Jesse Woolston finds power in the abstract through ‘Variations Vol 1’
The right use of textures, dynamics, and arrangement can make even the most abstract music have cohesion and meaning. Such is the case with Variations Vol 1, which sees the blossoming talent Jesse Woolston hitting his stride and releasing one of his more ambitious pieces of art to date.
Many might label Variations Vol 1 as “challenging.” The music’s lack of clear structure and minimal aesthetic is difficult to grasp at first listen, and it forces deep contemplation in its listeners. It’s within these long spaces and sparse notes, however, that Woolston somehow manages to find more freedom. Each piece takes awhile to materialize and disappears as subtly as it came into existence, making the EP’s transitions easy on the ears. This in turn opens the door to endless ways of interpreting the sounds as they pass through the eardrums. Yet, the abstraction in Variations Vol 1 also works quite effectively when paired with stunning visuals made specifically to fit the accompanying work’s mood — case in point, “Leaves Of Grass” with its pristine nature bacdrop.
Woolston drives emotion mainly from the distinctive instrumentation he uses for each piece. Going back to “Leaves Of Grass,” for example, a powerful burst of woodwinds truly sounds like wind blowing through a grassy meadow. “The Meeting” conveys a bone-chilling, almost sorrowful scene with its dissonant chords and creaky synth notes. “Entering The Prism” creates a multicolored effect in the ears with clever editing and sound design, while “What Once Was” also carries a darkened motif with its post apocalyptic sound effects that take the listener to a deserted no-man’s land.
In fact, it’s safe to say that the different roads Variations Vol 1 travels sonically almost make the EP feel like a compilation of movie score snippets. The record’s compositions each have an impact on their audiences, in their own distinguished ways. Though Woolston has advised that this material isn’t what he’d release in an album, its brilliant display of craftsmanship and careful editing make it stand out on its own.