by Gary Andrews
Prolific as ever, Steve Roach finds himself opening a new chapter in his illustrous musical career, with his latest release LIGHT FANTASTIC. To convey what the ideas and energy behind the album, Steve says:
"On this project, I set out to create a perfect blend of searing, light-filled soundworlds of relentless beauty merged with a constantly shifting interplay of "mandala grooves" that never overwhelm the atmospheres, taking the music to a high place. For me, it's the answer to the question of balance between the two dynamic elements in my music that are always calling me deeper. It's also a fitting metaphor in day to day life as well: momentum and the call to repose. I feel like this one came together in all the right ways, with the build to "Touch the Pearl", "Realm of Refraction" and "The Luminous Return" expressing a quality of emotions that I have been reaching toward for years."
The "mandala grooves" make a almost instantaneous showing on the first track "Trip the Light". Complex rhythms weave in and out of each other, helping to create a trance like feeling of awe, and shaman-like concentration. "Breathing the Pulse" enters the sound stage next, Steve's signature style of vast organic soundscapes playing over the relentless fractral grooves which were put together with help from Vir Unis, who is one of three guest musicians on this album. Other musicians include long time collaborator Vidna Obmana, who supplies samples in the form of a Hungarian instrument called a Fujara, and Tucson based Stefin Gordon who plays an Indian stringed instrument called a Tamboura, which is used very effectively on "The Reflecting Chamber", its unique sound complementing Steve's organic synthesizer soundscapes. This is a gentle rhythmic piece which includes the addition of a percussive sequence to help direct the track along.
The rhythmic grooves pick up speed on "Touch the Pearl", once again creating a feeling of ceaseless momentum, before "Realm of Refraction" takes hold and we are launched into an almost techno feeling. On the one side it's more akin to a rave, and on the other a more light-filled atmosphere from which we know Steve's music well, the two contrasts of differing styles working very well together. As "The Luminous Return" takes us on to the end of the album, the soundworlds begin to be more focused on a feeling of raw emotion and calming influence, until we reach the end of the album. As may be expected, there are obvious similarities between this album and BODY ELECTRIC, which was more forceful and could be almost accepted by a rave addict. LIGHT FANTASTIC comes over as more atmospheric but still contains enough rhythmic elements to provide a contrast of styles. The two albums work together well, and perhaps could have been released as a double CD.