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[ mr. soon - places in arizona ]
Mr. Soon
Places in Arizona
Psychosomatic Records

Mr. Soon

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 Gila monsters.

[ 11.18.2002 ]
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