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.
- Bill Binkelman, Wind And Wire