Steve Brand "The Great Hoop" CDr
"The Great Hoop" album is one of the latest recordings by acclaimed US ambient journeyer Steve Brand. Released on one of his usual labels, Relaxed Machinery, in mid-June, 2013. Just like one of his older works, "Cahokia", also "The Great Hoop" is inspired by the magical power of Cahokia Mounds, the site of an ancient Native American city, where advanced, sophisticated and influential culture was built, centuries before Columbus reached the shores of America. Abandoned more than a century before Europeans arrived in North America, today, Cahokia Mounds is the largest archaeological site in North America, north of Central Mexico and one of only 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within United States.
Firstly, I am impressed by the cover image of small terra cotta figure as well as by inside panoramic photo featuring words of Black Elk, of the Oglala Sioux. His writings, as stated by Steve Brand, inspired some of the track titles. The opener, 16-plus minutes long "Great Plains", grabs quickly my attention with its minimal texture, but enormously expressive with the use ancient tools such as flute, rattles, shakers, guarded by distant, soothingly waving washes and occasional spirited whisperings by Jill Brand, Steve's wife. Very sparse, but strongly embracing, with gorgeous interactions between contemplative primordial ambience and majestically permeating stillness. This composition is magnificently displayed by the insert's inside panoramas. Slightly longer "Hoop Of The Earth" is again sparsely sculpted, but slightly more frightening as chorus of howling coyotes (contributed by Shane Morris) breaks the dark night. Then the fore is invaded by rising and falling drone reverberations along with emerging field recordings of rain. Small flute cacophony joins the stage with assorted, peculiarly unsettling rumbles, some heavy drum beat infusions and other sounds of archetypal instruments. Quite minimal, yet richly transmuting sonic travel into deeper shamanistic realms. Expansive soulful flute wizardry leads "Medicine Bag Ghosts" surrounded by morning frog calls after a rainy night. Deeply humming drones sneak in later with trance-inducing tribal rhythms delivered by guest Paul Casper aka Frore and hallucinogenic voice magics. Massively immersing and intensively transcendental alchemy creating a powerful tribute to Native American spirituality. Large dose of ultimate sonic medicine is served here, a true masterpiece!!! "Mountain Pass" unfolds with graceful bass flute murmur spreading across the valley, intervened by cavernous twinkles with some uncanny faunal sounds swirling above. Deeply panoramic drone warmly rises and expands in gorgeous harmony with acoustic musings and mysterious ethnographics. Another virtuoso performance, bravo!!! "Suspension Vision" remains in stunningly flavored terrains, amalgamating evocative ethnic instruments, distinctive whistling traceries, placid natural sounds and gradually evolving, climaxing and dissolving, spectacularly imposing drone walls. This is a truly grandiose conclusion of "The Great Hoop"!!!
CDr edition with slim jewel case packaging doesn't justify the content of this album, but this is the same old story mentioned in my previous reviews of Steve Brand's recordings. But one thing is clear, "The Great Hoop" is absolutely breathtaking journey to the frontier of primordial shamanistic electroacoustic soundmagic. The best work of Steve Brand to date and one of the finest albums of 2013 so far!!! Deep respect, Maestro!!!
Richard Gürtler (Sep 18, 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia)