It's been eight years since The Fall of Us All leaped out of the speakers; an album of immediacy and gorgeous tension, it was the one that came the closest to matching the energy of Exploded View, while adding a slightly more worldly aesthetic. This time, guitarist Steve Tibbetts takes a different approach in the recording process, due largely to an ill-fated run-in with a swarm of wasps, and the musician falling from a careening ladder onto his own hand. With some immobilizing surgery pending, he fired up his equipment to lay down several hours of raw material he would later rearrange, invert, and dissect on the computer. As it turns out, the canvas he paints is quite lush, his richest yet, and no doubt the mix is precisely the way he wanted it. The downside to this technological advance seems to be that he spent so much time editing and polishing it to perfection, the deliciously crunchy rough edges are often compromised. There's a frame of reference lacking; melody evades earshot, even as his signature "honey-dipped" acoustic guitar escorts listeners through the sweet spot of gongs and around tornados of drums. His material on the electric is still a ball of nails, but frequently it's padded by breathy washes of sound. The last few tracks actually benefit from fewer elements, proving once again that less is more. "Chandoha" builds to become the best sampling of straightforward wild abandon on the disc, and "Lochana" is a chorus of black clouds and ash, sloshing around a skeleton of percussion. "Koshala" sparkles; the blaze subsides to focus on the tips of flame radiating from the dialogue between tabla and acoustic guitar. The ten-minute "Black Temple" is epic in scope, from roaring to downright subconscious at times...in a way it's a "mega-mix" of everything he's done to date, including the intimate elements of Big Map Idea. This track, like most here, mirrors a Jackson Pollack painting: It's dense and rewarding without taking any particular shape, and a sonic equivalent to the cloud of wasps he encountered. Surprisingly, longtime collaborator Marc Anderson takes more of a supporting status on this release. He and Marcus Wise mostly "flesh out" percussion done by Tibbetts himself, including drum samples and field recordings he made in Bali back in 1991. Jim Anton fills out the album on bass guitar, without calling much attention to himself (a talent of most bassists who play on a Tibbetts record). Ultimately, A Man About a Horse comes off as more of an ambient record in terms of structure, even if it's loaded with drums and scorched guitar licks. Track for track, these are mosaics of world music doused in Tibbetts' particular brand of gasoline; not many explosions, but rather a steady wall of flame.
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AllMusic Review by Glenn Swan