Stephen Kent, Oil & Water

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The didgeridoo is the sound of breath itself, but it can signify many other things as well, as former Trance Mission member Stephen Kent demonstrates on an album recorded during the dire month of September, 2001. One of the instrument's few non-Aboriginal masters, Kent here uses the didge as a symbolic way to reconcile the West with the rest of the world, assisted by programming collaborator Simon Tossano and an international assortment of guests.

"Oil," the opener, arrives with the low, deep moan of a freighter pulling into port through the fog. But it segues smoothly into "Water," a lighter, loping dance groove in which Kent's didge doubles as a second bass. Having mapped out his extremes, Kent and crew spend the rest of the album developing intriguing new coalitions. These include the deep-throated Tuvan vocals of "Khoomei Song," the buoyant Rajisthan double-flute that lightens "Thei Kupa," and the funerary combination of didgeridoo and Scottish bagpipes that concludes the album with an "Elders Lament." With Kent as musical ambassador, oil and water end up mixing just fine.