STEPHAN MICUS PROFILED (2013): Music of the spheres and beyond

 |   |  1 min read

STEPHAN MICUS PROFILED (2013): Music of the spheres and beyond

Take a deep breath because here’s a partial list of the instruments German multi-tasker Stephan Micus has played on recent albums: Bavarian zither, tin whistle, sattar, steel guitar, Japanese flute (shakuhachi), tuned flowerpots, Egyptian flute (nay), steel drums, Indian sarangi, dulcimer -- and lots I can’t even pretend to know about like bolombatto, sinding, dilruba, doussn’ gouni, duduk, maung . . .

He also sings.

Micus is one of the most musically peripatetic artists of our time -- yet his albums on the ECM label aren’t as esoteric as they might seem. Sometimes he even veers dangerously close to New Age music, but he’s far too spiritually and culturally conscious to end up with brown-rice munchers. Although I suspect he’s of the tofu persuasion himself.

But he does make alluring music which is gently seductive. Even when he’s tickling tuned flowerpots or banging his maung (Burmese gong, I have learned).

His 2008 album Snow might have come with a title which suggested gentle wafts and drifts, but he has an astringent quality which meant it will never darken the door of a massage parlour or be invited around for a vegan hotpot.

Through overdubs he created his own choir for the quasi-Buddhist chants, layered instruments from different continents to effortless effect, and conjured up a restful yet probing emotional space where your pulses never race but your brain remains engaged.

Now about twentysomething albums into his career, Micus long ago staked out unique territory. And a very appealing place it is too, as evidenced on Snow which might be considered a useful entry-level.

But his earlier albums (notably Koan from '77 and Wings Over Water of '81 where he played tuned flower pots) are also well worth discovering.

Micus' musical path has also been a spirtual one so it is no surprise many speak of mystical references or experiences when writing about him.

Be that as it may, his music exists on a plane of its own making and its quasi-choral, world music and, yes, hints of New Age/ambient, certainly make him a musician in a sphere -- or spheres -- of his own.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

JAZZ: A FILM by KEN BURNS (DVD): The never-ending story

JAZZ: A FILM by KEN BURNS (DVD): The never-ending story

The cartoon shows two old guys in the television room of a resthome. One says, "There's nothing left to live for." The other replies, "Yeah, there is. I'm watching the Ken... > Read more

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

Albert Ayler -- the inspired, heroic, driven and sometimes difficult saxophonist who committed suicide in 1970 at age 34 -- still stands at a crossroads in jazz. By the late Nineties –... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

LIVERPOOL AND AUCKLAND (2009): A tale of two architectures

LIVERPOOL AND AUCKLAND (2009): A tale of two architectures

As the vessel pulls away from the pier, the soundtrack is predictable: the 1964 hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry Marsden’s paean to this, his hometown of... > Read more

Nikki Sixx: A very dim light (1991)

Nikki Sixx: A very dim light (1991)

To tell truth, out of the many hundreds -- indeed thousands -- of musicians I have interviewed very few have been downright stupid. Sure some fumbled for words, others said slightly... > Read more