The world is full of contrast and opposites –– at least insofar as to how humanity views different forces and perceptions that color daily life. One such vast, complicated, and often talked pair of components that have shaped humanity across the eons, is that of spirituality/religion and science and technology. Caught in a middle space of importance that at times pits the two sectors against one another and at others, recognizes their intertwined advancements over time, it’s fascinating to witness moments when people not only allow but encourage their coexistence. San Francisco based guitarist, composer, and producer Christopher Willits doesn’t shy away from the complexities that arise from exploring the human condition through music. Furthermore, Willits finds inspiration through the crafting of works that embrace the versatility and possibility of not just electronic music but digital technology as a whole. Following the release of his last album Sunset, (Ghostly International, 2019), Willits turns to another facet of human reflection with Gravity (Ghostly International, 2022).
An avid traveler and one who embraces opportunities to experience new perspectives, Willits has prioritized the human mind, the human spirit, and an appreciation for awareness of oneself against the world’s greater landscapes and the landscapes of greater human consciousness. At the same time, Willits explores these open ended pursuits using the array of imaginative powers granted by electronic instrumentation and an ongoing inclusion of the ever-evolving technologies that influence how humans hear, perceive, and experience sound. The union of these passions make for a shining example in how the metaphysical and the technological can enhance rather than inhibit one another.
While Sunset was released in 2019, the pull of inspiration for Gravity was already underway during a trip Willits took to Gifu, Japan. For his former album, Willits honed in on a specific point in time –– the final 15 minutes before the sun sets –– and provided a way for listeners to both concentrate and learn to mentally let go, during a recurring window of time in the day. The structured nature of the album’s premise might seem to conflict with the idea of giving oneself freedom to reflect and meditate but, this is where Willits excels. His crafting of music that incorporates concentrated listening doesn’t serve to constrain mental freedom but merely provides a point of focus, giving Willits’s works a sense of purposeful intention and identity, as well as allows the music to resist the pitfalls of promotional cycle turnover.
Gravity exudes a devotion to focus, concentrated listening, and an intention of being in the moment, similar to that of Sunset. However, unlike its predecessor, Willits’s latest work casts a wider field of musical vision than its dusk oriented counterpart –– fitting given Willts’s constant travels and his interest in incorporating the experiences found during them, into his music. Described by Willits as “music that soothes and facilitates a state of relaxation and clarity” with long, nebulous, delicate, intertwined synthesizer tones in tow, the mission of Gravity draws on a desire for such a state in the face of personal family trials and the observation of the world at large in its contending with logistical and emotional instability. There is an abundance of serene and abstract sound that can be traced along a wide swath of technological pathways to reveal how each calming tone came to be. Willits is a virtuoso of sonic fusion who bears an exceptional ear for tonal harmony both in the compositional sense and of what best guides a listeners toward a desired mood or outcome. While the music itself feels very minimal in its movements, there is much activity beneath the surface. Willits recognizes and utilizes the power of every element of songwriting without a bit wasteful application. It’s not just a matter of turning to instruments or vocalizations with gentle sounds. Willits shows his adeptness with organizing the coexistence of changing timbres, dynamics, tempos, playing styles, intonation, and rhythmic timing, in order to leave listeners with what from a distance, sounds like a waterfall of seamlessly balanced musical interactions.
In the face of so much thoughtful dexterity around his compositions, one would be hard presses not to want to know the secrets behind each of Gravity’s fanciful tracks. Yet, much like contemplating the need to explain the mysteries and miracles that grow out of of spiritual reflection, human wellness, and recognition of higher powers, is it necessary or even in the best interests of the music itself, to remark on every possible nuance of the technology that created the atmosphere Gravity provides? Certainly, it’s a marvel to see how Willits joins the natural sounds gathered in field recordings with those which are meticulously recorded and shaped via shrewd production and mutual digital alteration. But as tempting as it might be to give priority to the machinations that Willits turns to for his ambient art, it may be wisest to briefly acknowledge the presence thereof and his skill therein and to leave things as is from there. After all, to go beyond such a point may very well mean starting down a path that interrupts the pursuit of personal, organic peace in favor a busy, analytical vantage point, thereby turning about face from the direction Willits spires for Gravity to take its listeners. This is where the overlap of the spiritual and the scientific can be deemed marvelous with ease, without discounting the tangible tools that bring Willits soundscapes to life.
Keep connected with Christopher Willits through his official website and these social media outlets: