R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton & Will Clipman’s Southwestern Ambiences
You can hear an audio version of this review with music from Dancing into Silence.
R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton and Will Clipman have made some of the most moving and provocative music of the last 20 years. Their 1995 album Feather, Stone & Light is on my all-time top ten list for Echoes. This ensemble makes a music that defies easy categories, that seems deep in tradition, yet free from the limits of tradition.
A member of the Navajo and Ute tribes, Nakai took the Native American flute off the reservation and out of the hands of traditionalists when he released his album Canyon Trilogy in 1989. He added electronic effects to his flute and then took it global, playing with orchestras and pianists, Japanese world fusion groups and electronica artists. Regardless of the setting, it all sounds like R. Carlos Nakai.
The trio heard on his latest album, Dancing Into Silence, is where Nakai seems to do his best work. He’s been recording with William Eaton for over 20 years. Eaton builds and plays hybrid stringed instruments that resemble ancient artifacts from the planet Pandora in Avatar. He’s the orchestrator and atmospheric controller on the album, weaving synth textures, ringing harp strings and twangy guitar riffs like a space troubadour. The third member is Will Clipman whose percussion rig includes Taos drums based on Native American designs, hang drums, African djembes, Irish bodhrans and anything else that will rattle or bang.
They’ve recorded several albums together, but Dancing Into Silence takes them into a terrain of pure intuitive improvisation. Although the concept was to leave preconceived songs off the album, these three artists have so much melody pouring out of them and are so attuned to each other after years of playing together, that every track sounds like a through-composed work. Nakai dips his flutes in and out of the mix, at times floating free, at others pulling the ensemble behind him in an epic theme. His vocable chants are calls from the edge of consciousness.
Through deft segues between tracks, Dancing Into Silence morphs from ethereal ballets to throbbing percussion trances. The aerated performances seem to hover above the ground like a desert mirage, but behind that mirage are three musicians in communion, bathed in a world of reverb, united by the rhythm of the earth. The album’s title speaks to both the joyful attunement one can hear in the making of this album, and the attainment of a quieter, more serene space after listening.
Dancing Into Silence by R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton and Will Clipman is the Echoes CD of the Month for February. I’ll be featuring it extensively on Mondays Echoes 2/1/2010 and Saturday and Sunday’s shows 2/6&7/2010.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))