Downbeat · November 2022
Hellbound Train – An Anthology
Retrospectives usually span the entirety of an artist’s career, but Steve Tibbetts optimizes for cohesion rather than breadth in Hellbound Train-An Anthology, a two-volume collection celebrating his 40-year-long career at ECM. That might explain why three of Tibbetts’ nine ECM recordings feature heavily in this anthology, while one of them, Yr, doesn’t appear at all. The illustrious guitarist hand picked each piece to weave together 3 continuous narrative that perfectly distillates his distinct, genre-bending work.
The first volume showcases Tibbetts’ signature string-bending techniques and global influences in spiritual soundscapes like “Full Moon Dogs® and ambient rock ballads like “Lochana.” Tibbetts longtime collaborator, percussionist Marc Anderson, brings 1 sort of rigor and focus to these songs with his high-octane congas, gongs and steel drums. His methodical and deliberate approach to rhythm is a fitting foil to Tibbetts’ imaginative playing and frenetic lines.
Tibbetts dives deeper into the rock genre in the latter half of this volume, with electric distortions juxtaposing Anderson’ unrelenting beats on “Roam And Spy” and Claudia Schmidt’s haunting vocals on “Nyemma.”
The rock motif carries over into the second volume, which focuses largely on Tibbetts’ more stripped-down acoustic work. He explores delicate melodies on ‘Start” and “Life Of Someone.’ and introspective lines and deliberate pacing on “The Big Wind” and “Night Again.’
Hellbound Train is a collection that moves seamlessly from atmospheric world music to industrial rock to experimental acoustic jazz and everything in between. Each song flows seamlessly into the next while also referencing a consistent set of textures and themes throughout. The hypertextual nature of this anthology perfectly encapsulates Tibet’s signature sound and methodical artistry.