by Phil Derby, Synth Music Direct
After playing with grooves and rhythms, Steve Roach seems to be settling back into things dark and ambient again. First ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS, and now MIDNIGHT MOON, another organic offering of brooding soundscapes. But wait, this time Roach is playing nothing but guitar-based instruments. Every sound on this CD is made with processed electric guitar, E-bow, and fretless bass. Hard to imagine, listening to the long, deep echoes of "Ancestors Circle", which sounds very similar to previous Roach efforts of textural dreaminess. Occasionally, a definite plucked guitar string can be heard, but for the most part the music floats by, through deep caverns or across wide canyons.
Guitar sounds are more prevalent on the 22-minute "Midnight Loom," which again is dark, but a more relaxed, laid back affair than the opener. This one is well-suited for quiet reflection and relaxation. Like most Roach ambient works of recent years, the low-end sounds are rich and full. I do find this particular track is best as background music, as it doesn't really hold interest for its full length for attentive listening.
As one might expect, "Deadwood" is very dark, with even more bass response required from your stereo system. If you like creepy night sounds, this will fit the bill. "Broken Town" reminds me a bit of Roach's "Spaghetti Western" ambient music from his DUST TO DUST CD with Roger King – which isn't overly surprising, because this disc was mastered by King. Intentionally discordant guitar passages play off deep, reverberating bass and processed guitar drones. Guitars processed to sound like strings add a slightly symphonic and melodramatic quality.
The last three tracks blend the guitar more subtly, utilizing classic Roach organic ambient textures. Throughout the disc, the emphasis is on texture and form, not melody and structure. The guitar imparts a unique quality, setting it apart from other Steve Roach ambient works. For that alone, this is definitely worth hearing, and it will no doubt be indispensable for Roach fans.