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Kater's new age soundtrack bores

Music from Discovery Channel: Eco-Challenge
Music from Discovery Channel: Eco-Challenge
By Peter Kater

EarthSea Records: 1997

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These reviews first appeared in the May 17, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

Peter Kater is one of the biggest new age musical stars not in Windham Hill's stable. Along with frequent collaborators R. Carlos Nakai (flute) and vocalist Chris White, he's put out dozens of albums on a variety of small, independent labels.

His latest effort is a soundtrack for a series on the Discovery Channel, "Eco-Challenge." The series and the soundtrack are both built around the 300-mile non-polluting wilderness race that gives them their name. Kater composed and arranged all 19 tracks here, and performed the synthesizers on them. And, as is often the case, he's joined by Nakai on Native American flute and White on her wordless vocals. Also kicking in is violinist Cecil Hooker, who has a wonderfully haunting tone.

There are some really neat melodies here, and the arrangements can be lush and beautiful. But Kater – as he has on earlier projects – seems to have difficulty in sustaining any sense of tension or drama. Too often, just as a song is beginning to build, Kater backs off into a pretty melody or safe chorus. It's all foreplay with no relief, which gets frustrating after awhile. None of the songs stick in your head, even after several listens. There are snippets of melody here and there, but nothing really memorable.

The upshot of his failure to deliver any musical climax is that, like most soundtracks (and, unfortunately, far too much new age), "Eco-Challenge" is pure background music. And with song titles as unimaginative and stereotypically new age as "Journey Maker," "Morning Light," "Walk the Path" and "Mountain Flute," there's little here to warrant your attention.