Soundchecks Music Reviews

Peering Over Clouds

Think Tank Media

Don Schiff and NS Stick

Don Schiff

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

When you think of progressive music, some of you may instantly think of King Crimson, Spock's Beard, or perhaps Platypus, right? Well, Think Tank Media is about to change all that with Don Schiff's Peering Over Clouds, which pushes progressive rock into the upper stratospheres of audio intoxication.

Don Schiff is master of an instrument known as an NS/Stick. This eight-string fretboard-tapping instrument is the brainchild of Emmett Chapman, who created the original Stick, and Ned Steinberger, who created the Steinberger Bass (the small, boxy, all-black bass without tuning machines). This instrument functions as guitar, bass, and Stick (i.e. the tapping fretboard). The versatility of the instrument is amazing, and on Peering Over Clouds Don Schiff lets the NS/Stick soar without measure.

The CD consists of 13 tracks that make up more than 70 minutes of dreamy instrumentals. We're not talking Joe Satriani or Gary Hoey here, but rather an experimentalist and musician who taps into jazz, fusion, classical music, and rock 'n' roll. Schiff handles the traditional roles of guitar and bass while Greg Ellis tackles the percussion. There are no vocals or lyrics.

As with most progressive sounds, nothing is sacred. Time signatures are messed with (Reflective View has a 7/4 with slide-to-pluck solos, which at times sound almost like an electric violin), seductive interludes are interrupted by two-handed leads, and bass and guitar actually 'duel' each other for supremacy on some of the tracks. The NS/Stick also sets down some beautiful, acoustic-like rhythms that will leave most of you breathless. Schiff also displays a keen ear for the roots of progressive music, at one point setting down his own version of early Pink Floyd (we're talking Syd Barrett here) with the composition From Where The Past Began. There are no apt descriptors for this type of music - it must be experienced.

Don Schiff's Peering Over Clouds belongs in every progressive rocker's collection. This is headphone music, pure and simple, particularly for those late or stormy nights. Of course, it also sets the mood perfectly for those candlelight dinners...

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press