Well of Souls
by Glenn Hammett, The Tracking Angle
Trying to keep track of Steve Roach's recorded output is a full time occupation. Aside from myriad solo projects released this past year by Hearts of Space, Projekt, Rubicon and Amplexus; collaborations with Suspended Memories, Temps Perdu? and Chandeen; compilations Twilight Earth, Endless Void etc..., Roach's Timeroom Studio is a haven for electronic music artists, in much the same way Peter Gabriel's Realworld Studio is for ethnic musicians. I assume his espresso machine works nonstop.
This particular CD, a double, is Roach's most recent sound excursion with Belgian composer Vidna Obmana a.k.a. Dirk Serries, continuing where their last effort, THE SPIRITUAL BONDING, left off. WELL OF SOULS is best described as "Dark-Ambient", although labeling it as such is akin to labeling the Beatles' output simply as rock.
This sonic freefall into a previously unlocateable realm insists the listener drop his pop music preconceptions. Here, time stands still and the listener's pulse slows, allowing for these musical / psychic navigators to negotiate new musical terrain.
The first CD, the more upbeat of the two, with it's oceans of sound, is pure sonic poetry Roach and Obmana convey a mellifluous atmosphere by combining rich, flowing drones with dreamy ethnic drumming.
The duo's inviting sonic abstractions dispel any argument about electronics being a cold clinical medium. The CD's second track "In The Realm Of Twilight" descends on the listener like a fog-enveloped night. Boat horns obscured by mist and distance echo from afar. Waves of electronics gently lap at alien metallic cylinders, filling the space with washes of sound. So effective is this music it seems as if condensation began forming on my windows. This one closes with "The Gathering," a twenty-four minute dream soundtrack. Organlike synth chords are followed by polyrhythmic water drums, shakers and other percussive effects, while light, airy wisps of sound drift through the background like snow flakes. Midpiece, gentle formless soundclouds make their way to the front of the mix, all but obscuring the beat.
If disc one breaks the laws of musical theory, disc two smashes them with a sledgehammer. Here, Roach and Obmana stretch out into the nether regions. Synth sounds extend into eternity. A ghostly echoing voice floats around the soundfield. A world somewhere beyond our own, yet still within reach, is explored. Here sound implodes, fragmenting and dissipating into yet another plane of existence. Finally, Roach's signature deep dark drones become the focal point, returning the listener to the CD's starting point. Typical of Roach's Timeroom productions, the soundstage is cavernous with perceived depth and width extending beyond the walls. Percussion reproduction is dynamic with outstanding timbral nuances.
Even the packaging is great, depicting a graveyard of stones and crosses in ancient cave-drawling style. If you're a fan of Roach or Obmana, ambient music or electronics in general, pick up this CD and listen to the musical future – or maybe your forgotten past.