Stevetibbets_span3
October 2010

Steve Tibbetts
Natural Causes
ECM Records

As music to get lost in, this Steve Tibbetts album is state of the art. Featuring only Tibbetts on guitar, piano, kalimba and bouzouki and Marc Anderson on percussion—including a range of gongs—this is a decidedly Eastern disc, as though it were sourced from a temple ceremony in Indonesia.

There are individual tracks here, but only in the loosest sense; you might think of the album as being almost fluvial in structure—that is, a continuous whole, more or less, with barely individualized cuts as feeder tributaries. In that category we have a track like “Attahasa,” so delicate an acoustic guitar study that the music feels physically breakable, as if too frantic a fretboard attack might smash the piece into silence.

For music so intrinsically organic, it’s a wonder there’s so much multi-tracking going on. The tracks are piled high on Anderson’s “Gulezian,” but the manner in which Tibbetts’ litany of 12-string guitars blend together is no more an issue of clutter than some extra gossamer threads on a spider’s web. And as quiet as this album is—it’s barely ever louder than a pulse, with some guitar whispers atop it—Anderson’s percussion work borders on the virtuosic in its ability to transfigure textures and suggest new directions. This is the sound of music contemplating itself.

Originally published in October 2010
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