by Jeff Blend
There is no other musical album that affects me so deeply as Steve Roach's 1992 collaboration with Robert Rich, SOMA. This album penetrates as deep into the layers of one's being as it does into the ambient caverns of the Earth's geology and history. Indeed, it seems that SOMA and its predecessor STRATA are both tributes to this planet and its amazing geology. Rarely does modern music capture the pulse of this amazing planet and that which lies beneath its surface. Of course, these two musicians often blend the most ancient and recent musical technologies creating something very unique. Paradoxically, I often feel that SOMA captures very wide open spaces as well. The cover art begins to captivate the atmosphere I am cast into while listening.
For me, the best music paints a landscape and really captures the essence of various terrain, whether real or imaginary. A song such as "Silk Ridge" brings one into another state of being, one that is very calm, peaceful and awesome. When listening to "Nightshade", I have envisioned the distant keyboard washes as something I am observing on a far ridgeline or horizon which is penetrating in its calm and peace and suggests infinity. The best music for me is also that which so involves me, that it changes my state of being for the time I am listening to it. While Steve has accomplished this with other great albums such as DREAMTIME RETURN and HALCYON DAYS, SOMA somehow captures a sound that I compare with bliss. It is as if the music were specially designed to create a place I want to be. Rich's percussion adds an amazing layer that enhances Steve's sound washes and incredible drones. The combination on this album really did it for me and gave me my favorite side of Steve's music so far, one of intense calm. Their collaboration two years earlier, STRATA, was the first proof of their true magic together (even though they had played together before) and is also a testament to the incredible talent of both musicians.