautiful. I think that might be what ‘waking up’ is really all about--taking personal responsibility for making our brief, fragile lives as beautiful and meaningful as we can.

Jourdan: Our reality is now. Dreams are a part of that reality because we experience them. If we were to “wake up” to something else, the same questions would persist. There’s a lot of conjecture and speculation about what’s out, up, outside of here. I think that’s a result of people wanting to escape the many unfortunate realities that befall us in the now. The best way to be more awake is to love.

Robin: What would you tell a youngster about getting ideas for composing and about the process of creating music?

Phillip: Don’t follow anyone’s rules or try to imitate other artists. Discover your own processes and let the music make itself.

Jourdan: Learn everything you can about music. Train your ears. Learn the rules so you know what to break and when. Learn the piano. You will wish you had these skills only a few years from now; and it won’t be long before you realize that you should’ve started earlier.

Phillip: Life calls upon each of us, individually, to create a reality for ourselves and to take responsibility for creating an existence, within our sphere of influence, that is meaningful and beautiful. I think that might be what ‘waking up’ is really all about--taking personal responsibility for making our brief, fragile lives as beautiful and meaningful as we can. Meditation is just a way to access and open our inherent powers of Awareness into spontaneous Being and Presence.

Robin: Are you able to bring music back from your nocturnal dreams?

Jourdan: I can lucid dream and have full control over making music. I seem to have the ability to create almost anything I want. I can’t seem to bring anything back with me though. When I wake, it’s all gone - only the memory that I could do it remains.

Phillip: Dreams are just another form (vibration) of Awareness. I would not make a distinction as to “where” music comes from. Recorded music is just an incident in Awareness that was captured.

Jourdan: We can be surrounded by a lot of info all the time. You can soon feel like all things are known. Where we’re from and where we’re going. The fact is that we know so little. There’s so much to discover.

Phillip: Life isn’t a passive process. It’s a creative opportunity. In many ways, I feel like I do live my dream, without being in an actual dream. My life is good. Which is not to say that I don’t have challenges. I just let whatever happens next happen and meet it with a welcoming attitude to see what unfolds.

Robin: The music of Time Being allows listeners to consider many impossible things. When listening I find myself exploring strange new oceans and vast alien summits. What are the most beautiful places you have ever experienced music in?

Jourdan: We don’t have any noteworthy mountains or seas in Wisconsin. But in the early summer, when it’s warm and the corn is still short - there are places where the vista goes on and on. With not a sound in the air - it is as tranquil as can be; you can float.

Phillip: I live in the land of magnificent sunrises and sunsets, Florida, with vast skies and magnificent clouds. We don’t have mountainscapes in Florida, we have sunscapes and cloudscapes. I’m being inspired constantly, just looking out my window.

Jourdan: Sometimes I want to be in a dark huge forest. Other times, someplace warm. I’d love a chance to photograph the upper midwest, Oregon etc.

Robin: What would you like to share about yoga and meditation, and your personal methods for experiencing a good life?

Jourdan: If you have a hard time with the kind of meditation where you’re alone with your thoughts, try meditation with music. Listen to it and try to visualize where your brain takes you. Don’t try to think about what the artist wants you to see - just let it happen. I have found that this is an incredibly easy way to quiet the mind.

Robin: Time is "what a clock reads" or a certain number of repetitions of one or another standard cyclical event, the motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, the pulse of the surf on the shore, or the beat of a heart. What if our clocks were to Stop?

Jourdan: We’d need to change the batteries in our clocks.

Phillip: In a sense, the clocks can stop if you move your Awareness outside the paradigm of time and deeper into Awareness. Again, this is pretty close to a definition of meditation.

Robin: What would you like explorers of the ever expanding universe of music to know about An Ocean of Time?

Jourdan: Just to listen and go where it may lead.

Phillip: The artwork for An Ocean of Time reflects the expansive, boundless, spaciousness that the music opens up for the listener. It also hints at that balance / interplay between dark / light and time / being. I don’t necessarily equate the word “ocean” with the actual body of water we call the ocean, but more like the “face of the deep” primordial ocean or void (although I really don’t prefer that word if we can “avoid” it).

“An Ocean” is a play on “A Notion” as in the first and last title tracks. Time and Being first and last in titles to tracks 1 and 8. Time “seems” to Be endless (a notion). And Being (in the truest sense) is Timelessness. So we are Beings, experiencing “being” (awareness), in the infinite oceanic void of perceived Time, yet we’re always in this moment, in the now, where living and experiencing life really takes place. Sure, we have memories and expectations. They are just part of the play. All the titles of the tracks reflect these basic questions and themes: Awareness, presence, infinity, the essence of Being, timelessness--it’s all ultimately illusory, yet it is also fully and imminently experienced by our senses and our Presence in the eternal Now.

Robin: Your new album is a moving mirage of strings and particles touched and reverberating, patterns form in the haze, this one might be called substance and that one might be called serendipity, life understood as life is lived. Thank you for all of your fantastic work and for sharing your perspectives on the creative way of life!

Now let us turn to the music itself.

