Steve Tibbetts: Northern Song (ECM 1218)

1218 X

Steve Tibbetts
Northern Song

Steve Tibbetts guitars, kalimba, tape loops
Marc Anderson congas, bongos, percussion
Recorded October 26-28, 1981, at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With Nothern Song, Steve Tibbetts made his ECM debut and introduced listeners to what remains one of the label’s most enchanting, if slowly unfolding, maps. The cover seems to tell us everything: silhouettes of islands superimposed on the journey that takes us to them, as if the dream of arrival were potent enough to burn itself across the rearview mirror of our lives. Tibbetts leaves a trail of quiet footprints easily obscured by “The Big Wind,” yet whose direction is not so easily forgotten. With circumpolar affinity and a sensitivity that is for all intents historical, Tibbetts traces the borders of our lives in “Form.” His shimmering guitar finds spirit in Marc Anderson’s verdant whispers. “Walking” continues in very much the same vein, only this time with a more pronounced wash of 12-string steel that eventually lifts us into an “Aerial View.” And because so much of the Northern Song experience is above ground, we are able to slip more intensely into the meditations of “Nine Doors / Breathing Space,” throughout which strings creak like an old house, if not an old body.

Tibbetts lavishes his instruments with respect, strumming them as he might harps of glacial light. In them we hear diaries, voices, and ideas that need never completed to say everything they need to say. And every delicate application of Anderson’s percussion carries us deeper into the overgrowth before we emerge, forever changed, in the dwindling sunlight. This album is an ocean, and we the birds who range its waters.

<< Ulrich Lask: Lask (ECM 1217)
>> David Darling: Cycles (ECM 1219)

One thought on “Steve Tibbetts: Northern Song (ECM 1218)

  1. This is another in a run of classic releases. Having great familiarity with Steve Tibbetts through his wonderful Frammis recording (Yr, which I had long before it was reissued on ECM), I was shocked by the space, silences and gentleness of this album. Yet it is one of the Tibbetts albums that I listen to the most. The clarity of playing, the relative simplicity of textures, makes it an easier listen than Safe Journey, though that album holds my favorite Tibbetts creation – Test.

    I believe that Steve Tibbetts is one of the greatest relatively unknown guitar players….and am so happy that I was introduced to his music by my graduate school friend, Jeff.

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