Enter a land of sun-parched earth and spiny unforgiving brush – a land that manifests otherworldly visions haunted by the ancient peoples and creatures of the past. MOHAVE is the harsh but awe-inspiring mojave desert of the Southwest as revealed through the French-born composer Bertrand Nadel in his debut release. Thundering native drums conjure primordial forces while acoustic guitars, wooden flutes, piano, rattles, and shakers play out the drama of life in the Southwest. Featuring special guest Steve Gorn on wooden flutes.
Mohave draws you into its mesmerizing sound-world with a gentle insistence. A warm meditation on the spirit of Native Americans, it features a wonderful blending of acoustic and synthesized sounds, reminiscent of Friedmann's great ‘Indian Summer’ album from some years back.
The first track, ‘Madame Pele and Uncle George,’ has Nadel setting the hypnotic tone with a repeated guitar pattern under Steve Gorn's bamboo flute. Anyone familiar with Gorn from his many jazz and world-music projects knows what to expect from him, and he delivers here in abundance. Nadel also is a superb synthesist, as evidenced by the rich chords that open ‘The Trace,’ and the wonderful evocation of cellos on ‘For Strength And Vision, Part 1.’ There's also tasteful, sparing use of the pianos of Aysegul Underhill, Christiane Dascher, and Dirk Homann.
Often, projects like this can suffer from mawkish overstatement, as if the only way to express power and majesty is to go for the Grand Gesture. Sometimes, the best way to give voice to the ineffable is to let the small details speak for themselves.
Performed by an ensemble of sympathetic musicians who sound totally in sync with Nadel's vision, Mohave barely raises itself above a whisper, but quietly stunning, and powerfully moving. Don't miss this one.- Larry Nai, Progression Magazine (issue 29)
Perhaps a bit out of the established character for Spotted Peccary, this release by French composer Bertrand Nadel is based more on guitar, flute, and other acoustic based instrumentation than the synths, electronics and sampling that this label is best known for. Nadel handles the guitar, synth and some of the percussion himself, and is joined by Howard Givens, Jon Jenkins, Deborah Martin, Steve Gorn, and the rest of the Spotted Peccary regulars on everything from additional synths, a variety of flutes, piano, percussion, and even Apache narration. The compositions and arrangements herein take on a number of forms, but generally pursue a lighter, acoustic-based and less symphonic direction than most SPM releases, some tracks even carrying some celtic and world overtones. Certain cuts, like ‘Santa Ana’ contain thematic links to other tracks which reappear and evolve later in the program, while others, like ‘Hoodoos’ tend to be very introspective, essentially a solo piano piece. The eleven pieces herein tend to be instantly likable; one might be reminded - at least in spirit if not execution, of some of the mid-80's Lanz & Speer albums, or some of the projects Teja Bell has had a hand in (Rising Sun comes to mind). As with all SPM releases, ‘Mohave’ is impeccably produced, with utmost care given to every sonic detail. Overall, an excellent release and a nice change of pace for Spotted Peccary.- Peter Thelan, Exposé Magazine (issue 16)
Mohave is a deep hybrid of gentle new age instrumentals, electronic atmospheres, and Native American acoustics. It is Bertrand Nadel's contribution to the Spotted Peccary quest for new Native American music. This is a family affair, as are most SPM discs. Howard Givens, Deborah Martin, and Jon Jenkins are guest performers. (They are also SPM performers and partners.) This soundscape is rich and powerful. The sound design gives equal access to all of Nadel's elements. That gives the project a contemporary feel with echoes of the influences. It is all done well. There are no major flaws. It is a good disc and it is unique in many ways. It is similar, in emotional response, to the music of Kitaro and Steven Halpern.- Jim Brenholts, AllMusic.com
As mysteriously beautiful as the desert itself, the musicians on this album conjure visions of fiery heat , dry earth; the night-calls of unidentified creatures; the ghosts of the indigenous people; and the response of spirit to the one who calls it forth with gentle winds (via lightly touched piano keys). This shamanic blend of Native American, European, Asian, and modern electronic instruments yields a soundscape that is evocative of the southwestern desert where all structures are temporary compared to the terrain itself. The distinctive sound of Steve Gorn's breathwork on the bansuri bamboo flute offers a marvelous, magical texture to the whole mix.- Dan Liss, New Age Voice
This is the most radical departure from Spotted Peccary since their first recording, ‘Russian River Serenade,’ owing to the strong presence of acoustic guitar (just like on ‘Russian River Serenade’). While it may take some getting used to by Peccary's electronic music-loving fans, this is a very atmospheric recording, drenched in desert ambience, Native American textures, and Peter Buffett-like cinematic sweeping soundscapes.
The first cut, which is representative of the first half of the CD, features Bertrand's acoustic guitar out front, along with ocarina, piano, tribal drums, and synth undertones, and featuring guest virtuoso Steve Gorn's bansuri and bamboo flutes. The song is fluid and weaves a desert-flavored spell that eventually becomes a full-bodied neo-classical piece (synth choral and heavy-duty synth bass fiddles).
The second song, ‘Santa Ana,’ features label-mates Jon Jenkins, Howard Givens, and Deborah Martin accompanying Bertrand. Despite the presence of acoustic guitar, the tribal textures seem to predominate. This recording should be played either at a high volume or else with headphones. When I just casually listened to it, I was not impressed. This is not an in-your-face Spotted Peccary recording (such as Fulcrum, or Mysterious Motions Of Memory). Dedicated listening reveals the musical mastery at work here - and it's there, believe me. Bertrand's guitars are crystal clear in the mix and the drums positively thunder in the background. The songs go in this vein, more or less, until the mid-point of the album.
From the middle to the end of the recording, the music gets away from the guitar sound and more into the soundscapes territory, using piano, synths, and samplers. While the mood here is somber, the music on Mohave is not Steve Roach desert-like ambient. The use of piano and flute and how the synths are used sees to that. There is even a semi-minimalist piece here (’Hoodoos’). Plus, the tribal elements are firmly rooted in Native American rhythms, as opposed to the aboriginal beats of Roach. Finally, you have that Buffett-like fullness of sound (I kept thinking of Buffett's ‘Lost Frontier’ as i listened to ‘Mohave’).
Mohave offers the discerning listener a rich and complex musical experience. This recording marks a drastic change in direction for Spotted Peccary (one that I expect will be intensified with next month's release of the joint-label collaboration between Peccary Deborah Martin and Sequoia Records' Steve Gordon). Mohave is a recording that pays you back if you invest your time and patience. It's possibly Spotted Peccary's least accessible release - but from an adventurous listening standpoint, it may be its most rewarding. Certainly, it's the most ambitious thing to come from the small label in Southern California.