A global ocean has existed in one form or another on Earth for eons, and the notion dates back to classical antiquity in the form of Oceanus. In the first track, the title track, "An Ocean of Time" (7:09) I hear a subtle sigh of surf under a night sky, gentle tones, with no repeating melody, from a fantastic ethereal piano, with a slight hint of strings shimmering for brief moments. Various objects pass through the stars never lingering. The sound portrays forms in fog that offer suggestions without resolving. Darkness within darkness, nearly revealing fragments of gradually emerging details in a wide open skyscape, "Drifting Form, Ineffable Void" (5:47). There are significant differences between the way things are perceived to exist and the way things really exist, the "now" and the "not now" are part of the music.

A bridge crosses the Styx at Limbo. "Here. Now. Always." (6:51) considers the ever expanding present, depicted by colorful vapors and small thin clouds of desire. Form, and formlessness, the "present" is a relative concept different for observers in relative motion. The music invites us to muse in our beds about dreaming and multiple consciousnesses, death, collective memory, and the simultaneity of the constant presence of the "dreamer."

When living consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Life is raging all around, and every moment is magical. Time as an illusion, a mirage of strings touched and reverberating, patterns form in the haze. "Infinite Cadence" (10:35) suggests that there could be a correct understanding of the relation of the self to the external world, but offers no actual proof. No matter, I just like the way it sounds.

The next track speaks of liminal experiences, radical subjectivity, and the great moment, only to wake into another dream. "Unfolding Way" (3:56) to me sounds like a series of sheets that are made of night. The sound has a flowing, surreal, dreamlike quality, neither affirming or denying what "is" or "is not."

Human reason has boundaries, when we sometimes experience existential dread, anxiety, or anguish, the moment gets stuck and stands still, and to seek expectantly the possibility of the good is to hope, perfection guides us from inside. Following this principle allows us to live in peace with nature and to find tranquillity. "A Perfect Heart" (9:44) brings a sound of motion deep within huge clouds. Later the sun comes out and is sparkling brightly.

A centaur is an example of poetic fiction, an illusion from antiquity, or perhaps a relic of someone’s dream. Humans are thus sometimes compelled to find or create meaning, authenticity is evidenced in acting, one should act as oneself and try to realize that in the most lucid dreams we are in control. "Momentary Illusions" (11:21) brings us deeper ever more, floating between the bottom of the ocean and the shimmering surface of the water. Does a dream offer clues for a deeper interpretation of waking reality?

The idea of lucid dreaming, of knowing that you're dreaming and thus being able to exert some control over your dreams, suggests that the only things that exist are thoughts and ideas. In the closing track, "A Notion of Being" (15:30), the sound asks me, can there be a desert canyon under water? This is what the wind might sound like there. Time Being allows listeners to consider many impossible things.

Time travel is the concept of moving backwards or forwards to different points in time, and some people might be traveling at different speeds, while agreeing on cause and effect, and measure different time separations between events. The past lies behind, fixed and immutable, while the future lies ahead and is not necessarily fixed. Music such as this investigates being as being, often to find no real equivalent of our concept of existence. Again the essential questions, perhaps the only questions that matter, are: Does it sound pleasing? Will you play it again?

1 An Ocean of Time
2 Drifting Form, Ineffable Void
3 Here. Now. Always.
4 Infinite Cadence
5 Unfolding Way
6 A Perfect Heart
7 Momentary Illusions
8 A Notion of Being

An Ocean Of Time was mastered by Ben Cox, and is available for physical purchase in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. The CD version of the album arrives in a factory sealed 6-panel gatefold package that includes vibrant artwork, liner notes, a 4-page booklet, and exquisite package design by Daniel Pipitone, with an original photo by Matthew Cooper.

Time Being will be featured in the coming weeks on Spotted Peccary Music's popular Spotify "Impulse: Artist Curated" playlist, and on the label's YouTube live stream series: Transmissions; subscribe for updates at the links below.

About Time Being:
Time Being is the collaborative project of Jourdan Laik and Phillip Wilkerson. Both Jourdan and Phillip are interested in expressing and capturing photographic and/or artistic images that relate to time, eternity, and capturing the presence of the current moment, that is, freezing a moment of time in an artistic expression. Their collaborative music is an attempt to capture the presence of the moment using audio and sound capture. (timebeingmusic.com)

About Spotted Peccary Music:
Portland-based Spotted Peccary Music is North America’s finest independent record label with a focus on deep, vast and introspective soundscapes. For over three decades, the artists of Spotted Peccary have been on a mission to develop, produce, publish and release ultra-high-quality, deep-listening experiences that engage the listener and exceed expectations. Every release is carefully prepared in a variety of high quality formats from MP3 to high-res studio masters. Explore more than 170 titles and 45 artists at SpottedPeccary.com and AmbientElectronic.com.

Links:
Spotted Peccary Album page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/an-ocean-of-time/
Youtube Transmissions: https://youtu.be/kxuu089d-48
Time Being Artist page: https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/time-being/
MeWe: https://mewe.com/p/spottedpeccarymusic
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timebeingmusic
Bandcamp: https://ambientelectronic.bandcamp.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spottedpeccary/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/spottedpeccary

 

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