To attempt to put words upon Variation I, Jesse Woolston‘s latest release, and as I often do, I will introduce my words with the following quote:
Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if its good or bad. Whether they love it or hate it, while they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol 
With Variation I Jesse invites us into his private lounge to share this release with us. As he describes it, Variation I is a range of material that he wouldn’t release as an album, but that were built with a sense of experimentation, imperfection and mood.

From my point of view, I was often surprised by how different the approach I take to Jesse’s music is depending on whether it is paired to a visual aspect or not. A few of his compositions are, in my opinion, indivisible from this visual aspect.
To describe what I am saying, the most prominent example when relating to this release is the title Among the living. To be honest, when listening to Variation I, I didn’t recognize the track. However a few days earlier, I appreciated greatly the 3D build of Pluto he presented on his Facebook page. A 3D build of Pluto he made using still black and white images from Nasa’s 360‘s satellite. After stitching the textures together, he applied them to a sphere and then focused on the overall composition and camera movements. As we already know, Jesse is also a visual artist, who through his AV work proposes to us a realistic view of pluto , full of motion and supported by the title Among the living.


Just as for the track Leaves of grass, these titles take there entire sense when paired to the visual accompaniment.



Therefore, there are several ways to approach Jesse’s work.

Some of the artist’s mood’s are also presented on this release. Perhaps mood’s of experimentation. As on Piano form I from his Ustructure previousely album, piano form II  offers a spicy variation of that track with percussive elements sustained by an experimental bass. “A re-purposing and re-representation” of sounds and instruments, as he describes it. A very nice formulation by Jesse to express a deconstruction followed by a reconstruction of sounds and instruments.

Continuing with the word „mood“, the track that attracts my attention more specifically on this release, and the one that is my favorite, is the very minimalist track what once was. An unexpected, yet very successful mood work. Unexpected, because it doesn’t reflect what Jesse has offered us more recently. However, I recognize the minimalist traits and tastes of the artist in this title. A track partly created using recorded tapes for the male voices and the violin and which bodes well for the personal and experimental side that the artist wishes to develop on this release.

And so, following on from the words „mood of experimentations“ I cannot resist to share a sentence from an exchange with a friend a few days ago:

„all artists should be at the entry level. You never get there, or if you do, you should go off piste to discover the new snow“ – David Leigh Morley

This sentence accurately explains the intentions Jesse has with this release. The meeting and Entering the prism are both off piste skiing titles from Variation I. The intentions of the artist are to create as much depth as possible with the material. The experimentation on sections of this release are about layering sounds together to create an entirely new timbre and tone compared to what one would expect from organic instruments.

With Entering the Prism, the entire sound in the beginning is made up of muted horns and brass with a low frequency sound that moves around within the frequency spectrum. The chaotic way these two are stacked produces this abstract, yet tonally interesting piece. Just like for the young scientists who create a rainbow by means of sending light through a glass prism, the modeling, the morphing and the re-composition of sounds is something that fascinates the artist.

Some of the artist’s influences can clearly be found on this release. In particular, the sequence starting at 2 minutes 20 in The meeting.

A very experimental sequence that reminds me of one of the scenes in the film Annihilation with the soundtrack composed by Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow

Jóhann Jóhannsson is also one of the great artists that encompass Jesse’s influences. I certainly sense a link between What once was and the composers specific sequence from the film Arrival.