An extremist in the best sense, guitarist Steve Tibbetts disdains comfortable middle ground. At peace, he creates delicate acoustic structures. Fired up, he unleashes an onslaught of electric rage backed with thunderous percussion from partner Marc Anderson. The Fall Of Us All ranks with his best and wildest work (alongside Yr and Exploded View), because it smoothly reconciles Tibbetts’ volatile mood swings with his developing interest in the music of Indonesia and Tibet.
“Dzogchen Punks” and the aptly titled “Hellbound Train” use representative motives, as steady drum patterns connect open spaces echoing distant chimes and gongs to the anguished yowls of Tibbetts’ electric guitar, culminating in a cathartic percussive assault. Although Tibbetts utilizes wordless vocals and synthesizer to smooth rough edges of his meandering compositions, the core of his music remains guitar with drums. The real departure comes with the expanded use of polyrhythms and the new ferocity of Anderson’s drumming, possibly related to Tibbetts’ studies in Tibet and Bali. The guitarist’s absorption of those styles is more evident on the detailed, but less intense acoustic tracks that make up the second half of the album, like “All For Nothing” and “Travel Alone.”
Tibbetts hints that The Fall Of Us All concludes a phase of his work. If so, it’s the clearest, most concentrated iteration of his ideas to date.