Bruce Kaphan: Slider

kap-s.jpg (19k) Bruce Kaphan: Slider
(Hearts of Space - 2000)

Hearts of Space heads into the heart of a more earthbound space... wide open space, you could say...

Bruce Kaphan's rather unique form of instrumentation twangs into previously unexplored territories as Slider manifests itself as "ambient excursions for pedal steel guitar". Rather more overtly "musical" than some of our listening choices in these parts, but definitely beautiful, transportive stuff.

Prettily ringing notes slur and, well... slide! through the long drifts of metallic-tinged Clouds; distinctly countrified overtones merge with more freeform explorations as musical meanderings happen in the form of flexible golden rays. Like its name implies, country and eastern (heh heh) stirs up disparate styles with steely strands twining between pattering ethnobeats... like oil mixing with water, the sounds swirl around each other in entrancing patterns. Playing it straight, High Desert blends sweeping chords into resonant highs and lows, while lanky leads tumble across the gently rolling terrain.

Slightly darker moods hover in the gleaming beams which glimmer and twist through big brain small brain. Wavering distortion and rhythmic ripplings lead into Back to the light; ethnic drums are beaten and eastern-ish flairs are coaxed from Kaplan's guitar, as are sinuous western-style curlicues. Very cool! Just a hint of faded carnivalia remains in the skewed, slurred-out passages of sideways carousel, backed by lazy bassnotes.

A grumbling drone extends to the outpost (8:20), where, like mists rising from a valley floor, shimmering strings upwardly waft in this most amorphous track. Gravity-defying notes slowly twirl to the skies in their arc of flight over lower tonal progressions. I don't know who the "big cheese" is, but homage (pour la grande fromage) (3:11) is a tribute of multilayered streams gently wavering over faint drums and bubbling bass.

For those who like a hearty dose of western seasoning (as well as a pinch of eastern), Bruce Kaphan's 11 tracks will fill almost-an-hour with luxuriously rambling tunefulness. I'm throwing in a few extra percentage points for the sheer freshness of Slider's unique metallic flavors, entrancing elasticity and craftsmanship. An 8.8 for expressive wanderings through high lonesome territories and beyond.

Visit Hearts of Space for further enlightenment.

This review posted May 31, 2001

AmbiEntrance © 2001-1997 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).