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Steve Tibbetts: Natural Causes

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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.

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