[Review] Mickey Hart: At The Edge (1990)

The musical companion to Mickey Hart’s percussive tome, Drumming at the Edge of Magic.

Kronomyth 6.0: Ancient hartstory.

This is the musical companion to Mickey Hart’s autobiographic/academic exploration of the ancient history of percussion, Drumming At The Edge of Magic. Recorded with Zakir Hussain, Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju, Jerry Garcia and Airto Moreira, At The Edge mixes world percussion and electronics to create an ambient album that more often sounds like the work of Brian Eno (“Eliminators”), Tangerine Dream (“Cougar Run”) or Cluster (“Slow Sailing”) than the Grateful Dead. It’s a pretty spacey album some of the time, and I wouldn’t put it past Hart to have conceived this as a soundtrack for the creation/evolution of man (although, if that’s the case, we’ll be babbling idiots in our final stage).

Of course, this disc is best appreciated by the percussively inclined. If you don’t dig drums, you won’t find any hidden treasure here. But if you’re already on familiar and friendly terms with the work of Hussain or Olatunji, then At The Edge may be of more than peripheral interest. Hart’s soundscapes, several of them written with Hussain, are interesting, evocative and no doubt conducive to contemplating your navel (as opposed to, say, operating heavy machinery). In the wider panethnic percussion circle that includes Hussain, Olatunji, Moreira, Acuna, etc., Hart may be our best North American ambassador.

Although I found the followup fare of Planet Drum more to my tastes, the decision to engage the services of Jerry Garcia on At The Edge may give it the edge for Deadheads. Both are worth hearing and possibly owning at some point, presuming that forty minutes of pure percussion doesn’t beat you down.

The Songs

1. #4 For Gaia (Mickey Hart) (4:46)
2. Sky Water (Mickey Hart/Zakir Hussain) (8:15)
3. Slow Sailing (Mickey Hart/Zakir Hussain) (5:01)
4. Lonesome Hero (Mickey Hart) (6:19)
5. Fast Sailing (Mickey Hart/Zakir Hussain) (5:04)
6. Cougar Run (Mickey Hart) (3:39)
7. The Eliminators (Creek Hart/Mickey Hart/Taro S. Hart/Jerry Garcia) (6:01)
8. Brainstorm (Mickey Hart/Babatunde Olatunji) (4:12)
9. Pigs In Space (Airto Moreira) (4:39)

The Players

Mickey Hart [agogo (double bell), balafon (pentatonic marimba), bass drum, cowbells, devil chasers (bamboo concussion sticks), dundun (talking drum), Emulator II, Englehart cornet bells (metal percussion), Forest Zone (processed crickets), kalimba (thumb piano), Matrix-12, panpipes, processed bell, raindrops, rainstick, rattles, Remo toms, Roland D-50, shekere (beaded gourd rattle), slit gongs (hollow log), spatial processing, tar, trap set, whistles, wood blocks], Zakir Hussain [dholak (double-headed cylinder drum), duggi tarang (tuned metal drums), processed tabla, shakers, tabla, tar (frame drum)], Babatunde Olatunji [cowbell, djembe (wooden hourglass drum), Engelhart hex bells, shekere (beaded-gourd rattle), slit gong] with Sikiru Adepoju (dundun), Jerry Garcia (electric guitar, Forest Zone, guitar synthesizer), Creek Hart (Linn 9000 drum samples on 7), Taro S. Hart (Kawasaki electronic drums on 7), Joze Lorenzo [berimbau (musical bow) on 4], Airto Moreira (extended voice and beast on 9), Jeff Sterling (computer processing). Produced by Mickey Hart; engineered & mixed by Tom Flye and Jeff Sterling; additional engineering by Phil Kaffel and Tom Size.

The Pictures

Cover art by Nancy Nimoy. Art direction by Howard Jacobsen/Triad. Package design by Steve Jurgensmeyer.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc and cassette in September 1990 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10124/RACS 0124). Reached #3 on US New Age charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on April 15, 2008 in the US (Shout Factory, 10839-2).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *