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Byron Metcalf / Steve Roach / Rob Thomas — Monuments of Ecstasy
(Projekt 313, 2015, CD)
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 Peter Thelen, Published 2015-02-11
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.
by Paul Hightower, Published 2017-06-28
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