File Steve Tibbetts in the “Whole Other Way to Play the Guitar” category, right next to Bill Frisell and Eugene Chadborne. He’s a maniacal soloist who grew up listening to rock, but who has no use for its conventions. He’s also an explorer who searches for new interlocking rhythms and different (that is, non-Western) approaches to harmony.
For “The Fall of Us All,” his sixth album, Tibbetts heads to the Far East and the repetitive rhythms of India and China. Atop these, he adds droning guitar textures that shift in slow-motion to create gripping, ever-changing polychords. And atop those come his solos, which fracture every guitar cliche. Some songs are careening, melodyless journeys that unfold a half-step at a time. Others such as “Nyemma,” which contains the celestial, wordless-vocal incantations of Claudia Schmidt and Rhea Valentine ring with an effortless beauty.