Å: Minneapolis Star-Tribune & Playboy
Minneapolis Star-Tribune March 21, 1999
“Å” is built around the enigmatic sound of Norway’s Hardanger fiddle which owes its haunting tone to four extra strings that vibrate under the bowed strings. St. Paul guitarist and studio wizard Tibbetts and local percussionist Marc Anderson recorded with Hardanger ace Hamre and fiddler/vocalist Turid Spildo in Norway. Back home. Tibbetts manipulated tapes with his insidiously clever logic, tossed in Balinese gong samples, bouzouki and Anthony Cox’s bass.
The result is a swirling mélange of cerebral, fascinating cross-cultural ideas. In a typical piece, repeating fiddle phrases evolve into fresh ideas, while Tibbetts’ guitar slithers off on sympathetic tangents, and gongs and other elements chip in their own wry commentary, creating an ebb and flow of stylish nuance like mist on the fjords. It’s impenetrable to some, full of enticing mysteries to those willing to probe its depths.
Hamre will perform April 3 at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis as part of a four-day Nordic Roots Music Festival.
Rick Mason, St. Paul writer
Playboy · April 1999
Steve Tibbetts has made a habit of keeping his musical imagination vibrant by going to exotic mountain ranges and jungles to record with local musicians. On Å (Hannibal), he extends this tradition with a trip to Norway to work with Knut Hamre, a master of an ancient variety of fiddle called the hardingfele. Tibbetts, who can play both quiet acoustic and roaring electric guitar with amazing facility, keeps mostly in the background here, weaving his counterpoint around the hardingfele. Northern Europe has some of the world’s most beautiful folk music, and Hamre and Tibbetts really nail it. In its use of simple melodies fading in and out of the foreground, this album is reminiscent of Steve Reich’s work. Great for late-night meditation.