Byron Metcalf / Steve Roach / Rob Thomas — Monuments of Ecstasy
(Projekt 313, 2015, CD)
by Peter Thelen, 2015-02-11:Metcalf and Roach collaborated on many endeavors in the past, back around the turn of the current century we had The Serpent’s Lair (2000), and a few years later Mantram (2004) and The Shaman’s Heart (2005), and in fact these collaborations have continued right up through the present. The release at hand, Monuments of Ecstasy, falls into a similar general style, with one foot set firmly in the grooves of ancient tribal sounds, the other in the fluid, dreamy and expansive textures of ambient electronic sounds. The six tracks here explore different variations of the style, anchored by Metcalf’s powerful hypnotic drumming, as well as Thomas’ didgeridoo, voices, clay and wood percussion. Roach weaves into this powerful fabric a dreamy wall of primal textures created with various analog and modular synths and processing, along with percussive grooves and sounds of mysterious origins. The pulsating framework that the trio operate within make this a very different animal than most of Roach’s solo works, which tend to float into a crossweb of organic flowing textures without any percussive elements. Here the mix of hand drums, didgeridoo and other indigenous percussion keep the sound alive and the listener in a constantly flowing state of hyper-perception, while the synths weave in and out creating a magical trance-like quality; one won’t fall asleep listening to this one, but its primal nature does tend to induce a spiritual euphoric feeling that permeates the being.
by Paul Hightower, 2017-06-28:
Here’s another of those virtual collaborations, although this time it’s a trio of electro-acoustic wizards. Steve Roach – a synth and soundscape pioneer – is probably well known to most Exposé readers. Byron Metcalf is a veteran percussionist who specializes in shamanistic drumming, and Rob Thomas is a highly regarded didgeridoo practitioner. On paper the collaboration between these three should work. And for the most part it does, although there are times when the experiments have to be appreciated as just that – experiments. The process is fairly consistent across all six tracks: Roach first sets up an atmospheric backdrop, either with ambient washes (as on “Archaic Layers”) or with cycling analog pulses (“Molecules of Momentum”). Metcalf then joins, establishing the rhythmic concept with his arsenal of tribal drums. Thomas usually joins last, providing tonal and decorative garnish. The trio does a nice job exploring the textural and rhythmic possibilities within their sonic collective. Some tracks have a more relaxed and calming vibe, although I was struck by the amount of up-tempo jams that would have been at home in club-land. Because of the tribal percussion and didgeridoo there’s a primitive and earthy quality to it all, which occasionally makes Roach the odd man out. Especially when he decides to throw Mellotron strings against the rain forest drums and bird sounds of the title track. It’s an interesting counterpoint but I’m not sure it works. Still, I can easily recommend this collection to fans of all three musicians. Hopefully there’ll be more to come.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more