Monday, 14 November 2016

Steve Tibbetts - Safe Journey (1984)

This album came up in conversation under my last 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

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for introducing this to me today - it hit the spot, perfectly soundtracking the return of the sun after a particularily gloomy patch. What's a favourite Zoviet France release?

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    1. I'd say Monomische, from the handful that I've heard - actually just earlier this year I started properly listening to ZF, from someone else's blog. Unfortunately ZF downloads never last long anywhere, with the artists (or someone representing) being particularly adept at tracking down blogposts of their work...

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  2. Very interesting album. Thanks for taking the touble to post.

    One person I've been listening to a lot recently and who, based on the posts here, you may like is the guitarist Oren Ambarchi. Almost beyond classification but albums like 'Grapes from the Estate' or 'Intermission' - there are many, and most are great - are well worth seeking out.

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    1. many thanks, I'll follow up on that tip!

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  3. Great job Alan! "Offramp" was my first ECM album at 15 years old. Then "Northern Song". This I picked up when released in 1984 (I think). Long time favorite!! Love "Vision". The WHOLE thing is great! U gotta hear "Northern Song" too (if u haven't already). So good! Cheers!

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  4. Thank you. Thank you. Can't get enough of Steve Tibbetts. Amazing stuff. Love this blog.

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  5. I have this disc but my CD player died a few years ago and now my new MacBook has no disc player at all so I am very grateful for this posting. Looking forward to hearing it again. Many thanks.

    -Brian

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  6. My intro to Tibbetts bought in 1985 on the strength of the label and an interview/article in a magazine ('Electronics & Music Maker'?) No previews of the sound, no airplay (no 'Late Junction', 'Freak Zone' or 'Mixing It' back then - just laying down money on spec as was the case for a long long time. A very very sound investment as it turned out, this one. A special word for the closing track, 'Going Somewhere', still for me the measure of the vivid, gloriously-mysterious narrative that 'electroacoustic' music is capable of (I cant believe he realised this piece in his own little 8-track studio)

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  7. just found your blog, thanks for all the music.

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