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Best Kept Secret by Steve Hubback

Steve Hubback is a British percussionist currently living in the Netherlands. What makes him unique is that his interest in percussion has lead him to learn metal smithing in order to create his own instruments. Hubback forges and hammers some of the most fantastic cymbals and gongs, often shaped like dragon wings; and metal sculptures that would rival some of Joan Muro’s sculptures. His instruments are being used by drummers like Marilyn Mazur (Jan Gabarek Group), Paolo Vinaccia (Terje Rypdal), and he produced a fantastic sound sculpture on commission for classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Hubback’s Best Kept Secret is a solo percussion excursion played upon his own designs. Banishing Demons is a collage of sounds. The drums are tightly tuned and the metals mostly high pitched. The bass drum is the focus here, anchoring things with it’s insistent pulse. Against this, Hubback plays the other sounds, often in little groups of notes. Seoul Dance seems to be a reference to the great Korean percussion group, Samulnori (in fact, the CD cover illustration is of his forged iron sculpture titled, Korea). The drums rhythms have that same sort of dancing cadence the weaves and jerks between meters, with gong and cymbal accents to heighten the drama. Seoul Trance is similar, although the rhythmic stream is more of an accented continuum. The feeling of the rhythms here is circular.

Over The Mountains is mainly a metal percussion piece. The tones resonate across the sound field. The interesting thing about Hubback’s own instruments is that you have a sense of hearing them before, but not quite. While they don’t wildly vary from normal percussion sounds, they do have their own special character that gives Hubback a unique, signature sound. Deep Forest Activity opens with a stirring of chime sounds. Then Hubback bows various instruments creating an eerie scenario which he accents with drum and clangy metallic accents. As The Wheels Turn is a medium paced piece which indeed has a feel of circular motion. The drums and gongs play a repeating pattern, accented by various metal sounds. The effect is like that of some fantastic clockworks, with all the gears turning and interacting.

The Oriental theme returns in 1000 Lanterns, which opens with a taut, Japanese sounding drum and cymbal. A wood block adds a sharp, stacatto sound, then gives way to ringing metals. Eventually, all that remains are the metal sounds, played randomly to give the effect of wind driven chimes. This leads to Tomorrow Japan. which similarly opens with drum, wood block, and a muted bell sound. This is much more a drum piece, as the rhythms chatter with accents from the bass drum. The effect again is very much like that of Japanese traditional ceremonial drumming.

Steve Hubback is a very magical percussionist whose music entrances the imagination. Recommended for adventurous listeners. If you like this CD, do check out some of his other fine duo and ensemble work (also on FMR). Even if this is not your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself to at least check out his website and view his fantastic metal creations.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Hubback
  • CD Title: Best Kept Secret
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: FMR
  • Musicians: Steve Hubback-percussion
  • Rating: Four Stars
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