by John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
If the titular plant of the new collaboration between ambient icon Steve Roach and spirit-singer Mark Seelig were real, it would give off a lotus-like, drowse-inducing scent and have long, velvet-coated tendrils which would wrap around anyone lucky enough to succumb to its essence and pull them into the Lower World.
While we sadly lack the actual plant to send us on that journey, this CD will certainly suffice.
A dark meditation in five seamless parts, NIGHTBLOOM is perhaps as ritualistic a disc as Roach and Seelig have ever collaborated on, a hypnotic, symbiotic prayer of equal parts organic and electronic. Seelig's beautifully eerie overtone signing, the blend of rich low notes and a flute-like whistle produced in the singer's throat at the same time, become indistinguishable from Roach's ever-changing soundpools and "terra grooves" in moments of perfect interplay. The disc moves with serpentine grace, a constant flow of shadow moving ever deeper into the cave of the mind. A long, intertwined and uninterrupted flow between Roach and Seelig clears the space to begin the disc, opening the way for the bold shamanic drumming that hammers in from the sides as skittering analog beats define a path for your spirit to follow downward. The density and intensity here combine in an almost tactile humidity of sound, an atmosphere composed of intent. It goes deeper through the drum-driven second and third parts as the duo proceed to unfold your mind over and over. This makes the "cool down" of parts four and five, something of a reprieve, that much more effective as you're released to drift, borne on Seelig's vocals. The disc winds down to a space of silence, and you may find yourself unwilling to disturb it for several moments.
Roach's sound design on NIGHTBLOOM has the kind of dimensional depth that makes you feel you can move through it, reach into it and part the sounds to create your passage. The layering throughout NIGHTBLOOM is stunning. There is no passive listening here; every sound, however slight, every nuance, is designed and set in place to bring you to a different state, a place well inside, to tap the primal. And it works, perfectly.
Because NIGHTBLOOM has taken me to amazing places and shown me incredible things every time I've listened, it's most definitely a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.