Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire
Max Corbacho’s Moontribe is a heady collection of ethno-cyber-ambient rhythmic soundscapes that makes my blood race even while its darker elements cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up!
Hauntingly beautiful yet also shadowy and foreboding, the propulsive combination of ethnic beats with fractal and skitch rhythms on the opening “Suntribe” are buoyed by flowing washes of synthesizers. Obviously, comparisons can be made to either tribal or groove-oriented Roach recordings, but one could just as easily compare parts of this to psychetropic’s china radio sunshine. However, this is neither imitative nor derivative. The echoed booming effects that open “Out of Nothing” yield to kinetic fractal beats wedded to sensual primal rhythms (faint rainstick and rattle sounds surface now and then) along with a slurping sense of viscosity later in the track.
On the song “Distant Dwellings” the pulsing rhythms are unique, as least to my ears, consisting of bassy pulses and metallic skritches, which when mixed with ethereal high-pitched synths and low dronish chorales results in an imaginative propulsive trip across an alien landscape, teeming with a cybernetic lifestream coursing underneath you as you glide overhead. By the song’s end, though, the rhythms are gone, replaced by nocturnal sound effects and a flowing series of drones and washes. “Unknown Radiance” is a relatively rhythmless song, consisting of echoed animalistic sounds, heard as if from within a cave, along with deep slow washes of EM/spacemusic analog keyboards. “Across the Spectrum” returns the album to frenetic fractal/skitch beats as these are folded in slowly over the patient spacemusic textures. The beats eventually become pronounced and even oppressive (purposely), intermixed by what sounds like exhalations from an exhausted runner. The album concludes with the opus-length (nearly twenty minutes) title song, a slow excursion into dark soundscapes, a la Robert Rich from A Troubled Resting Place, although with a heavy dose of primal rhythms at its start, courtesy of more processed percussion on stone, stick, and hand drums. Percussion is deeply echoed and panned, so this song (if not the whole CD) would benefit from being played in a quiet dark room on a superb sound system. Most of this last track contains drifting mixtures of tones, drones, sounds, and alien effects in a miasma that both comforts the listener (somehow, Corbacho has instilled a sense of warmth in the music) and also creates a vague feeling of uneasiness. It all winds down slowly (maybe too slowly, as your patience may start to wear thin, although to the artist’s credit, he keeps things interesting even as the assorted elements evaporate one by one).
I’m sure people who have digested all of Steve Roach’s, vidnaObmana’s, and Robert Rich’s recordings could hear more similarities than I did on Moontribe, but I found the CD to be more than individualistic enough to keep me interested and entertained. I especially liked the blend of different percussion, beats, and rhythms that Corbacho used throughout the recording. Engineering is excellent, as mentioned above. For my money, while not as compelling as Terra Ambient’s The Gate, this album certainly deserves a spot on the same shelf. If darkly tinted ethno-tribal ambient, with some deep cosmos spacemusic thrown in for good measure, is your thing, Moontribe should prove to be a good purchase.
WIND and WIRE