by Gary Andrews
This is the first solo album by Steve Roach on the Projekt label. Another first is the fact that this album does not contain any synthesizer keyboard sounds. The entire album is realised through the use of the Stratocaster guitar, the Ebow and various processing effects. The album's roots can be traced back approximately one and a half years ago, during the recording of DUST TO DUST.
Like so much of Steve's music, atmosphere plays the biggest part in the sound that becomes a Steve Roach album. MIDNIGHT MOON explores on the whole a rather dark terrain, but containing all the right elements to obsorb the listener in a cacoon of ritual intensity, deep probing music to explore the small hours with.
Steve’s introduction to the guitar and the playing of it was through curiosity and an almost like childlike exploration. The results being fresh but still containing that certain Roach sound which has been so powerful and popular over the years.
The albums opener "Midnight Loom" contains the most recognisable guitar like sounds a very calming piece that drifts between a very laid back guitar motive and gentle effects processing. The atmosphere gets a little more on the edge with "Ancestors Circle", a deep tonal sound painting probing deep hidden primordial memories within the listener. "Deadwood" more or less follows the same pattern but applied with a thicker sound brush, the music a little more dark and mysterious. "Broken Town", as the title suggests, brings back memories of Steve's collaboration with Roger King on DUST TO DUST. Images of desolate and long forgotten old Western towns come to the fore, not sweet images but a kind of requiem for a time now lost forever.
Although the entire album is devoid of keyboard sounds, the way the guitar is processed has in effect taken on a kind of a subliminal electro feel, with the guitar coming over as a very expressive "electronic" instrument due in no doubt to the hands-on approach of such a way of working. The resulting soundworlds are seemingly created in a fresh and spontaneous way.
As if to contradict the previous "Broken Town" track, "Hope" follows the same atmosphere but is more gentle and relaxing; a kind of reminder that if you look hard enough you may find a hidden beauty amongst the sound terrain. It can be relaxing one moment, and the next be a little unsettling, creating different emotions in the listener all on one album. It's a kind of introspective journey for the individual, helped along by music.
The last two tracks "Later Phase" and "Moon and Star" by their very titles invoke images of "space music", but the actual listening experience is of a more earthy feeling, the titles edging towards the fact that the moon and stars are seen from Earth, and countless generations of ancestors must have observed the stars and moon with an enquiring mind and deep reverence.
Steve Roach has been around for a long time. His music has always intrigued me, and what I particularly like about his music is that one never knows what he will come up with next from the Timeroom. MIDNIGHT MOON was yet another revelation to me, his unrelentless exploration for new soundworlds and new musical ideas keeping him at the forefront of contemporary instrumental music. Take the journey and let the music speak for itself.
A special release that comes highly recomended.