by John Diliberto, amazon.com
It's not often you get duets in pure ambience, but synthesist Steve Roach has been working at it for a decade with Belgian synthesist Vidna Obmana (a.k.a. Dirk Serries). In 1999, they released a limited-edition, three-CD set of deep ambience called ASCENSION OF SHADOWS. Now that box set is being broken up into its component parts and released as single discs. The first, SOMEWHERE ELSE, drops you into the deep end with a single 72-minute composition. It's like riding a ghost ship where sounds are submerged, fittings and rigging rustle and bang, and pipe-organ chords hang distended and unmoored. It's abstract, but never dissonant or discordant. Cast in another time or a different environment, SOMEWHERE ELSE would be considered avant-garde and plopped down next to Gyorgy Ligeti's "Atmospheres" or Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Telemusik." As with a lot of Roach's music, there are no melodies or rhythms to grab onto. Instead, you just drift into the sound world, exulting when an apparent crescendo emerges 51 minutes in.