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Slider- Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar

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Album Review

Most folks know Bruce Kaphan — if they know him at all — as the steel guitar player who crafted the wondrously dark, emotional soundscapes of the late, great American Music Club, or traveling with David Byrne or gracing albums by R.E.M. and Red House Painters with his silvery liquid sheen. Here, on his debut solo project, Kaphan makes full use of the pedal steel as a vehicle for environments and textures that are intimate, stunningly beautiful, and even spiritual — as a proper improvising musician would, not as merely a player of the steel guitar. Kaphan's manipulation of the instrument is total; he redefines its context not by trying to make it something other than it is, but by using the instrument exactly as it was intended, as one of coloration and harmonic invention — and Kaphan's harmonic sensibilities are sophisticated, wide-open, and deftly executed. Once upon a time, B.J. Cole attempted this very thing, but his methodology was flawed — he tried to apply the pedal steel to indigenous musics as a natural counterpart rather than as an instrument with many voices that could be welcome anywhere as itself. Along with the pedal steel, Kaphan plays virtually every instrument on the disc, except for a fretless bass on "Clouds," the glorious travelscape that opens the record with the steel and fretless tying loose knots around one another. And that's just what Slider is, a record of traveling stories, of dreams and excursions into the netherworld of sound, where it lies in stillness waiting to be activated by a willing accomplice. There are numerous styles and instrumentations where the languid, shimmering steel collides and rides with dobro, Indian percussion, electronics, sound effects, and streaming guitars and basses into a portrait of sound — silver sound, to be specific — articulating itself in the heart of the heart of the musician as it speaks to the heart of the heart of the listener with grace, aplomb, and manifest musicality. This is a language that has never before been spoken; it should be listened to as carefully as that, but can be enjoyed merely for the spaces and atmospheres for dreaming it also provides. This is the edgiest record Hearts of Space has put out in years.

Customer Reviews


I could never have imagined that the pedal steel guitar could be played this way, or could have played this sort of music. I've never been much of a "new age" music fan, but this music has true substance - it can convey brooding and darkness, as well as light and air. It's a shame that this music won't be heard by many people simply because of our notions of what a pedal steel is "supposed" to sound like and the sort of music that is usually associated with it.

Wonderfully Refreshing!

Every now and then something comes along that is greatly unique. This is one of them. Straight up chill!


I only purchased Clouds. What a great easy listening sound!


Genre: New Age

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Bruce Kaphan led the pedal steel guitar away from its traditional country music roots and into the land of alternative rock when he played with American Music Club. He has recorded as a solo artist, too, and released the instrumental album Slider: Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar, in 2001, through Hearts of Space. His pedal steel guitar can be heard on John Lee Hooker's Chill Out, which garnered a Grammy Award, and Jealous, which was nominated for a Grammy. He also contributed to recordings...
Full Bio
Slider- Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar, Bruce Kaphan
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Customer Ratings