by Scott Morrow, L.A. Weekly
Early in his career, bold Steve Roach used to carry his electronic equipment down to places like the Lhasa Club here in L.A. In those days (early '80s), Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream were not obligatory signs of coolness for fans or critics. But now, if a critic doesn't cram Can into a review... While the Tangs' Edgar Froese and his 30-ish son crank out disc after disc of New Age wallpaper schmaltz that goes good with your ferns, Roach continues to refine the original German Kosmische aesthetic, making original, psychedelic music in his Arizona-desert studio. Admittedly, he's been releasing way too many discs (more than 20 under his name and over triple that in collaborations and appearances, all since 1990), so it's hard to find the good stuff. LIGHT FANTASTIC is the good stuff. Actually, it may be his best.
Roach has entered the computer world, leaving many of his sticks and stones behind, and he's 100 percent didgeridoo-free, too. Apparently his game plan was to apply dense layers of percussion – shifting, pulsating and woven by complex computer controls – to create washes of foreground patterns, while using his ambient-type colors as rhythms. He calls them "fractal mandala grooves," though you might prefer "sitars in space."
While Brian Eno's big leap into the computer realm, The Drop, sounded like a sixth-grader with an iMac and an extra hour at lunch, this is some of the most emotionally powerful new music, and certainly the most hallucinogenic, I've heard in a long time. Like Miles and his horn, Roach and his transistors conjure up feelings you might not even have known existed before, in a sort of romantic impressionist style. Among its moments of patent creepiness, there's an underlying crystalline beauty and serenity – something we can always use a little more of.