Steve Tibbetts: The Fall Of Us All (ECM 1527)

Steve Tibbetts
The Fall Of Us All

Steve Tibbetts guitars, percussion, discs
Marc Anderson congas, steel drum, percussion
Marcus Wise tabla
Jim Anton bass
Eric Anderson bass
Mike Olson synthesizer
Claudia Schmidt voice
Rhea Valentine voice
Recorded 1990-1993, St. Paul and Boudhanath
Engineer: Steve Tibbetts
Produced by Steve Tibbetts

The Fall Of Us All was my rite of passage into the Book of Tibbetts. The breadth of “Dzogchen Punks” never fails to bring me back to that first precious experience, buried in the solitude of my room under mounds of headphone-induced absorption. Those polyrhythmic drums snatch the hapless listener up in a fiery kiss of technique and experience, one that bears tender fruit in a ribboned middle passage before bleeding itself dry into renewed life. Even in the absence of those percussive footsteps, one always feels them hovering below the skin like a survival instinct. Every flip of the page reveals a new and enthralling illustration. From the steel-wound tassels of “Full Moon Dogs” to the vocal filigree of “Nyemma,” Tibbetts and his intuitive band members arch their backs like cheetahs across a savannah of fire, each the karmic acrobat of a different dream. Surrounded by such ecstatic unrest, we can only “Roam And Spy” until we board a “Hellbound Train” for an arachnid ride that screeches, wheels grinding, into a brimstone station with all the pop of a balloon at a pin’s tip. Cooler temperatures do give us some reprieve, reaching something close to enlightenment in “Drinking Lesson,” a 12-string solo that hangs itself to dry on the psychological fishhooks of “Burnt Offering.” From solemn reflection to full-on walkabout, these coals reignite in “Travel Alone,” becoming one with mindful synths and boundless articulation—a chakra that hits close to home every time.

An organic beat, arid movement, a spiny electric, and a gust of wind nipping at our heels: these are the essential ingredients of Fall. Immaculately engineered and produced by Tibbetts himself, its sound keeps a foot inside and outside this circle of flesh we call the body, sweeping aside mountains with every circular breath. His craftsmanship draws from, even as it defines, the music. We may be aware of individual granules, but in the end we can only cower in the grand ancestral shadow that awakens before us the moment we press PLAY.

Because this was for years my only Tibbetts album, it is the one I cannot do without. But don’t let that stop you from turning every knob he has set for your inner adventurer to discover.

<< Louis Sclavis/Dominique Pifarély: Acoustic Quartet (ECM 1526)
>> John Surman: A Biography Of The Rev. Absalom Dawe (ECM 1528)

4 thoughts on “Steve Tibbetts: The Fall Of Us All (ECM 1527)

  1. Amazing, brilliant musician, isn’t he! I was lucky enough to be exposed to ST way back in grad school – the pre-ECM version of Yr (wore out my vinyl version), as well as his first (most obscure) release…then the delight of noting he was signed to ECM. Northern Song (which we still play often on slow Sunday mornings) – but then my personal favorite, Safe Journey…Exploded View…Big Map Idea – then this! That first track, the way he can strangle the notes from his axe – I always wonder how many amp speakers he blows through in a recording session. Steve Tibbetts should be listed in Roget’s as typifying “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition”…but somehow I suspect he enjoys his relative anonymity….freeing him up to make his wonderful music without being pulled in other directions.

    1. I second every word! I, too, think he enjoys speaking from the place that he does. How he manages such verbosity without tripping over himself, not to mention his musical allies, is beyond me.

  2. I came to Tibbetts with Yr, so for me, this was a massive return to form – Dzogchen Punks dates from the Yr time, sonically as well as thematically. Great stuff!

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