Trance Mission — Head Light
(City of Tribes COTCD11, 1996, CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 1997-02-01
Trance Mission is not your standard exotic world beat group. What I mean is that they don't just incorporate a compelling mix of exotic instruments: they exploit them. A short personnel breakdown points to relative clues: Stephen Kent (purported band leader) is an avowed Australian didgeridoo master who uses cello-sintir (filling the role of bass guitar). Using either of these tools, he is firmly centered at the the foundation for the aboriginal, outback rhythms which drive each of the eight pieces. Prime soloist Beth Custer is the melodic counterpoint for most of the tracks. Her clarinet adds a jazz swing era element as well as some whimsy to help lighten up the swirling gloom (e.g. on "In Frog Pajamas"). John Loose yields a handy dexterity to a set of log drums, tabla, and dumbeks. He is position-mixed close to Kent as the other percussive timber that pushes the low end of the tempo. Kenneth Newby is the unique instrumentalist for the group. By playing a combination of eastern wind pipes (P'iri) and 'Digital Atmospheres,' his role is one of textures and backdrop. From these individual components a base rhythmic element becomes obvious as the major impetus of the songs (rather than your traditional melodic center as in most Western music). By simply wading through the band resume, Mr. Joe Average may believe you've listened to outtake from a National Geographic documentary, but the rest of us can gather round the ceremonial campfire and revel in a moody global warming.
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