Ascension of Shadows, Somewhere Else
by Phil Derby, Wind and Wire
This ambitious 3-CD set, the third collaboration by Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana, is a fine collection of organic, primordial ooze. This moves away from the chanting, tribal direction they headed in the previous release, CAVERN OF SIRENS, and bears a closer resemblance to Roach's solo effort THE DREAM CIRCLE. Like that one, this is a limited edition of 2000 copies, if you call 2000 limited. It is signed and dated, but only by Steve Roach. Disc one is the dark and dreamy "Somewhere Else," which nicely meanders the depths of sublime ambience. The gradual shifting and drifting is perfect music to get lost in. Though the changes in the music over time are subtle, almost imperceptible, this is not merely a few sounds looped and repeated. There is growth and change. Still, if you like music for meditation, this should be very appealing. Likewise, disc three consists of a single track, "Revealing the Secret." Both give a sensation of floating, and will take your mind to places only previously imagined. Roach and Obmana have a gift for minimalism that is at the same time dark and yet beautiful.
If you prefer the more tribal sound demonstrated on previous releases by these two, then you will enjoy disc two, which features "The Memory Pool," divided into three parts ranging from 18 to 25 minutes. Musically, there is a lot more going on here. In some ways, I find it reminiscent of Roach's work with his Suspended Memories projects, but it also closely parallels some of their combined work on WELL OF SOULS. Percussion asserts itself quickly, and then we hear a most unusual, very modern sound which repeats every few seconds, like the burst from a phaser. I don't think I've heard this sound in their music before, and I can't place it, nor am I sure yet whether it really fits, but it isn't too much of a distraction. "The Memory Pool" is a rich, complex piece, which effectively uses repetitive percussion to achieve a pleasant hypnotic effect. I found they used this technique a little too much for my liking on CAVERN OF SIRENS. The restraint here is welcome. Even when a similar drum pattern repeats for awhile, the percussion does not overshadow the rest of the music, allowing it all to blend together quite nicely.
Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana have clearly developed their craft into a fine art. Though this is a very enjoyable listen, and a virtual must for fans of either artist, it does not particularly stretch the boundaries of what they have created before, either singularly or collectively. Given the talent they have, this is a minimal criticism at best. ASCENSION OF SHADOWS may be variations on familiar themes, but in that sense it is like seeing an old friend, and a welcome one at that.