by Phil Derby, Wind and Wire
Steve Roach has been amazingly prolific in 1999, literally putting out CDs like there was no tomorrow. One might think that such productivity might result in some mediocre releases along the way, but the quality has remained surprisingly high. The listener’s opinion of the end result is largely dependent, as with any music, on personal taste. For example, while the recording quality was stellar on BODY ELECTRIC, I found the percussion too intrusive and repetitive. On LIGHT FANTASTIC, those elements are most decidedly still present, but to my ear the results blend much better. This time around, the trademark Roach atmospherics are allowed to fully develop and coalesce around the percussive loops and phrases. Helped ably by Vidna Obmana, Vir Unis, and Stefin Gordon, Roach again treats us to a feast for the ears, a richly textured work that is both hypnotic and forceful.
After a thoroughly rhythm-infused opening in the form of “Trip the Light,” “Breathing the Pulse” takes a more laid-back approach. Though still rhythmic, it is somewhat softer, as the music meanders along. On “The Reflecting Chamber,” the drums bleat much deeper, but are also more distant, allowing high, brassy sounds to take the lead. The sound is unique, something like the cross between a processed horn, and a power saw as it cuts through wood. The crowning touch is the lengthy combination of “Realm of Refraction” and “The Luminous Return,” forming a 28-minute epic reminiscent of Steve Roach’s other collaborations with Vidna Obmana such as WELL OF SOULS and CAVERN OF SIRENS. Some of the atmospherics harken back to older works, though, such as STORMWARNING. Though percussion is usually present, there stretches of ambience that lend to a feeling of expansiveness and calm, particularly as the disc comes to a close.