Places in Arizona
Mr. Soon wants to be your travel agent.
There is only one destination that he is offering, but
his knowledge of the area is expansive. Places in
Arizona takes you across the desert landscape with
13 stops on this tour, each one an evocation of sand,
sun and saguaro cacti. Mr. Soon's prior work with Native
American Grammy Award winning artists Verdell Primeaux
and Johnny Mike is the influence here, transforming
the emotional and celebratory nature of the traditional
peyote chants into sky-bending atmospherics and ambient
drones. The final step is the addition of beats -- dub
echoes, drum & bass pops, native polyrhythms --
to the mixes. The landscapes are empty of human habitation,
the swirl of weather across the stone and sand the only
movement you will witness, but there is a vibrancy of
human history which percolates just below the surface.
People once lived in harmony with the natural world
in these places.
I can't find "Highway 2" on my map of
Arizona, but I can tell you that it spans the desert
between two towns overrun with tumbleweeds. Crisp tones
transport me to the hard floor of a dried lake bed.
Distant drums pulse beneath my skin, my own heartbeat
is the loudest sound for miles. The desert is dry enough
that the highway is in good shape, just covered with
sand in places. You can still drive Highway 2 and, taking
that road at dawn as Mr. Soon recommends, is a rhythmic
adventure across emptiness. The beats are the sound
of your wheels against the ridged roadway, your lungs
and heart providing counterpoint. Your thoughts become
living ghosts, streaming behind your vehicle, a 12-mile
trail of white streamers.
The nine-minute "Second Mesa" takes
us to the heart of sacred Hopi territory, climbing the
red rock to pierce the sky. The sound of cicadas pursues
us until we reach the pinnacle of the sky and can hear
the movement of the stars overhead. The memory of tribal
drums echoes under our feet, the natural rhythms of
the earth reverberating through time. Over at "Low Mountain,"
the sun is creasing the horizon, spreading a tiny breeze
across the dunes and ridges of rock. The wildlife is
stirring and you can almost see the wildflowers reaching
towards the warmth of the sunlight. A gentle guitar
melody follows the sun as it spills over the horizon.
The weighty "Echo Canyon" fills out
the second half of the disc with its looped vocals,
Native American flute, and historical echoes. There
are box canyons in Arizona, cramped channels cut deep
in the rock where history gets lost. These canyons become
pockets of lost time, filled with ghostly voices, wisps
of space noise filtered down through the ionosphere,
ambient drones rattling back and forth between pillars
of rock, and the subterranean rumble of tectonic movement.
We need documents like this for every
region of the world, recordings which translate space
into sound, turning vistas and landscapes into symphonic
explorations of ambient music and rhythm. Places
in Arizona captures the heat coming off the rock
in the deserts of the American Southwest as well as
recording the history which has passed over these stones.
Mr. Soon has done a remarkable job and Places in
Arizona is the closest you can get to the Arizona
desert without having to worry about sunstroke or ornery