Album Review: Rob Johnson – Throw The Sun Into The Sea

Mark Butler delivers his verdict on the second album from acclaimed musician Rob Johnson, out on April 16th.

It seems somewhat odd that instrumental music is still considered a niche preserve within the modern music landscape. Whether it’s post-rock bands like Mogwai, film composers like Hans Zimmer, or veteran greats such as Brian Eno and Mike Oldfield, the potential for vocal-free music to strike a chord with a wide and eager audience is really not in doubt.

London musician Rob Johnson is one such artist eschewing the way of the voice in favour of instrumentation alone. His debut album Upon A Painted Ocean was hailed as “a modern tubular bells” upon its release in 2009, and now the independent composer has returned with a follow-up that more than cements his clear promise.

Throw The Sun Into The Sea predominantly consists of exuberant instrumental rock with a flavour of the American West, but there are also bursts of introspective post-rock and moody electronic soundscapes along the way.

Johnson has a knack for finding a warm, catchy, rhythmically-pleasing acoustic-guitar hook, and then running with it in enjoyable fashion. When these pleasent foundations are built upon with uplifting shifts in tone and emphasis, the results are sometimes phenomenal.

Hurricane is a highlight, its beautiful, rippling acoustic guitar finding its way into a sumptuous blend of layered, ambient soft-rock. Similarly satisfying is closer The Be All And The End All, where a deceptively ‘sunny-afternoon’ vibe of reggae-infused guitar gives way to a thrilling rock-out chorus full of energy and passion. Anchors Hold On To Hope strikes perhaps the finest note of all, its delightfully soothing folk  unexpectedly segueing into an absolutely wondrous post-rock explosion.

Elsewhere, attempts at fusing different styles and approaches produce mixed results. Into The Sea is a real gem with something of the Flaming Lips about it, blending quirky, outlandish synth with funky bass-line and guitars.

However, the bursts of synth on opener The Wasp And The Flame feel decidedly out of place amongst the warm Americana, and other slightly unwelcome intrusions can be jarring at times. Monsters, for example, is armed with a delicious backbone of dark, grungy, and almost Gary Numan-esque industrial electro, but though the additional trickles of haunting piano and optimistic guitar actually work, the introduction of  noticeably low-rent keyboard-strings somewhat kills it.

It’s also arguable that certain strong ideas are occasionally left hanging. The compelling spacey synths of Throw The Sun could have made for a truly epic track rather than a short-lived interlude, while the intriguing opening murmur of The Beginning Of The End promises something darker and more outlandish than the sweet slice of post-rock it ultimately delivers.

That said, this is a generally strong and enjoyable album, and whether it’s mustering moments to kick-back to – as on the magnificently relaxing and laid-back The Real – or building from mellow acoustic moments to fist-pumping crescendos, Throw The Sun Into The Sea has much to recommend it.

Short films have been made to accompany each of the ten compositions – and it’s clear that much of this album has the flavour of an evocative movie soundtrack. It would certainly make for a fitting accompaniment to a good road-movie: complete with dusty highways, eye-widening vistas, and a well-judged balance between thoughtful contemplation and gripping drama.


FMV Rating: ***1/2


Throw The Sun Into The Sea is available physically, digitally and as a ‘pay what you want’ download from from April 16th.

One Response to “Album Review: Rob Johnson – Throw The Sun Into The Sea”
  1. Tremendous! this is just what I love to listen to as Im on my way to a Finnish fry up. A sensation.

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