ECM post, so with thanks to Chico, I've dug it out for the first time in ages. Guitarist and souncscaper Steve Tibbetts, a Wisconsin native who works out of of St Paul Minnesota, first appeared on ECM in the early 80s and has retained a rare degree of autonomy on the label. He records and produces his own records in the US, rather than in the Eicher stable, giving his unique sound an even more distinctive edge.
Safe Journey, the name taken from the Ghana-Burkina Faso border crossing on the cover image, was Tibbetts' second album for ECM and fourth overall. The sonic landscape establishes itself right from the start of opener Test - imagine Ry Cooder filtered through a Jon Hassell Fourth-World lens; Tibbetts is all about texture and atmosphere, notwithstanding the cranked-up blowouts that follow later in Test. His sound is also heavily percussive, and four of the tracks here are co-composed with his long-term collaborator Marc Anderson, who dominates second track Climbing.
From there on in, the highlights are many - standouts for me are the echo-laden acoustic guitars on Running, and the most melodic percussion on the album on Any Minute. The latter has a bit of a Steve Reich feel, and is underpinned with sheets of rumbling guitar, with a cavernous, low-frequency pulse in the percussive bedrock that makes me think of Aphex Twin circa Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Something else that this album as whole brings to mind, in the tribal, insistent percussion, looped instruments and'sometimes dark ambient atmospheres is Zoviet France, of all things. Definitely a couple of reference points that I never thought an ECM record would evoke!
Bye Bye Safe Journey