Sacred Memories of the Future
(New Earth Records, 1997)

This pleasant but mostly unexceptional CD is solidly within the worldbeat tradition, mixing native Australian Aboriginal instruments with chanting and synthesizer sounds. The didgeridoo playing is excellent -- particularly in the solo piece -- and the CD as a whole makes a fine ambient background to whatever one is doing.

One of the point of ambient music, of course, is its ability to fade into the background, so it's probably not fair to criticize Cybertribe for doing this so well. This isn't quite ambient music, though -- it's more trancelike than ambient normally is, with a stronger beat that can be danced to in a meditative way. And it's best listened to loudly, since a lower volume makes much of the complexity inaudible.

The tracks range from 4 to almost 13 minutes in length, for a 43-minute total playing time.

The standout piece on this CD is the amazing "Call of the Didgeridoo," a five-minute didgeridoo solo that is marvelous and mind-blowing. Most didgeridoo playing I've heard has been amongst other instruments, where it's generally either an accompanying drone or a rhythm instrument. Here it solos, and I am stunned and delighted by this piece. "Visions of Light" also has some fine didgeridoo playing, this time with accompaniment.

"First Contact" combines the didgeridoo with some ambient chanting and a good dancing beat and instrumentation. It's my favorite of the tracks besides the didgeridoo solo, though "Reaching the Ocean" is a close runner-up. At over 12 minutes it's the longest track by far, and has less obvious modern instrumentation. The synthesizers nicely set off the didgeridoo and the recorded seashore noises of gulls and surf.

"Cry of the Earth" has electronic music with a heavy beat, and some wonderful vocals by B. Sampson that make the piece stand out.

I didn't care for either "Deep Down in the Jungle" or "(that's why we have to come) Back to This Land" as much as the other tracks. "Jungle" was a continuous building of musical tension with no resolution; it just stopped. While I did like much about "Back to This Land," the aboriginal child vocals were grating. This may have been intentional, since they sounded electronically processed and that added considerably to the grating quality.

I did not appreciate that a full third of the liner notes consisted of advertising for other CDs on the label. Apart from that, the notes are adequate although sketchy, and quite attractive.

This album is a must-buy, I think, for didgeridoo fans because of the fine "Call of the Didgeridoo," as well as excellent playing on several of the other pieces. I can't recommend it strongly to anyone else; it's perfectly nice, but not exceptional. If you're curious about didgeridoo playing in a modern context, starting out with Outback (one of whose songs was used in a commercial for the Olympics) or Yothu Yindi (a stunning mixture of Aboriginal chanting and instrumentation with rock) would be best -- but if you already have those, Cybertribe might make a welcome addition to your library.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

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