Steve Hubback - "The Quest" (self-released 1997, CDR, originally released 1994 on Spoof, SpoofCD0002)
Steve Hubback - "Best Kept Secret" (FMR Records 2002)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
Best Kept Secret and The Quest are early solo offerings from metalsmith/percussionist Steve Hubback. Best Kept Secret (1998) is a solid exposition of his percussion skills. Forsaking hammer and steel harps, and thus (for Hubback), melody, he leads us in a cabalistic journey through an austere, arctic vista populated by wind chimes, gongs and bongos. Six of the nine tracks seem more experiments than fully realized pieces, while the last three begin to fall into definite (through morphing) rhythms, evoking a distinctly tribal sensibility, or perhaps portraying an Aurora Borealis streaming overhead: chillingly beautiful, with a thread of over-arcing color; the percussive musings of Best Kept Secret eschew linearity and are ideal for creating a moment of ascetic transcendence. This is meditation material, pure and simple. But it is heavy going without melody and, for the most part, structure, and thus will appeal to those looking for a meditational as opposed to a more active purpose. That said, as previously mentioned, the last three tracks do offer glimpses of a more structured direction...
The Quest forsakes rhythmic experiments in exchange for syncopation and chilly steel harp melodies, though in the manner of the preceeding disk creates a subconscious sonic environment, created by a minimalist (though melodic line) courtesy of a hammer harp and steel harp sculpture. Two standouts: Over The Treetops, a gentle two-part harp tune, flowing softly out the Nordic vista, and As The Snow Falls, consisting of a complex interplay between harps, set off by gongs and intervals of silence. Hypnotic stuff.
Though not as well realized as some of Steve's later disks, Best Kept Secret and The Quest serve as good introductions to his enigmatic style.
For more information you can visit Steve Hubback's web site at: http://www.dse.nl/hubgong.
Reviewed by Ian Compton