Darkest Before Dawn
by Phil Derby, Electroambient Space
Considering the great rhythmic activity of recent works like TRANCE SPIRITS and CORE, this single ethereal track may come as a surprise. But then again, one should always expect the unexpected from an undisputed master of the genre, who manages to continually evolve and rarely sit still musically. Though DARKEST BEFORE DAWN does hearken back to similar long-form works like THE DREAM CIRCLE and discs one and three of ASCENSION OF SHADOWS, it also borrows just a touch from the deep crevasses of THE MAGNIFICENT VOID. Steve combines these and other influences into something familiar yet fresh. For those who don't "get" American ambient music, who think it just doesn't do anything, well this will prove that to you, I suppose. But for those who relish the deep dark echoes, the wondrous subtleties and layers, both real and imagined, this is the purest nectar of the gods. As is often the case with minimal ambient works, describing this beauty on paper proves difficult. It is soft and slow, revolving and yet evolving, seemingly as minimal as the black cover art, but showing hints of other elements taking form, not unlike the brown low horizon emerging from the inside booklet into the blackness. It is a perfect picture of the music, subtle shadings of sound rising up out of the depths, ever so gently. Like other great ambient pieces, this works equally well for playing softly in the background, or loudly while listening with great attention and clarity of focus. This is easily my choice for the best floating ambient release of 2002.