On the album “Alive Inside The Tank” the musical group Mysteries of the Night dives into a profound exploration of music recorded live inside one of the most unique sound chambers in the world, an old abandoned empty steel water tank sitting on top of a hill overlooking the small town of Rangely, Colorado. Music created inside The Tank features an uncanny resonance and reverberation where every note is enhanced into a compelling swirling sea of sound. This recording contains deep spacious flute tones, fluid vocalizations, and earthy eerie percussive sounds and vibrations that create an intimate, timeless, meditative, powerfully-moving, musical journey.
Press release by The Creative Service Company * thecreativeservicecompany.com
The first known recording was made inside The Tank in 1976, and a few more have followed, but Alive Inside The Tank by Mysteries of the Night is the first full-length album recorded there to be released into worldwide mainstream distribution on an established record label (Silver Wave Records, based in Boulder, Colorado). Now known as The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, which opened to the public in 2015, the venue has been the site of numerous events and concerts, and the unusual facility has garnered high-profile publicity including a feature on CBS-TV’s “Sunday Morning” show, and articles in New Yorker Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and more.
For more information on Alive Inside The Tank and to sample tracks, visit silverwaverecords.wixsite.com/mysteriesofthenight1. CDs and digital download tracks are available at online sales sites such as Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and many others. All sales proceeds go to Friends of The Tank, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization offering educational and community programs. For more information about The Tank, visit www.tanksounds.org.
Mysteries of the Night is a duo with James Marienthal on Native American flutes, Mama Quena, dual chamber flute, silver flute and percussion; and Sarah Gibbons handling vocals, hand drums and percussion. Marienthal studied music and jazz improvisation at Bard College and Naropa University. He has been playing various flutes and piano all his life, and is a published songwriter, library music composer, and producer of numerous recordings for Silver Wave Records. He has guested on recordings by Mary Youngblood and Tito La Rosa. Gibbons has been singing her entire life in choirs, a cappella groups, and folk bands. She studies west African drumming and percussion and is actively involved in group drum circles.
Marienthal says it is a transcendental experience recording in The Tank. “The experience of being in The Tank while you’re playing music, with the notes swirling around you, feels like the sounds are physically vibrating through your whole body,” he explains. “We wouldn’t have been able to hear and feel that same kind of energy anywhere else.”
Marienthal composed a few flute melodies ahead of time to bring to the live recording session in The Tank, but most of what ended up on the album are improvisations. “What happened spontaneously was more interesting,” he says, “because it is primarily about how you feel during the time you are in that environment and also how you respond to the reverberations. You are in essence performing with yourself. Flute notes you played a moment ago come back to you from the walls and top of The Tank and sounding deeper and fuller, so you blow some more notes that play off the sounds you are hearing and it entwines into something new, unpredictable and more complex than what you started with.
“But in The Tank you also learn to let the sounds do what they’re going to do without interfering with them too much. You learn to play the music very slowly. When you are making sounds in that type of chamber, you hear them resonating for a long time and your natural reaction is to simply wait and listen to the echoes as long as they last, and very slowly interject more music into the symphony of sounds you are hearing.”
According to Mary-Ann Greanier, former executive director of The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, “Sounds created in The Tank are not sounds that people hear very often in their lives. When you sing or play music in The Tank, it is sort of like The Tank becomes another instrument and part of the recording process. You are singing or playing with The Tank. The sound waves go up. They spiral. The reverberation twists and turns. It really is an extraordinary space.”
Made of welded, half-inch-thick steel plates, the tank is a large upright-tube sixty-feet-tall and thirty-feet in diameter with a pointed top. It has been described as looking like a “hulking, silver steel Jules-Verne-trip-to-the-moon capsule,” but inside it’s a deeply resonant, reverberant space, an acoustic chamber unlike any other in existence. Erected in the mid-1960s by the Rio Grande Railroad (the words “Rio Grande” in flowing script are painted on the outside), it was never used, presumably because of the unstable dirt and gravel soil conditions underneath, and it was to left to become a rusty landmark and hangout for local young people who soon learned that shouting into it produced an eerie effect. Now The Tank has a small bright-red building next to it set up as a recording studio. Almost sold for scrap-metal in 2012, The Tank was sustained by an unlikely coalition of locals and musicians from around the world before finally being owned by a non-profit organization which in 2017 were selected to receive Colorado Preservation Inc.’s first-ever Preservation Edge Award.
In 1976 musician and sound artist Bruce Odland was traveling around Colorado making state-sponsored recordings, and when he got to Rangely, just thirteen miles from the Utah border, locals made sure to take him inside The Tank where he was amazed by the sonic qualities. Soon he invited other musicians to join him there. One of those was Mark McCoin, who studied how The Tank manipulates sounds within it. “The sound goes straight up,” he explains. “It has its own resonant frequency, which changes with the temperature and relative humidity. It generates its own overtones, and there’s a sustain like nowhere else. It bends your sound to its own parameters.”
The music on Alive Inside The Tank is primarily improvisational flute melodies that go from soliloquies to a choir-like effect as the reverberations create sounds that make it seem like several flutes are playing simultaneously. The music moves from ambient to gently melodic, from free-floating to lightly rhythmic as voice and percussion are added, from earthy ethnic native vibes to cathedral-like religious tones, from personal meditations to universal spirituality.
Some of the musical pieces feature long, drawn-out notes — “Mysteries of the Night” and “To The Creator (for Trane)” — while others bring forth deep, moody percussion and resonances (“Thunder Cloud,” “Under the Sea” and “To The Sky”). On the tunes “Love Is Here” and “Twin Flames” are heard breathy human panting mixed with the music giving those moments an ageless, ancient-natives-in-awe-of-the-night-sky feeling. Sometimes the flute is supplemented by shakers or rattles — “To The Earth (Mama Quena)” and “The Space Between.” On others Sarah Gibbons sings a few words (“Coconino”) or soars wordlessly (“To The Earth,” “Mysteries of the Night,” “Love Is Here”).
Marienthal, who produced the album, also is the owner of Silver Wave Records which since 1986 has been releasing quality new age music and contemporary Native American music to the world with the recordings garnering five Grammies plus a plethora of INDIE Awards, Native American Music Awards and other accolades.
According to Marienthal, “The Tank is awe-inspiring and otherworldly, but also warm and comforting, and it imbues those qualities into the music created there. The Tank is an integral part and virtually another member of the musical groups that record there.”