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The best kept secret in music


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•Tyranny of the Sphere (CD), Oct 2009 (Superfan Records)

•1956 (digital single), Dec 2008 (Cytunes)


Feeling a bit camera shy


 Like most people, veteran musician, producer, and engineer Greg Elkins had long been enamored of the rich mournful voice of the pedal steel guitar. One day by chance he became reacquainted with a recording of a mesmerizing piece of music featuring the pedal steel entitled “Afar”, by the legendary American composer Harold Budd, and knew that his passing admiration for the instrument should immediately evolve into a practical relationship.  In March of 2007 a shiny black BMI 10-string was acquired and the work began. Elkins quickly realized that in order to progress he would need the sort of motivation and inspiration that can only come from collaborating with others. He immediately thought of his friend Dave Pitts who was not only one of the most talented bassists that he had ever worked with in the studio, but was also in the process of migrating from the electric bass to the upright. The idea was that this would be an excellent way for two long active musicians to gain experience with their new instruments.  It soon became clear that a timekeeper was desired and the first choice was Brian J. Donohoe. Brian was well known as one of central North Carolina's most solid drummers and equally admired as a sonic explorer willing to challenge conventions of technique and instrumentation.  The trio recognized the promise of their emerging ensemble, but realized the music they were beginning to make could benefit from the input of another conspirator. After a brief search, it turned out that Dave's friend Rob Davis provided that missing element on synthesizers and laptop, completing the lineup.

Named after a forgotten neighborhood in Raleigh, Starmount was born in May of 2007. Writing, recording and rehearsing ensued and the band's first public appearance occurred in September of the same year, a mere six months after Elkins began to play the pedal steel. More writing, more recording and many gigs have followed. Performing not only at established venues, but also at galleries, museums, and other appropriate spaces, Starmount enjoys taking full advantage of the portability of their self contained, instrumental approach.

Tyranny of the Sphere is the title of Starmount's debut album, released in October 2009 on the Superfan label. Culled from three sessions at Elkins' Desolation Row Recording, Tyranny of the Sphere is an extremely well crafted portrait of four veteran musicians learning together to express themselves in new and vital ways. The emphasis is on composition, interplay, arrangement, and the nuance of sonic interaction. Often simultaneously familiar and other-worldly, meshing the experimental with the traditional, and always cinematic in scope, Starmount's compositions (it's fine to call them songs) arrive at originality not so much through invention as through thoughtful re-examination. In other words, these guys operate more as enlightened sound miners with kaleidoscopic headlamps than as philosophers or style-mongers.  Though Starmount can humbly float in a universe alongside the stars they admire with names like Eno, Can, Tortoise and Morricone, they sound like none of these. Starmount is comfortable being, and sounding like, Starmount. Any fan of thoughtful, evocative, instrumental music should find ample reward in listening to the ten tracks that comprise Tyranny of the Sphere.