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Mickey Hart Band - Mysterium Tremendum
CD Review by Steve Moyles on 5/14/2012   

In the liner notes of Mickey Hart’s new album, Mysterium Tremendum, there is a brief explanation of “sonification”, which is described as the mapping of visual symbols, such as light waves, to musical notes.  Mickey Hart’s past endeavors have dealt with rhythms from all around our planet, but this album has extended that reach to the entire Universe.  Sounds from galaxies, nebulae, pulsars, black holes, planets and our Sun are heard throughout the album.

Mickey Hart, more famously know as one-half of the percussion department of the Grateful Dead, has put together a great group of musicians on this album, most of which are currently touring with the band in support of this new effort.  The vocalists, Tim Hockenberry and Crystal Monee Hall are the highlight of the album.  Dave Schools, of Widespread Panic fame, is on bass, Gawain Matthews on guitar, Ben Yonas on keyboards, Ian Herman on drums and Sikiru Adepoju on percussion. Several additional musicians contributed to the album, including Steve Kimock and Reed Mathis.

On first listen, the album flows from tune to tune rather seamlessly, sometimes punctuated by Indian and African chanting.  As you listen again, to the individual songs, you can start to get a true appreciation of the depth of the instrumental intricacies layered within each track.  A couple of the more conventional tunes, Slow Joe Rain and Cut the Deck feature the vocals of Tim Hockenberry.  Tim’s voice is gritty and resonating, and really drives the great Robert Hunter lyrics.  Starlight Starbright, a take-off on the children’s wish upon a star, is powerful, with Crystal Monee Hall on vocals and Dave Schools laying down a hypnotic bass line.  Another highlight is This One Hour, a haunting tune, also featuring Crystal Hall.

Several tunes fall into the more cosmic category.  Heartbeat of the Sun, the opening track, is a pulsating song with music generated from light waves from our Sun.  Supersonic Vision is another one from the galactic genre.  Let There Be Light is a great vocal duel between Hockenberry and Hall, and in Time Never Ends, the vocals of Hall and Hockenberry are in perfect unison, almost unable to be separated.  The album finishes with Through Endless Skies, a love song, with Hockenberry’s gravelly voice taking on an entirely different timbre. 

This album has a universal appeal.  It’s infectious with its rhythms; you’ll find yourself spontaneously moving with the beat.  The thematic flow from start to end makes you want to listen to the album in its entirety.  Fans of the Grateful Dead will love it for its experimental flavor and the Robert Hunter lyrics.  It’s one of the first real new works to come out of the Dead family in years and may end up being Mickey Hart’s best solo work so far. 

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