by Phil Derby, Electroambient Space
As adventurous as Steve Roach has been over the past two-plus decades, I was still wholly unprepared for the brave new trail he blazes on POSSIBLE PLANET. Done entirely on analog modular instruments, with no keyboards, no MIDI, no soft synths, Steve has created a singular vision, an oozing, organic biography of a truly alien world never before seen or heard. The unusual, vaguely unsettling photography by Michele Wortman is a perfect parallel to the music contained within the strangely compelling packaging. Three long tracks meander through murky tunnels, damp musty corners, and bubbly green-black pools. "First Murmer" is loaded with deep resonant drones than slowly expand and contract. Eerie clicking sounds mark the transition point to track two, "Gestation." The clicking reminds me of the frightening invisible alien from the movie Predator, hiding among the trees in the jungle. The drones go deeper and take on a more metallic timbre as the ominous clicking resurfaces. It is like a stark nightmare version of The Magnificent Void. But sometimes when we wake up from a nightmare, instead of being frightened we can say, "wow, that was really cool," and we are more excited than afraid by the stirring of our imagination with bold new images. Such is the case here. "Cell Memory" is a little brighter, more electronic than the very organic sounds preceding it, although the gurgly clicking remains. As the swirls of pure space sounds emerge, we move closer into familiar space territory, similar in feel to Michael Stearns classic Planetary Unfolding on the mighty Serge modular synthesizer. It becomes more relaxed and once again organic in the final floating minutes. It is exhilarating exploring Steve Roach's POSSIBLE PLANET.