Steve Roach — Trance Archeology
(Projekt PRO368, 2019, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-11-03
One has to wonder, after so many years and so many releases, how does an artist like Steve Roach come up with new ideas that don’t sound like what he’s done before? Some reference points to past work will be there on each new album but I have to believe that a lot of experimentation goes on between each new body of work to germinate new ideas, textures, and concepts and bring them into a cohesive existence before they are used on any new releases. Such it seems to be with his latest offering, Trance Archeology, a collection of eight pieces of varying lengths that certainly seem at home within his typical ambient soundworld, but feature a number of new sounds and textures, many in the percussive and rhythmic realm that don’t recall any of his previous works, at least those that this reviewer can recall. The side-long opening track “Spawn of Time” features enough new textures and rhythms in its first five minutes to easily support this claim, most created or processed through his modular synths, but often organized rhythmically to vaguely resemble hand drums or such, with other-worldly sounds surrounding the listener like fertile swirling magic on a starlit night, with odd and often twisted sprites of color barreling out of the sky. Eighteen minutes later, after the steady percussive beat has fallen behind clouds of swirling motion, one senses a drop in the volume level and that something new is coming, as the second cut “Indigo Moon” merges seamlessly with it as the opener fades gently away. We are now in a world of shaded stillness that slowly immerses the listener, with a low, slow oscillating pulses supporting colorful bell sounds circling around the psyche. “Trance Genealogy” is another side-long adventure, this time beginning on a foundation of more typically Berlin School electronics, but with more than its share of soaring atmospherics as it progresses onwards. One won’t even notice when the track changes to “Long Shadow,” a mysterious, dreamlike, cavernous mystery that follows on from much of Roach’s more recent work. Deep pulses and of steady rhythm return on “Birthpulse” and are futher elaborated on “Firebreather” before mixing it up with a new wealth of electronics on “Unearthed.” Hardly a minute goes by anywhere where the foundational sounds aren’t constantly morphing, growing, and shifting as we go. Twelve minute closer “Soul Archeology” forms seamlessly from the previous cut, with subtly shaded sonic events peppering an expansive tranquil sonic panorama. There are plenty new explorations in Trance Archeology, but it remains unmistakably the pioneering work of Steve Roach.
Related artist(s): Steve Roach
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.