by Sylvain Lupari, Guts of Darkness
The first Steve Roach album I heard was WESTERN SPACES, published on Innovative Communication in 1987, with Kevin Braheny and Richard Burmer. I still remember ITS effect on me, with "A Story From The Rain". Thereafter, I discovered EMPETUS, TRAVELLER, STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE, QUIET MUSIC and so on. I was deeply inTO the very atmospheric-tribal sphere of Steve Roach. In recent years, I heard that Steve Roach went back into a more sequenced musical world. Effectively, PROOF POSITIVE and STORM SURGE: LIVE AT NEARFEST were both sequencer albums (superb by the way).
Disappointed by the fact that I missed such percussive albums, I looked around Mr. Roach's garden to discover other sequences wonders; what a selection! Released in 2003, LIFE SEQUENCE is a collection of sequenced works.
With cautious steps, the sequence of "Lightness of Being" emerges carefully, a fine minimalism movement on a bass line that pulses a uniform beat. Imagine a sequence like a puddle of water, full of life, a life which beats on a superb watery mirror where reflection oscillates entirely. Like will-o'-the-wisps, keys are moving on this sequence which joyfully increases its rhythm to hide in the bewitching synthetic layers of "Living the Dream". A strange bass/percussion heaves its sonority on a delicate piano line with hypnotic intonation. The movement extends on a harmonious progression, where the notes and chords multiply in an enchanting swirl, which varies its speed, influencing the harmonic axis of its sequence. It's a superb harmonious title where Roach uses his magic touch to modulate the harmonious rotation of the leading impulse. Quite simply brilliant.
A bit more agitated, with its muted metal percussions that turn around, "Sundial" is a linear movement which floats on a beautiful dark bass line. The atmosphere is intriguing and frighten with its insistent synthetic striations which do not find a place in this movement which draws beautiful moments in the spreading out of its layers.
A breath of unknown reverberation, with varied directions, opens "Sands of Time". A weak pulse animates a strange wind procession. The beat becomes irregular, while following a scintillating line and a pad that extends its sound shade. Harmonious serpentines run furtively on the movement. And on the fourth one, it undertakes a strange migration towards unknown territories. Disordered rhythms, pulsing layers with aggressive curves, and unexpected percussion, "Sands of Time" becomes a tribal phantasmagoria of a hard mannered cosmic world. Quietly, the pulse becomes more regular, while at the same time, synthetic and spectral plaintive breathes build with immense layers with fabulous nuances, as well as forgotten percussion on the ice-field of time. A superb musical journey which astonishes every second.
Frivolous and limpid notes hop on discrete synthetic pads to stretched breath. An undulating bass movement settles and guides "Destination Horizon" in its long sequential expedition. A soft start, on wrapping layered synth which hardly moves. The movement becomes jerkier with glockenspiel sounds like percussion and a fast flowing bass, wrapped of a superb melodious layer, extending throughout the piece.
I had excellent moments listening to LIFE SEQUENCE, a superb opus with minimal waves of the early works from a young and still virgin Berlin School. It's good to hear this sonic virtuoso exploit its sonorities, to modulate its intonations and to bring futuristic tribal keys in a Jurassian sequential world. It's beautiful, it's good, and it's a must.