12 Songs, 51 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As the pedal steel guitarist for San Francisco’s American Music Club, Bruce Kaphan was the band’s main musical architect. He took the pedal steel and found a place for it outside its usual country music borders. His intuitive grasp of musical space gave the band an edge they never regained after his departure. His solo albums have an instrumental excitement to them, uncommon considering the calm and austere tones for which Kaphan is best fitted. Hybrid, his second solo album, is once again a tour of a world that’s part Twin Peaks, part southwestern desert reverie, part auditory hallucination. Tracks such as “Dust Bowl Revisited,” “Loops For Larry” and “Legacy” don’t attempt to refine genres, so much as ignore the very idea that genres exist. “Renewal” suggests a sophisticated nod towards country music. “There But 4” adds enough drums to make for country rock. This is one phenomenal album. If you were ever an American Music Club fan, you will instantly realize what the band is missing. Singer Mark Eitzel may have been the chief songwriter, but Kaphan was his necessary foil.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As the pedal steel guitarist for San Francisco’s American Music Club, Bruce Kaphan was the band’s main musical architect. He took the pedal steel and found a place for it outside its usual country music borders. His intuitive grasp of musical space gave the band an edge they never regained after his departure. His solo albums have an instrumental excitement to them, uncommon considering the calm and austere tones for which Kaphan is best fitted. Hybrid, his second solo album, is once again a tour of a world that’s part Twin Peaks, part southwestern desert reverie, part auditory hallucination. Tracks such as “Dust Bowl Revisited,” “Loops For Larry” and “Legacy” don’t attempt to refine genres, so much as ignore the very idea that genres exist. “Renewal” suggests a sophisticated nod towards country music. “There But 4” adds enough drums to make for country rock. This is one phenomenal album. If you were ever an American Music Club fan, you will instantly realize what the band is missing. Singer Mark Eitzel may have been the chief songwriter, but Kaphan was his necessary foil.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.6 out of 5
5 Ratings

5 Ratings

MattyTheD ,

Getting Better All the Time

I find a lot of stuff from the Hearts of Space genre too much like background music for massage, but I've probably listened to Slider over a thousand times in the past 10 years because it's deeply musical, loaded with evocative imagery, never gets old, and I always hear something new. Hybrid is every bit as brilliant, although more down to Earth. Maybe more like flying over landscape at low elevation, or on bike, rather than by glider or satellite. Bruce is a genius. If it takes another 10 years for the next release, it'll be worth it.

atrainent ,

Hybrid

A consummate and dedicated musician seeking to push the envelope of his instrument to unexplored heights, Bruce Kaphan has worked in relative anonymity behind the scenes with American Music Club, David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Camper Van Beethoven, Jewel, REM, The Black Crows, Chris Issak, John Lee Hooker and more.

With "Hybrid", Kaphan is stepping into the spotlight. If you've been paying attention to contemporary instrumental music these days, you're getting used to seeing (or hearing) artists take their instruments and do unusual things with them, Kaphan himself states "…there are a few fringe [pedal steel] players such as myself who've taken it [the instrument] where I'm sure some of the 'purists' might assume 'it don't belong.' " In May's issue of Guitar World Magazine, Jeff Beck praises Kaphan and Hybrid, confessing "I do a very poor man's pedal steel on the Stratocaster...There's a guy now, Bruce Kaphan, who is amazing."

"Bruce's music truly soars, transcending genres, redefining everything we know about the pedal steel guitar. A beautiful, feel-good album, full of intriguing twists and turns." - Thomas Dolby

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

It is always a treat to be exposed to a musician who is a master of his or her instrument. When that musician is also an innovative artist who puts his or her instrument into an unexpected context, the treat takes on an additional “wow!” factor. Traditionally, the pedal steel guitar has been a staple of country and Hawaiian music, but Bruce Kaphan has created a unique niche for the pedal steel via his original compositions and unconventional approach. On his 2000 debut CD "Slider - Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar," Kaphan played most of the music himself. On "Hybrid," he includes a very impressive group of musicians on such diverse instruments as cello, ukulele, piano, fretless bass, tabla, congas, and strings. The music is also diverse, ranging from melodic to more conceptual and experimental work. The album as a whole is far from “business as usual,” but it is indeed a fascinating ride!

“Pohaka la” begins the album with a piece inspired by sunbeams poking through clouds in Hawaii. Ukulele and fretless bass join the pedal steel to paint a vivid but serene portrait of the experience. “Maya” is a piece for pedal steel and piano composed and performed by pianist Kent Darnielle. It’s a very unusual combination of instruments, but Kaphan and Darnielle make it work beautifully. “Gleaming Towers” brings in tabla and fretless bass along with atmospheric keyboard sounds to create one of the more ambient tracks - effortless and floating. “Senbazuru” has a fascinating history that I’ll try to condense. The guitar track was recorded by Tom Size in 1982. While taking a walk and reflecting on the anniversary of the bomb blast in Nagasaki, Kaphan started hearing this track in his head along with a pedal steel accompaniment which he raced home to record. Kaphan’s wife then named it “Senbazuru,” which is Japanese for 1000 origami cranes, a symbol of peace. “Okanagan Jubilee” was composed during a ski trip in Canada, and is written for pedal steel and string quartet - a very different sound, to be sure! “Dust Bowl Revisited” is very challenging, but given that the stimulus for writing it was the fear “that with the amount of carbon dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere, and the inability of human beings to get organized over anything other than finding new ways to kill each other (and any other species in their path), Bleakest House is on the horizon...” (quoted from notes on the music on Kaphan’s website), the discordance and feelings of chaos and confusion are absolutely right. “Silenzi” is a second piece composed for piano and pedal steel by Kent Darnielle. Quiet and thoughtful, it’s another beauty! “Renewal” is the first time Kaphan has recorded a solo pedal steel piece. The sound is lovely, and I hope this is the first of many solo pieces! “There But 4” ends this album a bit more traditionally with a happy, contented piece with a country flavor. Great stuff!

"Hybrid" provides an eclectic and very enjoyable assortment of musical experiences. Check it out!

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