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.