From the Spotted Peccary base camp, with a host of friends acting as musical Sherpas, Mark Hunton forges a heavenward trail up Tibetan peaks, to create the 13 tracks of Annapurna: The Towering Sky. Equipped with ocarinas, African congas, Moroccan bongos, Tibetan bowls, tamburas, tablas, kotos and anklungs amidst their supplies of more contemporary instrumentation, the party scales expansive ranges of sonic terrain, leaving this record of truly wordly sounds.
A conglomeration of instruments and styles converge In The Shadow of Everest... ethnic drumming, lilting flute, wailing female vocals (courtesy of Christy Trice) and a (somewhat incongruously) funky bassline. Richly produced, Annapurna - The Towering Sky swelters in warm streams of violin, synth and piano, attaining new age majesty. Smoothly blended percussion, flute, layered fem chants and synth sounds take us Trekking at a steady, envigorating pace.
Reverberating brass echoes from Out On The Edge, to be enjoined with guitar, flute, bass, synthdrone and assorted indigenous touches. Gamelan-style trickles, ethnic percussion and thunderous bass drumbeats stir WaterFalling Before The Storm; its softer moods well up with ominous synth clouds, and acoustic guitar duets with Eastern instrumental brethren. A sweet melancholy hangs over the Mysteries Of The Mountains and its slowly enveloping sounds.
A Rendezvous At Sherpa's Teahouse (1:23) offers a brief interlude of semi-solemn flute, drum and synth introspection. The expressive electric guitar sounds which emanate from Doorways Beyond distinctly bring Roger Waters/Pink Floyd to mind. A frog choir leads the way to Islands In The Sky (6:57); a zone of powerful-though-furtive musical elements which are overtaken by a disparately straightforward funk/groove with jazzily wailing accompaniment. Not bad, but a rather surprising twist... The 70-minute travelogue ends by Dancing On The Roof Of The World, incorporating a full gamut of the peviously heard sounds into one final blowout.
Mark Hunton obviously takes his music seriously, but isn't afraid to have some fun during the journey. I've gotta label it New Age, but anything this atmospheric and and well-done is worth listening to in my book. A 7.7 for this mountain of transcontinental flavors.